Earthworm Jim HD Review

Earthworm Jim has squirmed it’s way onto the Xbox Live Arcade in Earthworm Jim HD, an updated port of the 1994 original classic.  Should this worm have stayed in hibernation or is it’s cow launching fun worth a revisit?[nggtags gallery=Earthworm1]

The premise of Earthworm Jim HD is simple. You are an earthworm named Jim and while you’re crawling around, a super suit from space lands on earth giving you power, agility, and the ability to use firearms.  With your new found power, you start a quest to save a princess. That’s it for the story!

The main attraction definitely isn’t the story but rather the goofy 2D platforming action.  In Earthworm Jim you’ll traverse through eight diverse levels taking down anybody in your path including junkyard dogs, chickens, goldfish, and even bankers!  Along the way you’ll ride a hamster, keep a potential steroid raging puppy safe, have rocket races in outer space, go bungee jumping with a booger, fight through intestines, and even visit snowmen in “Heck”.  The tools at your disposal are your gun, and well, you!  Jim’s new suit will allow him to use himself as a helicopter to cross gaps, a whip used to destroy enemies or to swing himself from hooks.

Gameloft has done a wonderful job recreating Earthworm Jim with brand new high definition visuals that are gorgeous while keeping the charm and humor of the original intact.  The incredible character animations are all still present as well.  Let Jim stand idle for a few minutes and just try not to laugh!

While Earthworm Jim HD faithfully captures what made the original loved by so many, it’s annoying nuances are glaringly present as well.  While tolerable back in 1994, the poor jumping mechanics which lead to missed jumps and unnecessary deaths show us how far platformers have come over the years.  The precise movements needed for Jim to whip himself onto hooks to progress through the levels is very unforgiving at times and will take some time to master for newcomers to the game.  Even more unforgiving is the level design where it can be difficult to find out where you need to go next.

Thankfully, Gameloft has added various features to make the game more user-friendly including adding arrows in levels pointing gamers in the right direction, hints on all of the tricky boss fights along with health bars displayed for them, as well as three new difficulty settings.  The original Earthworm Jim was very difficult.  The original difficulty settings are still available as well as three easier difficulties: Easy, Normal, and Hard.  As an added bonus a stage select is now available so you can practice and play any level at any time.

While these tweaks are nice additions, I can’t help but feel that they could have tweaked the game even more.  It was standard back in 1994 to use an eight direction d-pad for movement and shooting.  While Earthworm Jim HD keeps this intact, I would have preferred to have seen it updated for today’s standard analog controls.  There are also many areas of the game where you can’t see below you.  Sometimes you are standing over a deadly pit and sometimes you are standing over a new path in the level or hidden areas.  A camera movement control on the right analog stick to view surrounding areas would have been a nice addition as well.  Gameloft did an amazing job with the graphical upgrades but why don’t they give us an “original graphics” option as well?  It’s always fun to switch back and forth to see the differences.

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This isn’t just a pretty port of an older game though.  Gameloft has created brand new content for this release.  There are three new single player levels and 15 multiplayer levels that can be played with up to four people locally or over Xbox Live.  The 15 levels are meant to be competitively played with brief moments of cooperation.  It’s standard fare really.  While you are trying to compete for an overall high score, you also need to hit switches to open doors for each other to progress.  I feel that the competitive nature of the multiplayer isn’t as fun as the cooperative nature, but whatever your preference may be, the multiplayer will soon be forgotten as there is little reason to go back to it.  The three new single player levels are disappointing in the fact that the enemies and landscapes are the same throughout.  It basically feels like it’s one new level broken up into three, each with their own boss.  The boss designs are wonderful though, for example you’ll fight granny, who has some serious knitting skills and another that is so awesome that I don’t want to spoil it for you.  Let’s just say if you’re into internet memes, you’ll love it just as much as I did!

The great score and sound effects have been redone and cleaned up capturing the spirit of the original (burps, farts, mooing cows and all!) but the voice work for Jim seems off.  It sounds like some of his dialog is highly compressed versions of the original while some seem newly recorded.  What you get is an inconsistency in Jim’s voice.

It‘s also worth noting that the Genesis level “Intenstinal Distress!” has made it into this edition as it doesn’t always make the transition into ports. Extra bonuses include unlockable gamerpics and avatar awards as well a leaderboard tracking for high scores and best completion times for single player and multiplayer.

I want to mention a few glitches that I encountered while playing.  The online multiplayer became lagged on a couple of occasions, I had the music in one level completely drop out at one point, and I’ve ran into areas where I’m ready to move on to the next part of a level but the camera gets stuck requiring me to backtrack to “retrieve” it.  However, these are minor and didn’t detract from the total experience.

Should you purchase Earthworm Jim HD?  Depending on what difficulty you are playing on, Earthworm Jim HD can completed in 60 to 90 minutes.  If you loved replaying the original even with its faults, I’d say it’s definitely worth a purchase.  However I’d recommend newcomers to try the trial and if the action, humor, and quirky style please you, then you’ll be in for a treat with the full game.  This is how ports should be done on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, despite its flaws. You really can’t go wrong with a high definition remake of a classic with new levels and modes at a value of 800 :MSPoints:.

For more information on the game, to obtain the trial, or to start reliving memories from your youth, check out the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.


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