Earthworm Jim HD

Earthworm Jim battles specters in Heck.

Earthworm Jim arrives on the XBox 360 with enhanced graphics and extra play modes. After all of these years, how does the 16-bit platformer hold up? The Local Ditch finds out.

Oh, Xbox Live, how you’ve enabled me to relive the missed games of my youth. Welcome to the club, Earthworm Jim. Back in the 16-bit days, I had EJ2 for my Genesis, but never the first one.

So, how do I view it with modern day eyes? I really had to step back and get in the right mindset to play this one. I’ve grown accustomed to the auto-saves and constant progress of modern games. It’s a bit of a blast from the past to go into a game that’s designed to last for a few hours and be played from the very beginning every time that it’s started.

With my brain properly tuned, Earthworm Jim is still fun. It’s a 2D platformer with a ton of twists and tricks along the way. Take the standard approach – start at the left side of the screen and work towards the right through a series of levels, usually ending with a boss – and mix in variations on the formula. One level sees Jim navigating a submarine while his oxygen runs out. Another has his wormy body separated from his super hero suit. Still yet, he has to save his canine pal Peter from a series of obstacles, less he gets agitated and returns Jim to the beginning of the level. Even descending through a cave of spiky intestines is in here.

I like the straight platforming sections the best. Maybe that’s just what I craved at the time of playing, but they seem very well done with lots of secret paths and hidden areas. Jim can run through levels, or use his worm noggin as a lasso to swing through the place like a space Tarzan. Enemies litter the place can be blasted with Jim’s gun or worm-whipped into oblivion.

Shiny’s trademark humor/quirkiness is here in spades, although some of it’s too childish for me. I appreciate the completely random stuff, like launching a cow for seemingly no apparent reason, but the fart sounds and level names like “Buttville” really show the game’s target market.

Earthworm Jim is pretty brutal in terms of difficulty, definitely done to elongate its length. For sure, this is a game that’s best played from the beginning every time you start, allowing players to up their skills and find new secrets – another step back in the time machine. The Live version includes saved games and difficulty settings, making it easy to skip between levels, for those persistent players.

There’s also a new set of single and multiplayer levels, as well as achievements to round out the experience. It’s a pretty good package, and the high-def visuals look nice. Earthworm Jim’s showing its age, but it’s fun to revisit the glory days of the 16-bit sidescroller.

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