Earthworm Jim HD Review

Earthworm Jim HD is just as weird and frustrating as its Sega Genesis inspiration.

Earthworm Jim is still plenty weird. The Xbox Live Arcade HD remake of the 1994 hit for the Sega Genesis is every bit as bizarre as its aged inspiration, although that isn't a good thing. Like the original platformer, this reimagining takes its offbeat premise so far that the game often tips over the edge from quirky and fun to annoying and frustrating. Limited, awkward controls and creepy levels where you don't know up from down are the main irritants that make an already difficult game maddeningly hard in spots.

Say hello to Earthworms Jim, James, Jimmy, and Hank.

But if you liked the old Earthworm Jim, this fresh take will be plenty enjoyable. It's essentially the same game that landed on the Genesis 16 years ago, during the bizarre-animals era when everybody was trying to come up with an answer to Sonic the Hedgehog, with the addition of a few inconsequential bonus levels and four-player co-op multiplayer locally and online over Live. The protagonist is still the same old anthropomorphized worm with superpowers granted by an alien suit and a ray gun. Not much attention is paid to the story save a couple of comic-book clips at the start of the game. An alien spaceship crashes into a worm. The worm somehow winds up not dead, with a cool suit he can use to strut around like a human being. The worm decides to go off and rescue a princess. The end.

Gameplay is standard jumping-and-shooting 2D platform fare. Jim can jump normally, use his flappy worm head to hover briefly in the air and grab on to objects like hooks and moose heads, snap said flappy worm head like a whip to attack enemies, blast baddies with his sci-fi plasma blaster, and collect power-ups and health. It's kooky and fast-moving, with an emphasis on jumping challenges over running and gunning. The speed and the sheer strangeness of everything are enough to make the game appealing, at least at first. Controls are handled exactly the same way they were in 1994, however, which causes some problems. Nothing is as accurate as you would expect in a modern platformer, so you frequently find yourself slip-sliding around and falling off ledges. Jim also isn't an adroit platform hero, even though he's called upon to perform Cirque du Soleil contortions. You can't jump up when hanging from a chain, for instance, or shoot when running. Trying to lash your head out to grab a hook on a 45-degree angle is spectacularly aggravating, too, because of a lack of controller sensitivity. So expect a lot of frustration, especially after you get through the first couple of levels and things get hard.

Updated visuals are both a blessing and a curse. While the game has a strong Saturday-morning cartoon feel, with Jim sporting a range of goofy facial expressions, animations including funny quirks like monster canines exploding into doggy bones, and the levels featuring terrain from a Salvador Dali nightmare, it's all kind of busy and confusing. Levels add a lot to the personality, but at the cost of coming with absolutely no rhyme or reason. One moment Jim is tromping through a junkyard, the next he's in hell, complete with farting lava sounds and "Danse Macabre" playing in the background (the remastered soundtrack is absolutely superb), and the next he's in some kind of computer land where floppy disks hover like flying carpets. It's so head-spinning that you can never get your bearings or totally warm up to the game.

Fighting hovering baddies in a landfill stuffed with digital detritus is all in a day's work for our intrepid invertebrate.

Figuring out where you are is an even bigger problem in the levels themselves. Backdrops have been loaded with lots of little touches that bleed into the foreground, making it impossible to tell what is an obstacle and what is way back in the distance. As a result, you have to rely on trial and error to determine where you're supposed to jump without, say, causing Jim to yell "Ow!" when he hits his head on something long and sharp (as in the hell levels). A few areas are so confusing that you can get stuck for ages trying to suss out what you're supposed to be doing and where you need to go. The only way to deal with this is to play co-op multiplayer online, because at least there you have some hope that one of your partners knows what to do.

While it's impressive that Earthworm Jim HD is still crazy after all these years, the game would be a lot more playable today with some concessions to modernity. It is really hard to get accustomed to the limited range of movement, and the confusing level design can make you want to throw your gamepad across the room. Purists who fondly remember playing the original game on the Genesis might just love this trip back in time; everybody else will wonder what the fuss was about.

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The Good
Iconic, goofy hero
Surreal level art and architecture
Different from every other platformer out there
Outstanding musical score
The Bad
Limited controls in comparison to modern platformers
Confusing level design can lead to a lot of frustration
6
Fair
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2 comments
nerrsty138
nerrsty138

As much as I think that this whole numbered rating system is arbitrary to some extent, I will say that (at least by Gamespot's general scale) a 6.0 is highly unjustified for what was presented in this review Both the original Earthworm Jim 1 & 2 on Genesis both hold up incredibly well. If you had faulted EWJ HD for its mediocre animations, the inclusion of unnecessary fart sound effects, and a generally underwhelming multiplayer component.. you know, the things it deserves to be faulted for instead of seriously trying to look for rhyme or reason in an EWJ game, of all things, I could take this review seriously. Saying it doesn't "hold up to modern platformers" is ludicrous. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and that's generally the approach they took with the gameplay design, here. 

There's a good reason why Earthworm Jim was a huge success back in its heyday, and there's plenty good reason why it still holds up today. The general quality of animation, tight control (really baffled as how you found them as being limited), deep, varied level design, unique boss fights, that "just right" difficulty, and an inventive approach to just about everything the game offered are all absolutely valid reasons as to why Earthworm Jim still deserves to retain its cult status. Saying Earthworm Jim hasn't held up well, especially if you're saying this is essentially the same game from all those years ago, does not sit well with me. Earthworm Jim is far from a perfect game, to be sure, but aging poorly is definitely not one of its problems.

This HD version did a lot of things wrong, and a lot of things right. Essentially, yes, it's the same game we saw years ago, but the new inclusions, such as the derpy looking animations on Jim himself, internet meme boss fights, or the botched secret items were not welcome additions. I also don't believe anyone was really clamoring for a multiplayer component to this game,and the end result is a fine example of why. Not to mention, the soundtrack in EWJ HD is not nearly as good as the Saturn special edition version. Those are legitimate faults against this game.

Saying it "doesn't hold up to modern platformers" is a broad, sweeping statement that's entirely subjective. At least if examples were listed, I might be able to read this without feeling as though the game is outright being insulted as opposed to critiqued. Poor review, with extremely minimal levels of objectivity shown.

To be clear, I'm not here to say that I disagree with some arbitrary numbered score. To be fair, I would agree with the score given if the reasons listed were objectively measured, as opposed to saying "it doesn't hold up well because the levels are large, and I personally got frustrated." The logic backing this score up just isn't there, and as a result, I honestly believe this is one of the poorest written reviews I've seen in a while. Especially so considering this whole corporate review thing is supposed to be considered "professional."

Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

A 6.0...Doesn't hold up to moddern 2-D games? What moddern 2-D games? Mario? is that what you are holding this up to? Because saying this game doesn't hold up is idiotic. This is still a fun and sufisticated platformer on par with Rayman and Braid. And what is all this mention about Genesis? You know it was a cross platform game right?

You know what, I can't even peg my feelings about this game on nostalgia seeing how back in the day when I was 7 I never made it past level 1 heck I didn't actually even like the game.

Earthworm Jim HD More Info

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  • First Released
    released
    • PS3
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    Rediscover the grooviest action game of all time in full hi-def glory with Earthworm Jim HD!
    7.7
    Average Rating177 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Gameloft
    Published by:
    Gameloft
    Genre(s):
    Action, 2D, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief