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Tour de 64   

Earthworm Jim 3D

Earthworm Jim 3D is the third and final game in the series, and also the first to feature 3D gameplay, which gives the title a sort of double meaning. Bringing the series' trademark wackiness and irreverence to the third dimension, the game stars Jim's super-ego as he takes a trip through the crazy worlds of his own twisted mind. Although it lacks the polish of a Nintendo-published platformer, it still contains a decent amount of variety and somewhat interesting design.

I have never played Earthworm Jim 3D before doing so for this feature, but I do vaguely recall playing one or both of the games on the Sega Genesis. It was so long ago however that I barely remember anything, but I do recall feeling like it was a really difficult game, possibly due to limited ammo and lots of cheap hits. Fortunately, Earthworm Jim 3D is relatively easy aside from the recurring mechanics of the boss battles, so it was a more enjoyable experience than I remember having with the 16-bit originals.

After flicking the power switch, Earthworm Jim greets with an accordion, and then is soon crushed by the N64 logo which is then flattened by a cow, which I suppose sets the tone of the game. One of the company logos that flashes on screen is Rockstar; it's funny to think these folks would eventually go on to create the Grand Theft Auto series. Once choosing a new file, the game opens with a quick scene of Earthworm Jim in the hospital, which may be a continuation from the previous game, I have no idea.

Apparently, Jim must battle the monsters in his head to regain his sanity. He must collect his lost marbles, as well as find golden cow udders of contemplation, which makes total sense as cows are just that great. They are like power stars or puzzle pieces, in that collecting certain numbers of them will open the next world. As he collects more marbles, he will regain his intelligence, and earn new titles such as “Smart as a waffle.” The marbles also serve the purpose of opening the boss door for a world, once a specific total is reached.

There are a total of ten worlds in the game which each contain a hundred marbles and between three and seven golden cow udders. The levels are mostly linear, usually with just one or two paths to follow and then loops back around, making them relatively easy to navigate. There are never any instant-kill traps such as pits or crushers, so this combined with the more straight-forward level design makes it easy enough to collect all the marbles in one go. However, opening up the next world usually requires collecting all or nearly all of the golden udders currently available, so it may not be possible to the next level if the current one is posing trouble.

The game is full of random tasks, such as pressing a button to launch refrigerators. There is a war general who asks you to retrieve his stolen briefs. That's right, not mission briefs, but his underwear. One level has Jim jumping across cans floating in a river of piping-hot chili beans, then the next has him helping Elvis through a treacherous hallway of pits and enemies... only to accidentally lead him into a meat grinder, turning him into a hamburger. The groovy 80's are relived in a later level where Jim must behead dancing zombies on a flashy disco-themed dance floor to open the way forward. Some tasks to collect udders are a bit obscure however, such as one level where all bottles must be destroyed, with no prompt or indication that this task should be pursued.

Jim still has his trusty blaster, which starts out with 250 shots in each level. Even if that isn't enough, if the ammo drops below 100 then it will slowly regenerate back to 100 when not in use, making running out of ammunition never a worry. A variety of alternate weapons can be collected from vending machines, which range from a chicken-egg sniper rifle to banana-shaped dynamite. Health pickups dropped from enemies are drawn to Jim like a magnet, making them easier to grab and possible to get the drops from out-of-reach foes. Each world features different enemies to fit the themes, and they slowly increase in strength through the course of the game, dealing more damage or taking more hits to defeat.

Not that I'm one to be prudish, but this game doesn't seem appropriate for little children. Enemies explode into a flurry of bones and organs. Towards the end of the second level, Jim gains a meat clever boomerang weapon and uses it to behead enemy cows; they don't bleed, but the severed parts are red. There is even some casual swearing in the form of things like “damn,” and also a joke about handling a guy's balls. Some of this isn't worse than what's on today's cartoons like SpongeBob, but it still doesn't seem suitable for six-year-olds.

The bosses are easily the worst part of the game. The main issue is the switch in mechanics: Jim is surfing on top of a belly-up pig for who-knows-why, which moves forward automatically. The control stick is used to speed up or slow down, as well as turning, and the A button dodges. The steering is rather loose, making it difficult to switch directions sharply or to make minor adjustments. Each boss battle plays out in a similar manner, with the enemy having a stronger weapon or new gimmick, such as warping around the arena.

A total of one hundred marbles must be collected to win, some of which are scattered around the arena and the others start in the possession of Jim and the boss. Getting hit with a missile causes ten marbles to spill out of the enemy, or five if Jim is hit. There is no period of invulnerability for anyone after getting hit, and so it's just as possible to get hit twice in a row as it is to do so to the enemy. Combined with the loose control, trying to collect the scattered marbles from a hit can be a frustrating experience, especially since the boss has a tendency to scoop up one or two spilled marbles immediately after getting hit. The loose steering also makes it difficult to out maneuver the homing missiles, and the dodge move has a rather precise window of timing.

Earthworm Jim 3D may have its blemishes and the weirdness can get downright stupid, but it's still entertaining enough that I saw it through to the end. Though I didn't technically beat it as the last boss battle is pretty tough and they are just completely not fun. The bosses unfortunately bring down the whole game and are nothing more than an exercise in frustration, otherwise I would be tempted to grant this game a higher score. It has been and will continue to be forgotten by time, but Earthworm Jim 3D was enjoyable enough for a huge platformer fan such as myself.


 

Comments

mothman

03/01/2015 at 07:00 PM

I didn't play this one back in the day. Funny because it seems like the kind of game I'd play. Looks like it's available on GOG. I might check it out on sale.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

04/24/2015 at 03:28 PM

I had to look up what GOG was. Interesting. Looks like there's a PC version for this game also, I have no idea if that has any differences.

mothman

04/24/2015 at 05:34 PM

Everyone needs to know GOG Kathrine. They have some great sales and it's all DRM free.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

03/02/2015 at 04:18 AM

One free pager, please.

Aboboisdaman

03/02/2015 at 06:10 PM

Earthworm Jim is hard. I beat the SNES version a little ways back. Only 21 years later lol. Ammo isn't really a big issue though. The first game was weird, but the second one takes the weirdness to a whole new level. It sounds like they continued that here.

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