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PAX ’09: ‘Earthworm Jim’ Hands-On and Video

EWJ_iPhone_previewscreen_02Gameloft’s port of Earthworm Jim is, well, Earthworm Jim. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it originally appeared on the Sega Genesis in 1994, and since then saw ports on numerous platforms soon to be including the XBOX 360 via XBOX Live Arcade, the PS3 via PlayStation Network, and the Wii via WiiWare.

The story begins with a high tech super suit falling from space and landing directly on top of an earthworm named Jim. The suit somehow mutates him in to a larger earthworm capable of controlling its various functions. Jim overhears the villains of the game discussing devious plans regarding Princess What’s Her Name (Yes, that’s really her name) and Jim decides to to go on an adventure to save the princess from killer golfish, evil cats, and queens with slugs for butts. The game was a hit and was even the basis for a short lived cartoon series on the WB.


An on-screen D-Pad (or joystick, configurable via an options screen) controls your movement, and buttons handle jumping, slapping your earthwormy self like a whip, and firing your gun. The controls work, but based on our brief time with the game, it seems to provide a mere shadow of the experience on the original Sega Genesis with the 6 button controller and nearly perfect D-Pad.

The first level felt more difficult than it should have been, and in the version I played (which likely is still under development) the buttons for Jim’s various actions seemed a little too close together to accurately mash with my thumb. Also disappointing was that in the levels where Jim flies his pocket rocket there is no accelerometer support.

You can get an idea of what I’m talking about in this video running on a 2nd generation iPod Touch:

[ Full HD version | Low Bandwidth version ]

Of course, as with all the games we tried today, we didn’t have enough time to fully evaluate the game, and we’ll certainly spend more time with it when it’s officially launched.

There are two ways you can look at Gameloft’s Earthworm Jim: It seems to be a great port of the game, runs as well as you could expect, and is the closest thing you’re going to have to playing the original in your pocket unless you feel like hauling around a Sega Nomad and the Genesis cartridge. On the other hand, it seems likely to share some of the annoyances of other virtual D-Pad platformers, and while it’s certainly playable, the game does feel like it was designed for a real D-Pad (which, of course, it was).