Earthworm Jim: Celebrating the 16 Bit, Ultra-Surreal Classic

Earthworm Jim - SNES and Mega Drive
It’s Earthworm him.

“I got worms” Jim Carrey says in awesome 1994 slapstick comedy Dumb and Dumber. Indeed you have, Mr. Carrey, for Earthworm Jim was released on the SNES and Mega Drive in the same year! We had the SNES version and, by Jove, was it one heck of a great platformer – it caused a sensation when it was released by the now defunct Shiny Entertainment. Its bizarre mix of surreal humour and innovative level design wowed everyone in the industry.

We’ve done a Remembering Earthworm Jim post before but, finally, we wanted to review the two 16 bit games as they were two of our favourites from the SNES. Now, Earthworm Jim, sadly, remains a relic of the 1990s – although there was a wonderfully bizarre cartoon series to accompany the hit video game, an eventual 3D outing on the N64 led to mediocre reviews and that was that. Finito. What a tragedy. What we can do, however, is reminisce!

Earthworm Jim

Suggesting Earthworm Jim tumbled off into obscurity isn’t quite right. Over the years, the two platform games gave received re-releases on Nintendo’s handheld consoles, and there was an HD remake in 2010 which made it to the Xbox 360 and PS3 (the company remade the entire game from scratch, minus the original code). There have, however, been no official new games.

What immediately struck us back in 1994 is just how weird it all was. The Mario games are odd enough when you think about them properly, but Earthworm Jim is just flat out mental, tongue-in-cheek, and really aimed at an older audience due to its peculiar nature. You can see a promo for the ’95 PC release below.

Simply put, the story involves Jim. He is an Earthworm who is in possession of a robotic suit which provides him with special powers not normally associated with worms. With this, he sets out to rescue Princess What’s-Her-Name and generally battle evil. It’s the best of video game storytelling – develop a basic plot and then let the player get on with it.

There aren’t many levels and there, oddly, wasn’t a save option – just a hideously archaic password system. It was a memorable experience, however, with levels including a trip to Hell (where you can beat up a lawyer), a Hellish submarine level which used to frustrate us as kids, a bungee jumping snot level, and one where you protect a little puppy called Peter whom, when injured, turned into a slobbering monstrosity. The game was tough, great fun, and memorable – this is why we’re remembering it so fondly in this here 2017.

The Cartoon

For posterity, there was an equally surreal cartoon to go with the video games. Now, it’s been noted in the press (and gaming community) just how awful video game to film/TV adaptations have always been. No one ever mentions how brilliantly deranged Earthworm Jim was – it even featured the voice talent of Dan Castellenata (of Homer Simpson fame) as the eponymous Jim!

The show fleshed out the characters’ personalities a great deal, so the banal princess rescuing plot of the games has real context to it, as Princess What’s-Her-Name turns out to be a self-sufficient lady who can stand up for herself. Jim, meanwhile, is a hilarious, bumbling, just about competent goofball who has three brains (“I’m hungry”, “I’m thirsty”, and “Where am I?”) and in one episode eats some frozen yoghurt and runs around screaming due to brain freeze. It’s a lot of fun.

After much delay, the series found its way onto DVD around the 2010 mark and you can pick it up quite easily off Amazon. There were 23 episodes lasting 30 minutes between 1995 and 1996, and our recollection of it remains as an unbelievably weird show which was funny, witty, and a laugh. We’ll be hunting down the DVD and seeing if we can confirm this as reality. Stay tuned.

8 comments

  1. Loved the cartoon. Loved the action figures. Loved the hilarity. Loved the first game (and the second one somewhat). This is one of my favorites on the Super Nintendo, and to this day it’s one of my favorite platformers. Too bad EWJ was such a brief icon. More people need to know about him these days, if they could ever resurrect the character right that’d be awesome too.

    Like

    • I remember my sister barging in to tell me there was an Earthworm Jim cartoon one sunny weekend morn’. I was hooked after that and remember it making me laugh. “The Planet of Unusually Tall Things” etc.

      Earthworm Jim isn’t on the SNES Mini, either, which is a shame. I’ll have to dig up my old SNES to play it, although the games are on GOG but appear to be dodgy versions with the wrong soundtrack.

      Liked by 1 person

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