If you had a Sega Genesis in the 90’s, you just had to have this game.
Earthworm Jim was a video game released for the Sega Genesis system in 1994. This incredible game introduced us to its namesake hero, Jim, an earthworm possessing a super-suit which gave him super-human-like abilities.
The game originated when Playmates Toys decided to start their own franchise after being inspired by the success of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. In rare fashion, they decided to start their franchise as a video game too, and began with Douglas TenNapel‘s simple sketch of an earthworm.
In developing the game, TenNapel still worked on the game design, creating level ideas and voicing Jim’s character, while other characters and game mechanics were designed by Perry and the other programmers.
Before working on Earthworm Jim, the developers had been limited by their customers as to the content they could create. With this project, they could design it however they desired, and made it a satire of platform video games. For instance, one character, “Princess-What’s-Her-Name”, was added as a parody of how many video games of the era had female characters in lack-luster roles, in need of saving.
The game itself played as a 2D side-scroller, and had elements of a run and gun game as well. The object was to maneuver Jim through the levels while avoiding obstacles and enemies. Jim’s gun was his major defense against enemies, but he could also whip them with his head.
Using the whip move, the player could also grab hold of, and swing from, certain hooks in the game.
In the game, Jim’s task is to evade the game’s many antagonists who are after him for his suit, and also rescue and protect “Princess What’s-Her-Name” from them. If you made it all the way through the game, Jim saved Princess What’s-Her-Name, but it’s no fairy-tale ending. The Princess does not return Jim’s affection, and – hilariously enough – is also crushed by the flying cow that Jim launches at the beginning of the game himself.
From 1995 to 1996, the franchise ran an animated series based on the Earthworm Jim series of video games. In total, 23 episodes in 2 seasons ran on the Kids’ WB programming block on The WB Television Network.
This meant even us 90’s kids who grew up without cable were able to enjoy its absurdist and surreal humor.
Earthworm Jim 3D was the beginning of the downfall for the franchise. It was not considered a commercial success, and many reviewers claimed it was mediocre It couldn’t compete with other games out at the time, such as Super Mario 64, Rayman 2, or Banjo Kazooie.
Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy was even more poorly received. Reviewers stated that it had lost the charm of what made the originals good, and pretty much “killed the series”.
Even if the franchise did turn out a few bad eggs, I will forever be a die-hard Earthworm Jim fan. The series fluid animation, hand-drawn style, and wacky surrealism captured my youth. It’s safe to say, there will never be another hero quite like Earthworm Jim.
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