Earthworm Jim made quite a splash on the Super Nintendo. Developed by the highly hyped Shiny Entertainment Company, the side scrolling action game exploded onto the scene with a twisted sense of South Park-style humor and above average game mechanics to match. It was an instant hit, and a classic in many circles.
After a few years, the sequel, Earthworm Jim 2, was released in the United States to markedly less fanfare. Why? Well, too much time had elapsed between the two games, and Shiny’s schtick got stale. However, Earthworm Jim 2 is a surprisingly good game when its humor doesn’t get in the way.
The story, of course, relates to the evil Psy-crow of the first Earthworm Jim. Having defeated Princess ”Slug-for-a-butt,” Jim saved the Princess and the day. However, Psycrow escaped and is now threatening the universe with another princess-snatching plan. Ever the romantic, Jim (who for the uninitiated is an earthworm who crawled into a radioactive superhero suit and inherited super-human/worm powers) sets out to rescue his newfound love.
The game shares its predecessor’s love for unique visuals and a very distinct style. The backgrounds scroll smoothly and they look like they were taken out of a Salvador Dali painting. Cliffs jut out at impossible angles and flames lick at your feet in the Hell level. The most impressive stage, however, is the Villi People level.
Jim, disguised as a fluidly animated salamander, must swim his way through a giant stomach-intestinal maze in order to conquer the level. There are vili pulsating along the side of the screen and they move faster the closer Jim gets to them, just waiting to tangle him up and sap his strength. As I said before, the game moves fast and smooth and some of the weapons’ effects (love that Bubble Gun) are beautiful or outright hilarious.
The music in Earth Worm Jim 2 is fantastic and fitting. In Hell (home of personal favorite baddie Evil the Cat), muzak drones persistently in the background. Having elevator music play in Hell makes me laugh every time I think about it. Also, there is an island themed level where the music is breezy, with a hint of Calypso. It reminds me of when Bugs Bunny used to dance around in Carmen Miranda gear in the early Loony Tunes shorts.
Or how about the Puppy Trouble levels, where you must save Peter the Puppy’s many children with the accompanying…Italian restaurant music? I swear you will think you are in a cheesy Pizza restaurant at the mall when you hear these tunes! On the effects side of things, again Earthworm Jim 2 is on the mark.
The Bubble Gun has a neat little ”bloop” sound when it shoots, and when Jim sais ”Tender!” after grabbing a food power-up it sounds remarkably good for a cartridge-based system. I would go so far as to say that the Sound falls only a nose short of perfect.
The first game had some hairy controlling, and the second almost fixes this. There are still some problems with the ”head whip” (activated by the A button) in getting to hook onto the ledges you must climb in some levels, leading to frustration. Also, Jim’s salamander level, which is a swimming environment, isn’t carried off too well. He moves unresponsively and slow, causing you to run into the walls too much.
On the upside, Jim moves well on the other levels and controlling the bullets you use as short bursts or long, continuous firing is easy. However, in the level in which Jim rides a rocket in the air, it is too difficult to achieve the level’s objective of ”bouncing” a bomb along in a continuously scrolling, isometric environment. It is a pain to get through and you will wonder why they kept this level in the finished product.
Earthworm Jim 2 has some neat parts to it that add up to an above-average game. There are plenty of styles of play, ranging from the straigh forward action fare to the puzzle like Peter Puppy levels (3 in all) to the Space Race final level with Psy-crow. Shiny mixes up the levels throughout the whole game, forcing you to adapt and never letting you get too comfortable with one style of play.
This is great when tackling innovative levels like Lorenzo’s Soil (where you must blast through dirt anthills to reach the Boss), but it flops when the level designs are poor (the aforementioned flying level). However, the designs are more often good than bad, which works in the game’s favor. The rest of the gameplay is a mixed bag.
Now there are more types of weapons to acquire than the few you had in Earthworm Jim (love that 3-way shooting gun), but some are useless (like the Bubble Gun) and others are too scarce to really be of consistent use (the Homing Gun).
The little bonuses tucked away in many levels (found by exploration or collecting the many EJ-related icons littered throughout the stages) are a nice change of pace and are often laugh-out loud funny.
When Jim has to ride one of those orthopedic stair chairs up a slope while avoiding incoming Grandmothers that hit you with brick loaded purses if they land on you, you know you are playing a game with a great sense of humor. The Bosses range from non-existent to almost impossible, but Shiny did a good job of making this game a little easier than the criminally hard original.
Replay Value ??
There are some extras as I mentioned before, but like most action games Earthworm Jim 2 is really tough and engaging at first but loses out to longer games like Adventures and RPGs in the long run. It’s fun while it lasts.
Earthworm Jim 2 does many things right and a few things wrong. It’s a shame that the market was a little harsher to the lovable earthworm the second time around- this one is better than the promising first. So is this game worth your time and money?
Since this game is quite old, it is probably difficult to get a copy, but this game isn’t too great to deserve the effort of really searching for it. If you can get your hands on a copy, sure go ahead and give it a try, but it probably isn’t worth spending a lot of money on, unless you are a big fan of the first game.
By now, most cartridges are not in best shape and the selling price is probably a lot higher than what this game is worth. In terms of time, this game is probably only good for just a couple hours and that’s it. Who knows each to their own on this one… Overall, if you can get a copy, give it a go and it might bring some amount of joy to you.