film & game reviews, the retro way.
Sega Genesis, SNES
How anyone would come up with the idea of an earthworm superhero with a living piece of snot on its back still remains something of a mystery but, as out-there as Earthworm Jim was, it never stopped me from watching the cartoons or playing the games. Quite the opposite.
Speaking of which: let's talk about the Sega Genesis game.
Easily one of the most surreal games you could play on that console, this is a side-scroller where logic and reason do not apply. I mean, you're a super-worm who uses his own head as a helicopter to fly around or as a whip to hang onto platforms, and that's not even the weirdest part. You start in New Junk City, a place made of trash and tires. You're going around murdering crows and launching cows...
The first thing you'll notice, besides the WTF content, is that the game looks fab: the backgrounds are detailed, three dimensional, the design is creative and colourful, the animation is top-notch. It's a really enjoyable game visually plus it boasts some kickass music and sound effects as an added bonus. One of the bosses you face in that first level is a big dude who, not only tries to drop trash on you, but also vomits large fish in your direction.
The second level is completely different: an intergalactic race between Earthworm Jim and arch enemy Psy-Crow to the sound of a banjo-led music track. It's a lot of fun, especially when you pick up boosts. Try to win the race on the first go, though, that wormhole is hypnotic. You'll get lost in it.
And, in case you're wondering, yes that level ends with Earthworm Jim using his own worm self as a lasso.
Maybe my favourite level is next: it's basically hell. You're going around this spiky, fiery landscape fighting demons and ghosts and whatever else while random screams are going on in the background. So it only makes sense, of course, that the boss you face would be...
A fire-breathing snowman.
You also fight an evil cat and... lawyers on that level, by the way. Pretty great. But this level is actually when the game starts getting somewhat more difficult. Another asteroid race is next and then comes the level I personally always dread: the water level. I just want to go on record as saying that, 99% of the time, I can't stand water levels. This one's different in that you're not actually swimming in the water but you're on some kind of underwater station where you can float around in bubble-subs going from one side of the station to the other.
This was always my least favourite level due to those darned time limits every single time you're taking that sub. And when you're going through narrow rocky pathways, unsure where exactly you're meant to be going, it can get pretty stressful. Plus, you can't bump into too many things as the sub will break. Enemies this time include fish and hamsters. Do your best to put up with this level, it gets better very soon (right after another asteroid race).
The next level is, in a word... stupid, but it's also shamefully fun. You're bungee-jumping against an evil piece of snot and the goal is to slam it against the rocks as much as possible and do that for two rounds but it does get harder and harder so don't underestimate your snotty opponent. Level 5 sees you get back to a tangible side-scrolling level, finally, and you walk around some sort of crazy space lab where you fight brains more often than not.
It's another tough level but, back in the day, I was so happy to be done with that submarine level that I always enjoyed it. At the end of that one you face what can only be described as a failed experiment.
To shake things up a bit, the next level sees you protect Pete, that pink dog character from the show. He's walking with you and it's your job to make sure he doesn't get killed or fall down a cliff. It's pretty darn hard, especially when you've never played it before and you don't know what's coming.
Just make sure you don't make Pete angry, you wouldn't like Pete when he's angry...
A whole level dedicated to whipping a dog's ass, I love how that exists. Along with the next level, which is called: "Intestinal Distress"
Actually, if you've ever played Earthworm Jim 2, the whole colon theme isn't too surprising. That level doesn't appear on the SNES version of the game so make sure you go Genesis, clearly the only way to enjoy this poo-tastic level. It's quite disgusting and I love it. Not sure what that thing is that you fight at the end but it's gross: get rid of it. By that point, I admit you'll kind of wish those asteroid races would end once and for all. Mostly because, the harder they become, the crappier you become trying to beat them.
But ok, let's stop the childishness and play a somewhat classier level, shall we?
Or not, whatever...
In a level designed to be annoyingly hard, you're flying down what I can only assume is someone's weirdly spiky ass and literally everything you touch hurts you. Obviously, try not to touch anything. Easier said than done, granted. You finally land and resume your side-scrolling, then finally beat the villain and go find your beloved princess, whom you greet Tex Avery style, as your head morphs into a wolf's and howls.
But what of the cow you launched earlier on in the game, you ask?
Overall, Earthworm Jim does have its needlessly tough moments, I'll concede, but as a whole it's so much fun and it's so addictive that you'll probably stick with it, if only to witness more gross-out silliness. It looks great, sounds great, the controls are smooth and varied, the entire thing is creative, original and very funny: it's a great game.
I would also recommend its sequel which, in some ways, is actually even greater but also harder.