Earthworm Jim is Gameloft’s second crack of the Palm Pre platform game whip.
Its first attempt, Castle of Magic, failed to live up to its full potential, with pretty graphics and good ideas let down by bad implementation and controls. So can Earthworm Jim, a conversion of a 1994 Megadrive/Genesis classic, fare better on Palm’s touch screen device?
Well, the answer is, yes it does, and as an example of how decent level design and tight controls can overcome age, it sets the remake bar quite high. In the game you play as the titular Jim, a regular earthworm just minding his own business when a robotic space suit lands on him from a bate above involving his nemesis Psy-Crow. The suit mutates him into a large, talking earthworm, and using the suit, Jim sets out on a quest to save Princess What’s-Her-Name from Psy-Crow and Queen Slug-for a-Butt.
As you can tell from the insane plot, the game is full of humour and character, and this bleeds down to the levels, as you find yourself using fridges to launch cows, using Jim as a whip, and many other crazy things. The original was designed by Shiny, known for their offbeat work on games like MDK, and it shows. The basic gameplay is really fun, Jim has a pistol blaster that can be powered up, a spin jump, the ability to swing across ravines with his head, and its all held together by really good touchscreen controls. It’s clear Gameloft learned lessons from games like Castle of
The levels are all very well designed with a few alternate routes rewarding players with entire secret levels, so exploration, while quite limited, is always an option as Jim bounds and lopes along the levels. Variety is provided by into the screen flying sections where Jim must race against Psy-Crow along asteroid filled space sections. Beat Psy-Crow and you go straight through to the next level. Lose and you have to face him in a one on one fight.
Gameloft has done an exceptional job with porting the graphics, the game truly looks like a playable cartoon now, as the already great animation looks even better as Gameloft has raised the resolution, and, compared to the original this looks like a different game.
The game also features levels from other versions than the original, like the Sega CD and Windows 95 editions, which is a nice bit of added value. The only fault i can find with the conversion is that the controls cover a little bit too much of the screen, but after a few minutes you do get used to it.
The game is riotous fun, with Jim running and gunning his way through the levels and its easy to see how the game garnered such praise on its original release, although there are quite a few times where frustration will set in, especially when battling against some of the smaller, harder to track enemies. The only thing holding me back from giving this a higher score is the limited replay value, with only Gameloft Live achievements ever really likely to tempt you back after you finish it.
Overall then, brilliant, beautiful, if pretty frustrating action platforming.