One of the games that I was personally excited about playing when I joined Antstream was Earthworm Jim. This was one of the games that I played obsessively when I was a kid. The beautifully designed and quirky visuals combined with smooth controls, compelling gameplay, and inventive humor to make the perfect platforming game of the 90s. It seemed that I wasn’t the only person who thought that as the game became a franchise which spawned comics, toys and even a hit cartoon series!
Earthworm Jim travels through various levels defeating enemies and inventive bosses to save Princess What’s-Her-Name. But how can an invertebrate do all this? Why by using his special suit which fell from space. This suit is one of the reasons that the various enemies in the game want to attack him. They want to steal it and use its powers for evil. Oh, and they also want to eat him. So, it’s important to make good use of your gun to defend yourself and save the universe from the forces of evil.
The fact that the game’s level design has aged so well is a testament to the Shiny team’s ingenuity and forward thinking. The levels have all sorts of twists and turns and feature all kinds of secrets. Although they are linear there are different paths to take which offer an additional challenge and more rewards.
The graphics are colourful and vibrant, there’s an upbeat mood and a lot of the games comedic elements come through perfectly in the animation. The game’s control system is intuitive and smooth. Aiming your gun and controlling Jim feels natural and although some of the platforming sections are tough you can’t blame how your character handles for any of that.
Another highlight is the variety of weapons on offer. Jim in his high-tech suit, has a variety of these at his disposal. From a plasma blaster to a homing missile, each has its own individual strengths and weaknesses and learning how to use them is crucial to success. You will also need to conserve your ammo as each weapon has a limited use and picking up ammunition crates is essential. The combat is fast paced and satisfying which often isn’t the case with platform focused games.
The music contained within the game is considered legendary and here is where the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive version shines. This is possibly one of Tommy Tallarico’s best soundtracks. Special mention goes to the iconic “New Junk City” which I have often found myself humming in the bath or when cleaning the cooker.
Earthworm Jim is regarded as a timeless classic and deservedly so. It offers a unique and entertaining experience. Its unconventional level design and quirky, comedic set pieces make it stand out from other platformers of its time. The mechanics and weaponry add depth and variety to the gameplay and this is a game that is worth revisiting not just for nostalgic purposes but also for its distinct personality and entertaining gameplay.
Finishing the game in the easy difficulty setting shows you a different ending that consists of a rather verbose scientific description of earthworms, as well as their habitats, mating customs, etc.
Games Master Magazine gave Earthworm Jim a perfect score of 100%
The PC and Sega CD versions added a new weapon that was not seen in the 16-bit console versions, the powerful Seeker missile.
Interview with David Perry
David Perry is a name that needs no introduction but due to the incredible scope of his work in the gaming industry I feel that its important to give him one. He began his career in gaming at the age of fifteen and since then has seen his work being released on twenty-three platforms. He has developed games for a multitude of publishers, such as Elite Systems, probe Software, US-Gold, Mirrorsoft and Virgin Games. Between 1991 and 1993, Perry was responsible for some of the best platformers available on the Mega Drive, including 7-Up’s Cool Spot and the legendary Aladdin which won him numerous awards and accolades throughout the industry.
After working at Virgin, Perry struck out on his own and formed Shiny Entertainment. It was here that we created one of the biggest icons of the 16-bit era, Earthworm Jim. The game was a smash success and quickly became a multi-media franchise hitting the toy markets and even becoming a cartoon series.
Can you talk us through your career? Where did you get started?
I grew up in Northern Ireland when there was no such thing as a games industry. So, I was there, right at the start and wanted to learn how to program as soon as possible. It wasn’t as easy to get started as it is now, there was no Internet and it was tough to get any books on the subject. I got started by making lots of games for books and magazines, they would pay good money for what they called ‘type-ins.’ I would write the code and the readers would type it into their computers. When I was 17, I moved to England and worked on a game called Pyjamarama and then worked on some big brand names such as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Smash TV, and Dan Dare. After those titles I began to work for Virgin in the USA on games like Terminator, a game for McDonalds and Aladdin for Disney. Then I started my own company, Shiny Entertainment.
What was your first computer system?
My mum bought me a Sinclair ZX81, it had a 16K RAM pack and a printer. That started me coding, I would work until 3AM trying to work out how to make games.
What was the first device you programmed on?
That would be the ZX81, my first published games were written in BASIC and were published in a magazine called the National ZX81 Users Club.
Earthworm Jim is Antstream’s Game of the Month, what can you tell me about its creation?
I met Doug TenNapel who was an incredible animator. Before we hired him at Shiny, we wanted him to present a demo. That demo was Earthworm Jim, it impressed me so much that we not only hired him but committed to making the game. Jim became incredibly popular, it spawned the television series but also lunch boxes, Playmates Toys, socks and even a comic book from Marvel.
How did the Cartoon Series get started?
At the time we knew that Earthworm Jim would be the perfect animated show but we hit a road block. The cartoon studio wanted toys before they would commit to a TV series. So, we all got together for a dinner with the head of Playmates Toys and the head of Universal Cartoon Studios. Once we all agreed to work together, the TV show was green lit and we even had a toy range to go with it.