Out of all of the new characters introduced to video gaming lore during the 16-bit generation, Earthworm Jim has a lot of staying power compared to failed counterparts such as Bubsy or Plok. Lots of folks remember Jim and his absurd games, wacky cartoon, and other tie-in media. Unfortunately, Jim's bright star was extinguished after his first sequel when a mediocre 3D game and a drab Game Boy Color adventure used up the last of his audience's patience. Hardcore Gaming 101 has taken a fond look back at Jim's antics, tracing his work from the very first Earthworm Jim game (which was released for a mind-boggling nine different systems) straight on into character oblivion.
The story of Earthworm Jim begins with the toy manufacturer Playmates, who, back in the late 80s and early 90s, was rolling in dough thanks to the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. Seeing the success of the franchise, they decided to start their own. But rather than creating a toy line and cartoon simultaneously, as most companies did, they took a different route. Upon seeing the success of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, they decided to produce their own video game, which would eventually lead into a blitz of licensed products. They got together with Dave Perry, a programmer at Virgin Interactive, and gave him the money to create Shiny Entertainment, the team that designed and created Earthworm Jim. This isn't exactly the first time this happened - Tradewest and Rare attempted the same thing a few years before with Battletoads, and Accolade did the same with Bubsy. But Earthworm Jim succeeded where these others did not, for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most prominent was its bizarre sense of humor, loosely inspired by Chuck Jones and Tex Avery cartoons, combined with its own unique brand of madcap lunacy. Or possibly it was also the fact that the Earthworm Jim games were also quite good - Battletoads was ambitious but monstrously difficult, and Bubsy struggled to be defined as anything but mediocre.
I had rented Earthworm Jim for the Super NES back in the day, and while I liked it, I didn't like it enough to warrant a $50 purchase. Instead I went with the $30 Game Boy version in the misguided delusion that it would basically capture the tone of its console cousin. That's about where my love affair with Earthworm Jim came to an end. Every now and then there's a rumble that Jim may return, but so far the circumstances just haven't been right. I think the property could do with a relaunch, but any new Jim title needs to have lots of solid gameplay to back up the bizarre gimmicks that had a tendency of bogging down the action.