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Jahanzeb Khan
18 Aug, 2010

Earthworm Jim HD Review

360 Review | Now groovier than ever before.
Back in the 90's the platformer genre was all the rage and it was the biggest draw for gamers. Each console manufacturer had a platformer character as their mascot, and exclusive platformer titles were their main killer application. First party console exclusive franchises like Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Kirby and Donkey Kong Country were leading the pack. Naturally, there were countless ’me too!’ developers creating shameless inferior clones. However, even in that great sea of mediocrity there were some exceptional games that dared to be different and Earthworm Jim was one of them. The first two Earthworm Jim games were released on a variety of gaming platforms and became instant commercial and critical hits. The series later made a bittersweet transition into the realm of 3D with Earthworm Jim 3D, which didn’t do very well. Fast forward to 2010 and the original game returns once again in the form of Earthworm Jim HD on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Unlike the ports we’ve seen over the years, this game is a full-fledged remake and more.

You play the role of an earthworm named Jim, who spends his days living underground and getting bullied by crows. His life suddenly changes for the better when a Super Suit from outer space crash lands on him and turns him into a super hero. Next thing you know he’s feuding with a freak spacesuit wearing crow named Psy-Crow and embarks on a quest to rescue Princess-What’s-Her-Name from Queen Slug-for-a-Butt.

The main selling point of a HD remake is obviously the improved graphics, and Earthworm Jim HD delivers nicely in this area. The original Earthworm Jim had some unforgettable cartoon quality visuals and superb animations, and has stood the test of time well as it looks cool even to this day. The HD polish is quite good with the character sprites and animations now being super crisp and smooth, and they blend nicely high resolution backdrops and 3D effects. It’s not just the graphics that have been given a major facelift, as the music too has been enhanced. The soundtrack sounds as groovy and wacky as we remember but in much superior quality. Jim still sounds hyperactive (which is a good thing) and the sound effects seem to come straight out of a gag filled and noisy 90s cartoon show.

HD remakes are groovy.

HD remakes are groovy.
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From an artistic standpoint, the game is still as bizarre and ‘out of this world’ as it’s always been. The character designs are over the top and absolutely crazy; you’ll run into all sorts of oddball characters like a scientist with a monkey for a head, a fire breathing snowman, bankers from hell and a hunk of mucus who does bungee jumps, to mention a few. The stage designs and themes range from a junkyard, an underwater city, the fiery depths of hell and some really gross locations that deal with toilet humour. From a creative standpoint, the game is still as groovy and bizarre as it was back in 1994.

Earthworm Jim HD plays exactly like the original, an action packed run-and-gun platformer with heaps of cool gimmicks. Jim’s primary weapon is a blaster which fires like a machine gun, and apart from collecting ordinary ammo you will also find high powered plasma ammo which allows you to fire powerful blasts. The blaster is cool but seeing as how ammo isn’t infinite, it helps that Jim has a strong melee attack at his disposal, that being a strong whip attack where Jim’s super suit uses…uh…Jim as a whip, it deals high damage on foes and allows Jim to swing from hooks and hang on to stuff. Furthermore, Jim can spin his head around like a helicopter and float.

The level designs are great, loaded with plenty of enemies for Jim to blast, the obvious platforming elements and some clever and challenging use of Jim’s swinging and floating ability. They have different routes of varying difficulties as well as secret locations and shortcuts. The levels are entertaining from start to finish with each having its own gimmick, like the bouncy tyres in the junkyard stage or the fully operational submarine-like machine in the underwater level. In some instances, Jim will get separated from his super suit, rendering him helpless but still able to jump like a spring but thankfully these sections are few and far between, and not too annoying. There’s even a really challenging level were you have to escort Peter the puppy back to his kennel, but the catch is that he transforms into a vengeful and savage beast if you allow him to get hurt. Finally, between each level is a 3D-ish space race mini game where Jim races Psy-Crow on his rocket, collecting boost power ups and avoiding asteroids. Lose the race and you face Psy-Crow in a very simple boss battle.

This boss battle is all kinds of awesome.

