If you're a fan of the first two Earthworm Jim games, you'll be excited to learn that the spacesuit-powered annelid is back for a third installment. Unfortunately, the excitement will end the moment you actually play the tedious game.
Earthworm Jim 3D attempts to rethink the side-scrolling platform action of the two earlier games. Whereas the original games boasted funny and truly inspired hand-drawn artwork and animation, everything in Earthworm Jim 3D is rendered using low polygon models. Both the characters and the environments are stiff, simple, and lifeless, especially when compared with the exuberant cartoon quality displayed in the game's precursors. To the left of your health indicator is a hand-drawn sketch of Jim that changes as he takes damage; it's one of the only images in the game that captures the visual spirit of the first two games, and it acts as a constant reminder of Earthworm Jim 3D's better heritage.
Earthworm Jim 3D is like every generic 3D platform game made in the last five years. The story is, Jim has gone insane. You must guide him through the different areas of his own mind and help him regain his sanity by collecting his lost marbles and some cow udders. The structure of the game will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, Croc, or Rayman 2 - all much better games than Earthworm Jim 3D.
All of Jim's standard equipment has made the transition to 3D. He can use his body as a whip, as a hook for climbing across ropes, and as a propeller for limited gliding. Jim still has his standard blaster, but he can now acquire new weapons from vending machines that are scattered around the levels. One of these new weapons launches a happy, gibbering gnome, which explodes on impact. It's funny, and it's one of the few original ideas in the game. For the most part, the developers seemed content to rehash old favorites such as Professor Monkey-For-A-Head and Bob the Goldfish without creating any memorable new characters or situations.
Even though it's not nearly as inspired as its predecessors, Earthworm Jim 3D might have coasted by on the fact that it's just another mediocre yet painless platform game. But it's virtually unplayable on account of what's possibly the worst camera system ever implemented in this type of game. The camera tries to stay behind Jim, but it moves much, much slower than he turns. In the heat of battle, you'll spin to face an enemy, and it will take several long moments for the pokey cameraman to inch his way behind you so that you can finally see what you're now facing. This behavior is totally unsuited to a fast action game such as Earthworm Jim. In addition, the camera never overrides the default angle to fit the situation. For instance, at one point you're crawling across a rope as enemies fire at you from your right side. The camera should be pointed toward the action happening on your flank. Instead, it's still pointed at your back. Since you can only face forward or backward on the rope, you can't get a clear view of the important part of the scene. You can stop and manually adjust the camera to face the correct way, but you're an easy target as you do so, and as soon as you move again, the camera slowly returns to its original orientation, meaning you have to readjust it. A lock-on feature like the one in Rayman 2 would have eased some of the frustration generated by the camera system, but there's no such feature in Earthworm Jim 3D.
Instead, Earthworm Jim 3D has something to discourage all types of people from playing it. Fans of the series will be disappointed by the lackluster translation of the characters into three dimensions. Everyone else will be frustrated by the horrible camera. The game's few pleasures are not worth the laborious task of unearthing them.