Earthworm Jim has had a successful career to date. After debuting
in a pair of 16-bit platform games, starring in a series of Marvel
Comic Books, and appearing in a cartoon series, Earthworm Jim is
making a return to the video game arena in Earthworm Jim 3D.
Originally developed by Shiny Entertainment, the latest Earthworm
Jim title has been passed along to Scottish developer VIS
Interactive, since Shiny is busy working on a number of other
projects. In his latest adventure, VIS Interactive has Earthworm Jim
trapped in his own brain of all places. Sound bizarre? If you think
so, obviously this is your first time playing an Earthworm Jim
Earthworm Jim 3D is an old-school platformer that has been
updated for the 90’s. Wait a minute, it’s the year 2000. I guess it’s
politically correct to say it’s been updated for the 00’s. In either
case, VIS Interactive has created a 3D world for Jim to adventure
within. The same wacky humor that was present in the previous
Earthworm Jim titles, once again rears it’s ugly head in Earthworm
Jim 3D. Cow, chickens and pigs, it’s all good for a laugh.
The story behind Earthworm Jim 3D goes a little something like
Jim’s minding his own business one day, playing his accordion,
when a fridge and a cow come flying out of nowhere and land on
the unsuspecting earthworm. Jim is rendered unconscious and
falls into a coma. The objective of the game is to help Jim battle
through the layers of his subconscious in order to collect his
marbles and return to the real world.
A story such as this one brings up a multitude of questions. For
one, why do many of the familiar Earthworm Jim characters
appear inside Jim’s brain? See, I’ve already made the first
Earthworm Jim faux pas, I’m actually trying to make sense of the
game. Earthworm Jim is the kind of game where you really should
check your brain at the door and just enjoy the fun. Which beckons
the next question, is there any fun to be had in this latest
Earthworm Jim 3D is played via the third person view. In other
words, it’s similar, in terms of gameplay, to the Tomb Raider series
or Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. That in mind, we also
experience the same shortcomings as the aforementioned titles.
Poor camera angles are the biggest drawback of the third person
view and it’s prevalent in Earthworm Jim 3D as well. VIS
Interactive has conveniently included controls to move the camera
around. You can move the camera vertically and horizontally and
you can even zoom in to take a ‘point of view’ angle in which you
get to see the action from Jim’s eyes (first person). It’s too bad you
can’t set the camera in that mode. You can’t actually move around
in first person, you can only use that camera angle to look around
the room or use weapon’s that allow sniper’s mode. Once you
begin to move, the camera immediately pulls back into the third
person mode. So, unless you can keep your fingers on the camera
keys, which is an impossibility considering you have to move
around and use the action keys, you’re going to experience some
horrendous camera angles. Many a time I would run around a
corner, behind an object, or close to a wall and the camera angle
would destroy the view. I’d be stuck standing there while trying to
fix the camera angle. It’s easy enough when nothing is going on
around you, but in the midst of combat, the camera angles tend to
hinder the action. I can truthfully say that I experienced some of
the worst camera angles ever in Earthworm Jim 3D.
Camera angles aside, the graphics in Earthworm Jim 3D are really
quite uninspiring. As has become custom with Earthworm Jim
titles, bright colors are used excessively to create a cartoon feel.
However, the level of detail is minimal. The textures are bland and
the environments are far from stimulating. The characters found
throughout the game are nicely animated and there is some nice
light-sourcing effects, but it’s simply nowhere near the level that
we’ve seen in other third person titles.
Outside of the camera keys, the controls in Earthworm Jim 3D are
very easy to get the hang of. You can use either the keyboard or
your gamepad to control Jim and there’s really only four keys you
need to set, those being jump, duck, head-whip and firing keys.
There are also a myriad of special moves you do by punching a
combination of keys. Most will be familiar to Earthworm Jim
gamers, including the helicopter jump, but there are also a few
new moves available.
The game consists of four distinct locales in which you’ll have to
solve puzzles, find and use a variety of items, kill enemies, and of
course retrieve your marbles. What are enemies doing inside Jim’s
brain? Remember, check your brain at the door. Most of the
gameplay stays true to the original Earthworm Jim games,
including getting your weapon power-ups from soda machines.
There are a variety of weapons for each locale and some of the
weapons even feature sniper mode. By clicking on the ‘point of
view’ key, you enter the sniper’s mode. The downside to this
mode, of course, is that you can’t actually move and fire at the
same time. You have to fire, get out of sniper’s mode, move, then
re-enter sniper’s mode. This little feature could have been better
implemented. The locales are all quite original and humorous,
including one where Earthworm Jim surfs on a pig while trying to
defeat Psycrow, an evil boss who makes a return appearance.
Earthworm Jim’s latest adventure is a mixed bag. It’s made the
leap to 3D and still manages to stay true to the cartoon style
gameplay we’ve become accustomed too in previous Earthworm
Jim titles. The audio remains clever and witty, the gameplay
imaginative and creative, but the graphics are bland and
uninspiring. There’s a lot of fun to be had in a game like this, but it
all gets ruined by the horrendous camera angles. Unless you can
master the use of the camera, especially during action sequences,
you might want to leave old Earthworm Jim in his wormhole.