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The rise and fall of the main superhero of the 90s. A look at the Earthworm Jim series 

 October 13, 2021

A video game for a hero

Earthworm Jim was made under the roof of Playmates Toys, a children’s toy manufacturer. Inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog, the company wanted to produce goods with its own hero, rather than share the profits with the owners of the rights to gradually losing popularity of characters like the Ninja Turtles.

A quick glance at games

In the version for Sega, the plot is not explained in any way – the player is immediately thrown into the abyss of events. The developers did not bother, and this did not bother anyone. But there was still a plotline: the life of an ordinary earthworm changed after the super cyber suit fell on it. He grew in size, learned to control a powerful robe and went to rescue Princess What-Her-There-Name, along the way fighting Professor Monkeyhead, Malicious the cat, Bob the goldfish, Queen Slizezada and other obsessed individuals.

Difficult person test: The first part appeared in October 94th. This is a classic arcade platformer that cannot be called revolutionary, but it is solidly assembled from excellent elements. Jim is agile, strong, can not only jump and run, but also shoot a blaster and use his body as a whip, hitting enemies and swinging on hooks. Superhero health is measured as a percentage and is replenished with particles that resemble molecules.

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The game surprises with its versatility and absurdity. Some of the levels are linear with branches and simple puzzles and not always a boss is waiting for us at the end.

The journey begins in a smelly junkyard full of trash, worn tires, pesky crows and demonic dogs. Almost immediately, with the help of the refrigerator, we will launch a cow into space travel, which will play a fatal role in history. The mini-boss of the garbage dump will be a brutal garbage can, and the role of the leader is played by the fat man Chuck, spewing fish from the bowels of the stomach.

In the sequel, Jim received new animations, additional weapons and a controversial helper Slime. The gameplay has become even more varied, and the degree of madness has increased. The worm dodges the falling old ladies, makes its way through the sands, uses pigs as a load and cow’s milk to open the way, tries to save the puppies for Peter on springy marshmallows, as a blind salamander swims through the intestines and participates in the show, ferries a bomb in a balloon, and so on Further.

The games in the series stand out for their striking soundtrack, for which is the composer Tommy Tallarico – a cousin of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. In the credits of the first part, his name was changed to Mark Miller (Tallarico’s friend), since at that time he was still working at Virgin. Tallarico not only wrote expressive original compositions, but also used variations of classical and even folk compositions. For example, Viili People – “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, the introduction to “What The Heck!” – “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, and Puppy Love – consists of both “Neapolitan Tarantella” and “Funiculi, Funicula”.

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The byproducts of the games are also worth mentioning, but only as an opportunity to get to know Jim’s world better.

The two-season series, to which TenNapel had a hand in the creation, turned out to be controversial, but in the spirit of games with a recognizable drawing, a delusional plot and reckless heroes. 23 episodes were released, after which the show was closed, including due to strange positioning – targeting a child audience with adult humor.

Wrong turn

From the mid-90s, the fashion began to transfer popular franchises into three-dimensional space, for example, Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

Shiny Entertainment after the release of the second, not as successful as the original, “Linus Basket Stardew Valley“, acquired the publisher Interplay. Management decides to place the franchise in the hands of VIS Entertainment. Two key developers, TenNapel and Perry, were listed as consultants for Earthworm Jim 3D for a time, but control over the game was conditional.

Perry and his associates were working on a three-dimensional action movie MDK at this time, and TenNapel expressed his indignation that his brainchild was given not to the “dream team”, but to the creators of the middle hand. He introduced the idea of ​​The Neverhood and Kleiman’s plasticine quest to director Steven Spielberg and began work at DreamWorks Interactive.

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Earthworm Jim 3D was made for three years, and the project was restarted, stages and characters were changed. In the story, Jim was hospitalized after a cow landed on his head, and the whole gameplay took place in the creation of the hero. The game was released in 1999, and it had positive moments and interesting levels, but it was a failure due to technical problems, a bad camera and a departure from the canons of the original source. And to be honest, the 3D game looked ugly after the nice two-dimensional ones.

Analysis

Hardly anyone would argue that Earthworm Jim games are some of the best for Sega Mega Drive with a unique win-win formula. There is an eccentric superhero, strange and extraordinary levels, memorable antagonists, awesome humor, a moderately high level of difficulty and a funny tilt for seriousness. At the same time, the game has problems with control accuracy, aiming and the need for some abilities.

The image of the hero, combined with pleasant gameplay, impressive graphics and music, was instantly catchy. The games became hits, and Worm Jim was one of the most recognizable characters in video games(Green flame blade 5e) of the 90s. An almost unique case. It is one of the first video game series created outside of Japan to become really popular.

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The first two “Worms” are true diamonds of the industry and brilliant products of their time. Everything else is attempts to make money on the promoted series, which, without the creativity of the “fathers”, turned out to be a failure. The audience is not stupid enough to consume whatever is offered with a familiar face.

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