This boss battle is all kinds of awesome.
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Speaking of bosses, Earthworm Jim HD has some pretty memorable ones that put up a decent fight. Our personal favourite battle was the one against the mucus creature, where both Jim and the boss are hanging by a bungee rope and you have to ram the boss into a rocky wall in order to break his rope (or in his case, mucus) before he breaks yours. You also have joke bosses like the evil goldfish in a bowl, which really complements the bizarre comic nature of the game.

The original Earthworm Jim was fairly challenging, but never cheap or frustrating as it offered a really well paced and rewarding action platform experience. Which is why it’s strange to see that the ‘Original’ difficulty setting is the highest difficulty setting in Earthworm Jim HD. We feel that it’s a bit exaggerated and if you’re going to play this game, then its best to jump straight into the Original setting for that fantastic unadulterated Earthworm Jim experience. The game allows you to continue from the last level you left off and this alone makes things convenient enough, but given that the game can be completed in just two-three hours (or even under just one hour if you’re really good) this feature makes even the Original difficulty setting fairly easy, removing the excitement of trying to complete the game with limited lives and continues. The lower difficulty settings offers things like arrows the show you exactly where you need to go, hints on beating a boss, a more lenient hit detection system and obviously easier bosses and enemies. Playing Earthworm Jim HD in a difficulty setting other than ‘Original’ just isn’t fun at all, but it’s good to have a choice.

The original game is present in enhanced visual and audio form, which is fantastic but there’s much more to Earthworm Jim HD. The game has a well designed co-op multiplayer mode that allows two to four players to complete a series of stages specially designed for the mode. It’s a very nice addition that doesn’t feel like an afterthought and the best part is that you can play it both offline and online. Then you have three new and exclusive single player levels that take place in a computer wasteland, where you go up against an evil keyboard playing cat…right, so there’s definitely more to this package than just a HD remake of the original, and these extras deliver nicely.

Keyboard playing cats are evil! Not cute...EVIL!

Keyboard playing cats are evil! Not cute...EVIL!
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One thing that’s evident in all these HD remakes is that they carry over both the good and the bad, and EarthWorm Jim HD retains all of the cons of the original. These flaws are hardly game crippling, but still they need to be considered. The controls work well and do what they are supposed to do, but some aspects take a little getting used to and can be frustrating at first. Swinging from hooks can be a difficult task sometimes because the hit detection feels a bit too strict. The basic action of ‘jumping’ requires a bit of practice as you need to hold down the right direction on the D-pad in order to make Jim jump higher in that direction, which becomes particularly frustrating in the final stage (you’ll know when you get there) and it feels like sheer luck when you finally nail that jump. While we mentioned how entertaining and creative the bosses are but there is one flaw worth mentioning, which is clearly evident in the Original difficulty setting. The bosses don’t have a health bar and so you need to use trial and error to figure out how to hurt them, and in some cases it’s hard to tell if you’re inflicting damage on them. Some gamers will probably welcome this challenge but others will find it to be an annoying trial and error exercise. Luckily for them the lower difficulty settings display the health bar.

Earthworm Jim HD is a really good remake of the original. Fans will dig the superior graphics and sound, and the new multiplayer mode and levels are a nice bonus. Newcomers may experience some frustrations under the Original difficulty setting, but thankfully the game comes with various difficulty options. Overall, Earthworm Jim HD brings back one of the most fondly remembered platformers made in a far superior form.
The Score
Earthworm Jim HD brings back one of the most fondly remembered platformers made in a far superior form. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 Comments
3 years ago
Quote
The original Earthworm Jim was fairly challenging, but never cheap or frustrating as it offered a really well paced and rewarding action platform experience.
For most of the game sure, except for those fucking submarine parts.
3 years ago
Omg i remember spending countless hours trying to get past those submarine parts icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
I still say the sound/track was better on the Mega CD version.

I'm pretty sure there was also a full level not included in this remake too.
3 years ago
^yea that would be the level found only in the Mega CD/Windows version. This HD remake is based on the original SNES and Mega Drive versions.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  09/06/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  4

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