Earthworm Jim 2
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Developers:
    • Shiny (GEN/SNES)
    • Rainbow Arts (DOS/PC)
    • Screaming Pink (SAT/PS1)
  • Publishers:
    • US Playmates (GEN/SNES/DOS/SAT)
    • UK Virgin (GEN/SNES/SAT/PS1)
    • Brazil Tec Toy (GEN)
    • US Interplay (PC)
    • UK Funsoft (PC)
    • JP Takara (SAT)
  • Released:
    GEN
    • US 11/15/1995
    • UK 12/22/1995
    • JP September 1996
    SNES
    • US 11/15/1995
    • UK 01/25/1996
    DOS
    • US 04/30/1996
    PC
    • US 08/22/1996
    • UK 1996
    SAT
    • US 10/31/1996
    • JP 11/11/1996
    • UK November 1996
    PS1
    • UK November 1996
Score: 80%

This review was published on 05/21/2017.

Earthworm Jim 2 is a side-scrolling run and gun shooter video game from the mid 1990s. As its name implies, it's the sequel to the original Earthworm Jim, but what its name doesn't imply is that it's the final game by the original creators of the series, Doug TenNapel, David Perry, and Shiny Entertainment. It was released for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive in North America on November 15, 1995, Europe on December 22, 1995, Japan in September 1996, and Brazil in 1996. The SNES version also got released in North America on November 15, 1995, but came out in Europe on January 25, 1996. A version of the game was included in Earthworm Jim 1 and 2: The Whole Can 'O Worms, which was released for Microsoft DOS on April 30, 1996. There was also another PC version that came out in North America on August 22, 1996, and Europe in 1996. Another version of the game was later released for the Sega Saturn in North America on October 31, 1996, Japan on November 11, 1996, and Europe in November 1996. A similar version came out for the Sony PlayStation in Europe in November 1996. Regardless of which version you play, they're all good.

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While Shiny Entertainment developed the Genesis and SNES versions of the game, the ports to other systems were handled by different developers. Rainbow Arts did the DOS and PC versions, while Screaming Pink worked on the Saturn and PlayStation ports. This game also had quite a few publishers, which differed depending on the platform and region. Playmates published the Genesis, SNES, DOS, and Saturn versions of the game in North America, whereas Virgin Interactive published the Genesis, SNES, Saturn, and PS1 versions in Europe. Tec Toy published the Genesis version in Brazil, and Takara published the Saturn version in Japan. It should also be noted that the Mega Drive version arrived in Japan via the Sega Channel, which was an online service that allowed people to download games. Lastly, Interplay published the PC version in North America, and Funsoft published it in Europe. Even with the sheer amount of publishers, developers, and versions this game has had, it's nowhere near the amount of the previous title.

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Being that this is the sequel to Earthworm Jim, it follows the protagonist of that game, who's obviously named Earthworm Jim. In the first game, Jim started out as an ordinary earthworm, but became a walking, talking superhero when a robotic suit landed on top of him from outer space. While being pursued by Psy-Crow, an intergalactic bounty hunter with a crow for a head, Jim ventured across various planets to defeat Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt, and save Princess-What's-Her-Name. Unsurprisingly, the first game concluded with one dead Queen and one rescued Princess. Also unsurprisingly, the second game begins with the Princess being kidnapped again, but by Psy-Crow this time. Psy-Crow wishes to marry the Princess, because doing so would make him the supreme ruler of the entire universe. Now Jim must stop Psy-Crow before he takes the Princess to the Lost Vegas system, where anyone can get a quick, non-consenting wedding 24 hours a day. Along the way, Jim will encounter many of his old foes, like Evil the Cat. It's going to be an adventure to remember.

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This game is an upgrade to the original in many ways, and one of those ways is the visual quality. The original already had some of the best 2-D graphics of the time, but the sequel is somehow even better. You'll encounter sprawling environments with highly complex backgrounds, foregrounds, and multiple layers of parallax. The use of shading here is absolutely astounding, and the colors are vivid, yet never overly bright. All of the character sprites are equally vivid and detailed, which is easily appreciated due to their large sizes. Of course, the true star of the visual show is the animation. Like the last game, the animation work here is top notch. Jim in particular has many funny animations, especially while idle. He'll anxiously run in place, throw a brick into the air that then lands on his head, and other wacky stuff. On top of all that, the music is better this time around, too.

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For the second time, you control Earthworm Jim as he goes from planet to planet in search of the Princess. As with the previous game, Jim's suit gives him arms and legs that allow him to run, jump, duck, and grab onto ledges. He can also still use his head as a whip to attack enemies, but he can no longer swing from hooks with it, nor use it as a propeller to slow his descent. Instead, he has a slimy friend in his backpack named Snott who serves to replicate all of this functionality. Snott can be used as a parachute to slow Jim's descent if the shoot button is pressed while in the air. It's a useful move, but the input for this is confusing. Additionally, pressing the jump button twice will prompt Jim to thrust Snott out of his backpack at an upwards angle, which allows Jim to swing from slimy ceilings. This is much easier to execute than the hook swing from the first game, plus the slime dripping from ceilings is a great way to signify what Snott can stick to. Overall, Snott is a good addition.

