Way back in 1994, Earthworm Jim rocked the 16-bit platforms with its great art direction, cool and varied play mechanics, and super-challenging difficulty. The sequel, curiously titled Earthworm Jim 2, was also a great deal of fun, and added more craziness and challenge. Now, after a long wait, a sequel of sorts has popped up on the N64, but not by the original folks who did the first or second games. Usually, this is a bad sign, but I found the game in question quite enjoyable, despite a couple of flaws. Must be something in the water here at Gametour... Last time out, I reviewed Goemon's Great Adventure for the N64, a game with what I thought was the strangest story this year. Then I get Earthworm Jim 3D, which ends up topping Goemon, as far as odd plotlines! As for the rest of the game, read on....
The game begins with Jim waking up in a hospital bed, after getting brained by a falling cow in the opening animation -he's bopping merrily along, playing an accordion, when POW!, he gets it good! Turns out the blow to the head has made him lose all his marbles, and also sent a mini version of himself inside of his mind, as a sort of self-defense mechanism! Now, trapped inside his own mind, Earthworm Jim has to not only get back all those marbles, but also battle against ans defeat all the other weirdness up in the four parts of his brain! Got all that? Good, now pay attention: This game is absolutely nuts, but after some initial doubts, it quickly grew on me, with its funky, colorful graphics, great music and sound effects, spacious level design, and generally tight controls.
The first thing you notice is how well the team at Rockstar have captured the essense of the character, without relying too much on the previous games. Many 2D games lose a great deal of their punch when they go 3D (Castlevania, for example), but EWJ is one smoothly animated worm! Nudge the control stick a bit, and he tiptoes; a little further, he breaks into a jaunty walk, and a big push sends him running about the vast levels. You're initially allowed access to only one part of the brain, but collecting a set amount of marbles boosts your I.Q., and acts as a key of sorts to other doors in the same section of that area the brain. You also have to snag a lot of golden udders (!) in order to enter the other three sections, and these are usually very well hidden, and at times, well guarded! Fortunately, Jim has his gun, his whip (he just yanks himself out of his suit, and smacks enemies!), and handy vending machines strewn about to dispense all sorts of nutty ordinance, such as a gnome gun, egg launcher, and funky gun, to name a few! If you're low on health, you can exit an area, and return to pick up marbles to restore your life, a nice touch!
The enemies in the game are designed pretty well, and have some strangerous weapons of their own, along with the tendency to snipe at you from afar, while moving- a real pain, especially when you get attacked from behind! For the most part, the areas are pretty sparse, but after a simple barnyard area, complete with pecking mad chickens, rocket firing um, hedgehogs, and huge egg-shaped rolling bombs, you have to deal with quicksand, melted cheese, and pools of boiling beans, among other hazards! Each of the 4 area have a boss of sorts to defeat, and seeing the return of Evil the Cat is worth the price of the game alone!
At first, the graphics in the game reminded me of the Gex games, but the imagery makes more sense here, with it's surreal landscapes perfectly suited for a game taking place in the mind of a worm going crazy! In fact, you'll probably spend lots of time looking around at the scenery, while you come to grips with the camera system, which sometimes makes the game annoying! Yes, there's nothing worse than getting ambushed by three enemies (one behind you), and running for cover behind a column, while firing, and trying to swing the viewpoint around at the same time! Or running up to a stack of boxes and having the camera get hung up on them, leaving you frantically pressing the left and right "c" buttons, or the L and R buttons so you can see where the heck you are! The default camera is also locked in a bit too close to Jim, leaving you open to attacks sometimes, if you're not careful. Occasionally, you'll miss a jump, because you have to manually adjust the camera to the proper angle- hard to do when you're dodging missles, but usually, you can deal with this by taking out the enemies around you first. The guy they got to do the voice of EWJ this time out tries his best, but he's trying waaaay to hard! I couldn't figure out why he kept saying "PAIN!!!" every other time you picked up marbles, and as for "Un-Groovy!"...ugh. Bruce Campbell should sue!
Despite this, Earthworm Jim 3D is definitely worth a purchase, if you're looking for something way, way out of the ordinary. For some reason, I see the target audience of this one as folks who were fans of the original games, since there area few references to them here, but new players will dig it as well, and that's what it's all about, right?
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