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Earthworm Jim

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Game Titan
Publisher:  Majesco Sales
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platformer
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  7-10-01

Fighting against the Marios and Sonics of the 16-bit era, it was extremely difficult for any other wannabe mascot to make their mark in the platforming genre. Most of the Mascot B Team failed miserably (Bubsy, Aero, etc.), but one managed to rise above the rest and stake his claim as a top mascot. This champion of unappreciated mascot characters was Earthworm Jim (EWJ), a gun-totiní earthworm lucky enough to come into possession of a supersuit. Earthworm Jim was able to obtain its success through a combination of an awesome visual style (hand-drawn cartoony environments), plenty of Ďtude, and some innovative and varied gameplay.

Unfortunately, after three successful outings on the Genesis and SNES EWJ faded into obscurity. Shiny had no compelling reason to bring him back (their assets being tied up in junk like Wild 9ís) and the major hardware players already had their own mascots.

But the story of EWJ does not end on a sad note. For you see, the Game Boy Advance has proven to be a haven for those heroes of yesteryear. With itís superior hardware (to the SNES and Genesis), developers quickly discovered that porting older games, that most new gamers havenít experienced, to the GBA is easy money. And thus, Majesco has revived EWJís original adventure on the Game Boy Advance.

The gameplay, even today, still holds up really well. While everything takes place from a 2D perspective, there are still a variety of things to do in the game. In addition to simply killing the enemy (accomplished by either whipping them or shooting them), youíll also have to deal with numerous obstacles, guard dogs, and level bosses. I donít want to go into too much detail about what takes place, simply because a lot of the fun lies in discovering each new gameplay twist thrown at you. Basically, itís a 2D platformer with a lot more variety than youíll find in a Sonic or Mario.

The graphics hold up well also. Despite the fact that theyíre years old, they still manage to look good due to the unique visual presentation of the original title. Everything is bright and vivid, and very easy to see with decent lighting. Thereís quite a bit of detail to be found in the backgrounds of each level, and each level provides a totally unique visual experience. Really, the only downer in this area is that the character animations seem a little lacking compared to the original. Whether itís missing some animation frames or not I canít say for sure, but some of the transitions between different actions seem stiff. Itís not that itís bad (Iíve never seen animation this good on the GBC), but itís not up to par with some other GBA titles.

The sound held up much better in the transition, as it arrived virtually intact. The music sounds the same as it was on the SNES, and thatís impressive for a handheld. Likewise, the sound effects are almost exactly the same quality as well.

Really, the only major problem with EWJ (and I've seen other reviewers complain of this also) is that there is absolutely no way to save your progress in the game. While this is faithful to the original console version, things are different on a handheld. EWJ is the type of game that NEEDS some sort of way to save your progress, simply because itís such a long game (six long levels). Handhelds are generally picked up and played for short periods of time, and for a platforming game this makes game saves a must (since you canít really pause it and go back to it later). In addition, if your batteries die on you itís game over, regardless of how far youíve gotten. Does starting over after finally reaching the last level sound like fun to you? As you can imagine, this severely hampers the gameís replay value. Playing for a few minutes and then finishing it later is simply not an option. You better set aside a good chunk of time (and some fresh batteries or an AC adapter) if you wanna finish it.

Highs:

  • Graphics, while not mind-blowing, still retain a unique visual style.
  • The sound work is top-notch. Would you expect anything less from Shiníen?
  • Classic gameplay that has aged very gracefully.

Lows:

  • Very few people will play through the entire game in one sitting on a cramped handheld. Whereís the save feature?
  • Animation lost a little bit in the translation.
  • It is just a port, so if you owned/played the original it may not be worth the $40.

Final Verdict:

Earthworm Jim remains one of the best platforming games ever and Majesco has done a good job of bringing it to the GBA. However, the lack of a save feature severely limits any replay value (or "pick up and put down" value every handheld game needs) it may have, and consequently makes the final score much lower than it should be.

Overall Score: 7.6

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