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Earthworm Jim HD


A dream sequence! Groovy! Bring on the dancing girls!
Making his first apperance on the Playstation 3, Earthworm Jim HD is a suped up version of the now 16 year old zany Earthworm Jim game from Super Nintendo days. Those that remember the craziness of the original will be right at home here, but Gameloft does very little in the form of explanitory narratives to give new players the backstory on our action-infused earthworm. They did include descriptions o the level and a comic to flesh our the story slightly, but the game is tremendously confusing. The basic backstory is that Jim has been empowered with a super space suit and has to fight off the minions of the evil queen to protect the galaxy.



Different from the original, you will notice a smattering of changes to the design of the gameplay. First, there are threee new levels to tackle in the game. They donít fit in into the story at all, but at least there are new levels for veterens of the original. There are multiple difficulty modes for anyone new to the game and didnít want to be overly frustrated with the Extreme difficulty. On the flip side, it also makes the game insanely easy to complete. For example, the Down the Tubes level is much simplier due to greater control over Jimís movements. There are much better visual cues on the screen for boss health in this go around and Jim can now hang onto his collected Plasma blasts rather than expending them immediately.

One huge problem with the game is that Gameloft did nothing to improve on the movement mechanics. Itís easy to tell that this game was developed many, many years ago. For instance, you canít fire shots while in motion. Want to crack the whip while in a mid-air jump? Sorry, thatís still impossible. The jumping motion also feels slow, wonky and unresponsive. Itís hard to get a handle on jumping at the right time to make a perfect landing. Add in the fact that the developer doesnít give you a good idea of what a safe landing suface is and itís incredibly frustrating. For some reason, background art and actual deadly objects on the ground blend in with each other, far too well. Thankfully, Jim has a hovering effect with his spinning head that allows for quick direction changes mid-jump.



Gameloft has included a multiplayer mode for the game that allows for up to 4 players, local and online. Itís basically the same 15 levels and the four players compete over their scores by collecting goodies and killing the enemies. There are vastly more enemies and bosses rolling around the multiplayer levels as well. There are even areas of the levels that require teamwork to get past certain portions of the level. I didnít experience any lag issues with the quality of the multiplayer matches, nor did anyone I played with.

Graphics

  • The visual design of Earthworm Jim HD is definitely an upgrade from the old version and the bright colors certainly pop off the screen more. The artwork has been redrawn pretty phenominally, but the animation effects arenít as smooth as they could be. The new levels look better than some of the originals as well.

Audio

  • The music works well with the general zaniness of Jimís predicament and the minimal voiceovers still bring humor into the game. And yes, this version still has Doug TenNapelís voice as Jim.

Conclusion

Earthworm Jim HD is in a strange position. If itís attempting to pull in fans of the original game from 16 years ago, thereís little new material here to tackle. If itís to recruit new fans to the series, Gameloft is going to have a difficult time competing for the attention of todayís youth with the antiquated gameplay design. Ironically, by reducing the extreme difficulty that plagued gamers back in the day, youíve actually turned Earthworm Jim into a very easy game.

You are looking at about 90 minutes to 2 hours of gameplay to complete the main campaign and the online multiplayer does help extend the life of the title somewhat (if you can find someone to play with). Fans of the original should probably skip this version unless they aredying to try out the multiplayer and new players should beware of the truncated replay value as well as the wonky control design compared to new platformers.

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