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Like the first game, Jim is usually armed with a powerful gun that can be rapidly fired in eight directions, but has limited ammo. The ammo drains much faster now, however, so you have to be much more conservative with it. Luckily, Jim still does regenerate ammo if he runs out, but it's best to avoid this, as it's slow. In the previous game, Jim would occasionally find special ammo that allowed him to fire more powerful shots, and the Special Edition version added homing ammo. In Earthworm Jim 2, there are different guns that serve the same purpose as the different ammo, except there's far more of them. Now, Jim can find a gun that shoots in three different directions simultaneously, another that hits everything on the screen, a homing gun, and a powerful gun that shoots a concentrated blast of energy. There's also the bubble gun, which is a useless joke weapon that shouldn't be confused with bubble gum. Aside from that one, all the guns are extraordinarily helpful.

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Another quality Earthworm Jim 2 shares with the original is the humor, except this game is way funnier. Some stages are nothing more than vehicles for this game's unique brand of humor. For example, there are amusing segments in the first stage where Jim must use a powered stair climber to ascend staircases while avoiding falling grannies. If a granny falls onto Jim, she'll begin ruthlessly beating him with her cane. Then there's the first boss, Bob the Killer Goldfish. Despite being introduced in a dramatic fashion, the "fight" automatically resolves itself with no input from the player, as Jim simply pulls the goldfish out of its bowl and swallows it whole. The funniest part of the game is the quiz show bit, where Jim has a chance to win wonderful prizes by answering totally nonsensical questions. One of the questions is, "What color is Jim's red gun?" The answer, of course, is green. It's absolutely ridiculous, but also kind of hilarious.

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The unusual thing about Earthworm Jim 2 is that there are more unusual stages than there are usual ones. Almost every stage contains a gimmick, and some stages are basically mini-games. This might seem bad, but it mostly works in the game's favor, as many of the gimmicks are actually fun. For instance, there's a creative underground stage where Jim digs through the dirt with his gun, and as he shoots the dirt on the ceiling, it falls down and forms hills he can jump on, in addition to plugging up flaming pipes. Some of the gimmicks are also downright weird, like a stage in which Jim swims through intestinal linings while disguised as a blind cave salamander. Not all the gimmicks are good, though. In an annoying carnival stage, Jim floats around with his inflated head while avoiding getting popped by Evil the Cat. There's another tedious stage which has Jim riding his Pocket Rocket in an isometric perspective, and the objective is to guide a balloon carrying a bomb to the goal. If Jim accidentally detonates the bomb while shooting enemies, he'll have to go back and get another one. It's like a grueling escort mission. The gimmicks are the game's greatest strength, but also its biggest weakness.

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Peter Puppy is back with another annoying gimmick. This time, Psy-Crow is tossing Peter's puppies from a tower and Jim has to bounce them to safety using a giant marshmallow. If Jim fails to catch a puppy, it'll smash into the ground and die, decreasing the Peter Puppy count. Once the count reaches zero, Peter will become enraged, transforming him into a monster that attacks Jim for massive damage. This plays similarly to the Game and Watch title known simply as "Fire," except it's far more fidgety here. The reason for this is the picky hit detection on the marshmallow, making it all too easy to drop countless puppies. To make matters worse, this gimmick is rehashed multiple times throughout the game, getting progressively harder each time. These Peter Puppy stages are basically like the Psy-Crow races from the previous game, only more annoying. Admittedly, Peter's gimmick would be fine if it only appeared once, but that sadly isn't the case.

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Depending on the console it's on, there are some differences between the different versions of Earthworm Jim 2. The SNES and Genesis versions are pretty similar, but the SNES release contains some different backgrounds, while the Genesis one has a larger resolution. The DOS version included in The Whole Can 'O Worms release is based on the Genesis version, but it has slightly better graphics, and a Red Book audio soundtrack. However, the DOS version is missing a single stage. The Saturn and PlayStation versions of the game are mostly identical, containing all the stages from the original Genesis release, plus the Red Book audio soundtrack from the DOS version. There are also a couple of CG scenes unique to the Saturn and PlayStation versions, but these look horrible. Outside of the DOS release, all versions of the game are pretty good.

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Dying is a terrible thing. Like most games, dying in Earthworm Jim 2 expends a life, and when all lives are lost, you'll initiate a Game Over. At that point, the game will prompt you to continue if you have any Continues left. Continues come in the form of cans of worms, which are hidden throughout the game. If you're out of Continues, then you'll be sent back to the title screen. Normally, this means you'll have to replay the whole game from the start, but there's a strange way around this. The game has what it refers to as a "password" system, but that's a bit of a misnomer. Basically, there are three special icons hidden in every stage, and if you get them all upon beating the stage, you'll be able to continue from the next stage by entering the Password screen from the Options menu, should you get a Game Over. This doesn't work if you power the system off, though. It's a strange system, to say the least.

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For the most part, Earthworm Jim 2 is a more enjoyable game than its predecessor. The graphics and music have both been extensively upgraded, and the humor is far likelier to get a chuckle or two out of you. However, the gimmicks are both a blessing and a curse. While they add variety, they do so at the cost of consistency. Some of the gimmicks are also annoying. The worst of the bunch is the one with the puppies. These puppy stages are a real nuisance, and they really drag down the whole experience. The game would be a lot better if it only had a single puppy stage or none at all. At any rate, despite its overreliance on gimmicks, Earthworm Jim 2 is a definite improvement over the original.

Word Count: 2,069

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