To say I looked forward to the release of Earthworm Jim 3D (1999) is a bit in an understatement. One of Rockstar’s (yes, that Rockstar) early publishing ventures, Earthworm Jim in all three d’s on the Nintendo 64 promised to be the best thing since the first two Earthworm Jim games, which, in my eyes, meant that it was going to be the pinnacle of AWESOME. Though it had been sometime since I played those games, the Earthworm Jim cartoon from the Great Animation Heyday of the 1990s, was still playing in syndication, and I still enjoyed its wackiness whenever I caught an episode. So when I learned that another game was going to join the series, well I just couldn’t wait!
There was a problem.
See, Earthworm Jim 3D’s release happened several weeks before the release of Donkey Kong 64, another game that promised the best of good times. So as the 1999 holiday season rolled round, I knew I had a decision to make. Perhaps I should have been wondering about paying the rent or making sure I had enough money for groceries…but c’mon. We were talking EARTHWORM JIM vs. DONKEY KONG. I didn’t see how any other decisions mattered. And they didn’t because I needed something NEW to PLAY. Not that I wasn’t happy with my third playthrough of Ocarina of Time, my tenth playthrough of Banjo-Kazooie, or my umpteenth playthrough the Super Maio 64, but…y’know…a girl does get bored…and I missed that silly earthworm and his silly spacesuit. And the cows, I missed them too. Sure, I could have waited to get my game on with everybody’s favorite Kong, but waiting was for the birds. And the early birds get the worms, so there…decision made.
Earthworm Jim 3D continued the story of Jim’s quest to save the galaxy from his regular series of enemies. Only this time, the fight happened in his mind. And I don’t mean that in a psycho-bullbunky way, I mean that the game took place inside Jim’s actual brain. See, he was being all Earthworm-y Jim-y one day when BAM! Hit by a dang cow. Ouch, right? Well serious ouchies in Jim’s case because it knocked him clean into a coma. Upon waking, he found himself traversing the small corners of his fleshy mind (I mean, he was a worm, so we’re not talking Texas-sized corners here.) The only way to save himself was, of course, to find all his marbles (hehe, get it?) and some golden udders. Cows. Yep…the cows. Along the way he met up with the cast of baddies that we all knew and loved, from Psycrow to Evil the Cat. You got to shoot things to get power-ups and other items, there were wacky enemies to shoot, and the general Earthworm Jim humor was alive and well in droves.
From YouTube user N64guide.
Unlike my experience with the original 2D games, which were great but frustrating at times, I though Jim in 3D worked rather well. However, I’ll quickly note game’s worst point, which was, by far, the pain-in-the-ass camera. It was just…well…a pain in the ass. And though there was a button that was supposed to center the camera behind Jim, it always seems to crap out in really necessary moments when camera angles were important, like boss fights. Though the frustration was there, I don’t remember it ever getting to red alert levels. I do remember doing a lot of sighing. And maybe more than a little cursing.
But the dreaded camera wasn’t enough to ruin this game for me. More often than not, I forgave it because the game was so damn entertaining. Yep, if you can make a game that makes me laugh, I’ll probably enjoy it, no matter how crappy the mechanics are. In other news, I don’t think that Earthworm Jim 3D introduced much to 3D play. It followed the same basic formula of Banjo-Kazooie: enter level, gather items, shoot stuff, fight boss, move onto next level. But I will say that for all it’s hilarity, and despite my affection for that crazy worm, I didn’t find the game nearly as endearing as Banjo-Kazooie, or as replayable as Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64. The game was far from flat, but it lacked that certain je ne sai quois. Like the difference between (most) Pixar films and (most) other animated features.
Earthworm Jim 3D is a great platformer that rests solidly in the N64’s early catalog. Sure, the camera leaves much to be desired, but there are worse games. And none of those featured worms in spacesuits, transcendental cows, or golden udders…or at least I don’t think they did.