Re(?)Considered: Earthworm Jim: Special Edition
The worm's turn on Sega CD
Shiny Entertainment's Earthworm Jim, while far from a revelation, was a creative, clever, surprising game when it burst onto Mega Drive and SNES in late 1994. Its larger-than-life animations and constant stream of ideas - along with a genuinely funny WB animated series - cemented its position in pop culture. Unfortunately, it fizzled out with a series of increasingly disappointing sequels, and an announced Earthworm Jim 4 has yet to come to pass.
Thankfully, that first game remains lodged in peoples' minds as a classic. Because, well, it is. Level design is superb, a cut above most Western platformers of its era. The diverse levels maintain a consistent logic, each major level transition intercut with an "Andy Asteroids" bonus game, pitting Jim against his rival Psy-Crow in a semi-3D rocket race. There's only one brief and easily-grasped sojourn into total mechanical abstraction with the bungee-jumping "Snot A Problem" stage, unlike Earthworm Jim 2 in which almost every level presents a brand new gimmick or control scheme to get your head around. No, the original Earthworm Jim is tight, focused and creative to the point that you do find yourself playing simply to experience just what mad thing Shiny will throw at you next.
So, it's a classic, and consequently fairly well-known. However, 1995's Earthworm Jim: Special Edition for Sega CD and Windows 95 is more than a simple re-release and I feel that the particulars of exactly why it's so good haven't been given their fair dues. Let's take a look.
From the off, the most apparent change is the brilliantly animated new opening featuring a pencil-sketch rendition of Jim performing a number of amusing animations. But we quickly skip past that and jam to the "New Junk City" theme performed in mind-bending CD audio. Instantly you'll notice changes to the level - new secrets lurk tantalisingly out of reach, new routes to carve a bullet-path through. Whole new segments, in fact, bolster the stages of the original game, without over-extending it to the point of bloated excess. Indeed, there's a whole new level slotted in between "What the Heck" and "Down the Tubes", entitled "Big Bruty". It's an interesting one, too - as rich in design as any of the originals, and with a tense, exciting hook in which you must lure away and evade the titular Big Bruty to make your way to the exit.
Lastly, the addition of a new, homing weapon gives another valuable collectable. The small missiles are far more efficient than the existing Plasma power-ups, and their inclusion in this Special Edition helps to make the combat that little bit more exciting. There are additional enemies dotted cleverly around the stages, to ensure your fresh new instruments of death don’t go to waste.
Overall, it's pretty much the gold standard for re-releases - the new content complements the game rather than sitting awkwardly alongside it. I'll always choose this version over the original which, frankly,Earthworm Jim: Special Edition renders entirely redundant.
To quote Jim himself, it's groov-(CRUSHED TO DEATH BY FALLING COW)