It’s a shame, as it kind of sounded the death knell for this beloved series from the 1990s. But it’s worth recapping it all and revelling in Jim’s big final outing.
Pursuit of the Absurd in Earthworm Jim 3D
The main problem with the Earthworm Jim 3D project was Shiny Entertainment had no involvement with the new outing.
Interplay Entertainment bought the developer around 1996 and put the staff onto other projects. And they’d called a day on Earthworm Jim, maintaining a no sequels policy.
Annoyed by that, Interplay got Edinburgh-based VIS Interactive on with a third outing. But it all fell rather flat.
Plot wise, Jim is in a coma after being hit by a flying cow (an in-joke from the series). He awakes in his subconscious to find he is officially mad.
To save himself, he most gather the golden udders of lucidity and battle his inner demons to regain consciousness.
Quite a nice idea, then, but the problem is the gameplay. Especially the utterly (udderly?) insane camera system. It’s only more flawed in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon.
Many developers around this time struggled to get to grips with the new era of 3D gaming. Only Nintendo and British developer Rare consistently got it right.
Given the expectations surrounding a new Jim title, this did make for a big disappointment.
It launched in late 1999 (a PC version arrived in 2000), four years after the spiffing Earthworm Jim 2.
VIS Interactive did try to nail the surreal humour and whatnot. But it’s not something you can just copy and get, for the sake of it (ahem).
Here’s a bit of a taster of the gameplay that’s on offer—this is the PC version.
VIS actually planned the game for the PlayStation, but scrapped the idea for the Nintendo 64 and PC.
And there was a difficult production cycle, meaning from the initial reveal trailer in 1998 onward many elements of the finished game were different.
So it all went a bit wonky looking, from reveal to end.
The developer also tried to adapt it from the Earthworm Jim TV series, which isn’t a bad idea really. The problem is how meandering the game is.
And just average. We guess that’s the main issue, it’s just a serviceable 3D platforming game. And one up against Super Mario 64 (1996) and Banjo-Kazooie (1998). Two classics it’s not remotely near the level of.
In fact, the main thing about the game is it’s a sequel to the fantastic Earthworm Jim games from the 16-bit era.
If it were a standalone title, as with so many random titles on the Nintendo 64 back then, it would have been pretty forgettable. As it is anyway.
But it’s an interesting coda in the series’ history, as its mediocrity led to the end of Earthworm Jim. Or… did it?!
But What About Earthworm Jim 4?
Just on a final note, but there is a new Earthworm Jim game in development. It has the imaginative title Earthworm Jim 4.
This thing has been in development since 2008, with updates following in May 2011 and then May 2019. There was a pencilled in release date for October 2020, but you might have noticed it’s no longer 2020.
Another problem is the game is ONLY for the Intellivision Amico console. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the console and the game.
It’s like Half-Life: Alyx. That delight of an old gaming glory returning, yet most people won’t get to play it. Bugger.
Anyway, other than the above brief trailer… not much else is available.
One of the series’ original game designers, Doug TenNapel, is fittingly working on it. So, watch this space! Hopefully it’ll make it over to some other consoles as well, eventually.
But until it’s released, we must say we’re chuffed to have at least something Jim related in the works.