Review – Earthworm Jim 2

Yeah, just try and convince me that Earthworm Jim 2 isn’t a work of art. How else do you describe a game that abruptly casts you as a blind salamander clutching a plasma gun and drops you in a giant maze of intestines filled with pinball bumpers while playing Moonlight Sonata in the background?

Earthworm Jim 2 is an inexplicable game. At first, it looks like a sequel of the completely enjoyable Earthworm Jim, but it neither embraces the original’s run-and-jump gameplay, nor does it discard it entirely. It knows what it is, but it’s not going to let that define it. So you end up with something completely bizarre. There is nothing out there quite like Earthworm Jim 2.

The horrors of endless paperwork. (Image source: mobygames.com)

TENDER

I had no idea what the plot of Earthworm Jim 2 was supposed to be. So, I did my research and looked it up. Apparently, Psy-Crow is going to force Princess What’s-her-name (I thought she was dead) to marry him, and you need to go and crash the wedding. Which, I guess means that you need to traverse a planet covered in giant, delicious looking food.

The game starts off rather misleadingly. If you’re expecting Earthworm Jim but more, you’re in for a disappointment. Maybe. The first level starts you out with the sort of gameplay you’d expect after playing the previous game. The same run-and-jump gameplay is there, but with a few tweaks, such as an arsenal of new weapons. You go from point A to point B, just like in the last game.

Then, in the very next level, the weapon power-ups that you’ve been stockpiling disappear, and you’re left digging through soil using some sort of energy gun. Yet, that’s still at least similar to classic Jim, but then you’re saving puppies as they’re thrown out a window, and then that salamander level happens. At this point you’ve forgotten about all those power-ups and don’t have time to think about what’s going on.

It could be described as a situation rush game, not unlike what Konami and Treasure liked to do at the time. Rocket Knight Adventures and Gunstar Heroes come to mind, but even those games don’t go as far off the rails as Jim.

SEE JIM RUN, RUN JIM RUN

Did I lose you yet? I haven’t even mentioned the level where you pick up cows that are spit out of flowers and have to protect them from aliens while tango music plays in the background. Earthworm Jim 2 is absolutely remarkable in how capable it is at switching gears in an instant while still feeling like a cohesive game.

Oh, sure, there is the odd level that is less remarkable. For example, I tend to forget about the stage where you inflate your head to ascend through a creepy carnival. I’m also not sure why we need to play Puppy Love three times throughout the game, but whatever. Even still, most of the levels are winners, and the worst ones aren’t really that bad.

It does make it a bit hard to review, however. How can I really gnaw on the mechanics if they change every level?

Sometimes, the cows’ heads are on fire and you have to dunk them in giant bathtubs. (Image source: mobygames.com)

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

Well, for starters, this does make the game feel slightly unfocused. Those guns that I mentioned you can pick up on the first level; they’re technically stockpiled, but are lost when you lose a life. This means, the next time the game reverts to a style where you can make use of weapon power-ups, you probably will have to rebuild your arsenal from scratch. There’s actually a lot of special weapons, so the fact that there’s so little focus on using them is a bit disappointing. Hell, there’s a special shield move that, even if you knew how to pull it off, you’d probably never need to use.

In a way, it feels like it should have been a longer game, which is a bit ridiculous considering it already features a decent set of levels. A few more run-and-jump levels would have really helped unify the whole game and make it feel a bit more grounded, but then, maybe that would be the exact opposite of what the developers were going for.

It’s a blessing and a curse for the game when you come down to it. What’s Jim‘s identity? Weirdness? Because that’s the only consistent thing on display here.

FLAMIN’ YAWN

Which, I mean, at least sets it apart from its predecessor. The actual run-and-jump sections tie the two games together (though the helicopter head was replaced with a snot parachute), but everywhere else, EWJ2 could be from an entirely different series. You so rarely find yourself in situations similar to what were found in the first game, and the run-and-jump levels are in the minority of stages. As far as sequels go, it’s a huge diversion.

I tend to like this a lot better than the first game’s approach. While the original EWJ certainly provided a respectable diversity, it did so primarily within the central mechanics. EWJ2 can basically become an entirely different game at any second, ditching the core mechanics for something new, but it’s held together by a unifying theme and sense of humour. Everything fits, simply because the personality is so cohesive.

It can still be discouraging if you come into it expecting it to be like the original. It’s incredibly distinct, both in gameplay and in attitude. Even Jim himself is goofier this time around; dropping the determined grimace that graced him the first time, in favour of a constant jogging loop.

Still, the animation is just as good, the graphics remain impressive, and the music, although it lifts a number of classical tracks, is just as good. I guess what it boils down to is; EWJ2 takes everything that was good in EWJ and takes it in a completely different and unexpected direction.

Nothing makes me hungry quite like Level Ate (Image source: mobygames.com)

WELL DONE

Getting down to brass tacks, I enjoyed Earthworm Jim 2 more than I did its predecessor, and that’s in spite of the impact that the original had on my childhood. It’s an appreciation that has just grown over time.

I attribute this to the sort of rampant individuality that EWJ2 demonstrates at every turn. Every level presents something unique, yet it’s all still strongly held together with nothing but spit and its own winning personality. It’s one of those game’s that are fun just to describe to someone in plain detail, as though this is all perfectly normal.

When a game succeeds in presenting such a vast variety without compromising its identity, and still manages to remain fun throughout; that’s something to stand up and take notice of. Earthworm Jim 2 is a unique trip, that I definitely recommend you take one day.

Again, I have to note that while I have reviewed this game as a catch-all, the different console versions all tweak a number of things. It’s not as stark as the first EWJ, where certain levels and animations don’t appear in certain versions (though, the DOS version of EWJ2 drops the second level), but there are major graphical differences. This, again, will likely come down to personal preference, but the Sega Saturn version seems to look the best.

This is also the last time Jim was handled by his original creators. The series continued for two more games, one on N64 and PC, and the other on the Game Boy Color, but both are less fondly remembered. Maybe we’ll get to those at some point.

8/10

This review was conducted on a Super Nintendo using an original cartridge copy of the game. The author has had it since childhood.

About Adzuken 137 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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