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When you first see Earthworm Jim HD, coming to PSN on August 4, the first thing you might notice is how much it resembles the quirky cow-dotted landscape you remember. All of the game levels from the 16-bit Super Nintendo game are there. However, a side-by-side comparison of the new Earthworm Jim to its predecessor serves as a reminder of how far graphic imagery has come. You will laugh at how pixilated the original looks now.
Earthworm Jim, from Shiny Entertainment, was a truly original idea: an earthworm, that we know from high school biology class to be one of the earth’s most simplistic multi-celled creatures, turns hero. He plops into a super spacesuit complete with blaster and off he goes. At once surprising and humorous, it maximized the fun in Doug Tennapel’s artwork and challenged players with fast action and clever twists. The environments and characters were edgy and new to audiences used to the cutesy style Super Mario Bros. had popularized.
There were bizarre techniques available, like Jim whipping his head around in circles, allowing him to hover or fly short distances. If that’s not enough, the suit can take the whole worm out of itself and whip it at enemies. The game was challenging, even aggravating, but the desire to see what acid trip frivolity lurked on the next level supplied motivation to hang with it.
Earthworm Jim was released for the Super NES and Sega Genesis, with later incarnations on Gameboy and PC, followed later still by some largely forgettable sequels. In the interim, Jim has been seen as a toy and in an animated series, but at last, Doug Tennapel’s clever artwork gets the treatment it deserves in the medium for which it was intended.
Tennapel also created the PC games The Neverhood and Skullmonkeys. His work has also been seen in comics and graphic novels, as well as the animated series Project G.e.e.K.e.r. Each project he created was more delightfully absurd than the last.
Earthworm Jim HD has already been released on Xbox, and in Europe on the Playstation Network. Three new levels have been added, and cooperative play can accommodate up to four players. Reviews of the Xbox version report that the controls are a bit insensitive, making movement awkward. No doubt, some frustration could arise from readjusting one’s brain to the limitations of linear, 2D gaming. Several levels of difficulty are offered. The sound quality has been improved, but still consists of a handful of repetitive phrases and sound effects.
This will definitely be an opportunity for games who remember the original Earthworm Jim to rekindle fond cow-launching memories. Newcomers, on the other hand, may not get it, but can still enjoy the art and the wackiness.