Video Game: Earthworm Jim


A much-loved platform game from Shiny Entertainment, formed when Playmates Toys approached Virgin Software alumnus Dave Perry (who had developed Cool Spot and Aladdin for Virgin) to create a marketable videogame franchise to build a new multimedia sensation upon, in the spirit of their previous success, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. The title character (created by cartoonist Doug TenNapel) is an earthworm mutated by a mechanical super-suit from space into a somewhat awkward super-hero, who takes it upon himself to stop the machinations of the Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-Filled, Malformed Slug-For-A-Butt and rescue the beautiful Princess What's-Her-Name. His adventure takes him from the scrap heaps of New Junk City to the sweltering fire-pits of Planet Heck (home of the aptly-named Evil the Cat) to Level 5, the lair of the evil Mad Scientist who invented Jim's super-suit, Professor Monkey-for-a-Head. All the while, Jim is pursued by Psy-Crow, Queen Slug-for-a-Butt's right-hand man who is intent on getting the suit back.

Yes. It's that kind of game.

In the sequel, Jim must traverse the galaxy again, this time to save Princess What's-Her-Name from a Shotgun Wedding to Psy-Crow. Jim's travels take him through the summer homes of many villains from the previous games, with such exotic locales as collapsing underground tunnels, intestines (while wearing a cave salamander costume), a carnival run by Evil the Cat, and a planet made up entirely of paperwork.

The third game, Earthworm Jim 3D for the Nintendo 64 and PC, had Jim taking a Journey to the Center of the Mind after one too many falling cows to the head. A Game Boy Color title, Menace 2 The Galaxy, was also released.

The franchise struggled to revive itself, with a remake of the original game promised for the PlayStation Portable, but was eventually cancelled.

However in 2010 a remake of the original game, Earthworm Jim HD, finally made its way to the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live with enhanced graphics, sound, 4 player co-op, new levels and the option of the original Nintendo Hard difficulty for the purists. But oddly missing the secret "Who Turned Out The Lights?" level.

A new, fourth game, was rumored to be in the works, along with a new cartoon and motion picture, supervised by franchise creator Doug TenNapel; that didn't pan out, but Doug confirms that Interplay is interested.

True to Playmates' intentions of turning the series into a multimedia sensation, the series also spawned a cult-classic animated adaptation and a line of action figures to match, all of which fared significantly better than similar attempts such as Battletoads, Bubsy, or Cheetahmen.

This game is the Trope Namer for:

This series features examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Cheap Chaps-Chopping Chips. Say that five times fast.
  • Amoral Attorney: One of the more common enemies on Planet Heck are, naturally, evil attorneys that can block your shots with their briefcase.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: As expected from the Trope Namer of Level Ate. You get to fight a fire-breathing steak. Named Flamin' Yawn.
  • Anvil on Head: In the games, Jim throws an anvil onto a rudimentary plank-on-stone seesaw to vault himself onto the next level. Sometimes, his aim is a little off.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The final boss of Earthworm Jim 3D, who evidently represents Jim's subconscious desire to be a woman.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Peter Puppy. Aww, what a cute little pu—Oh God!!
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The "Fear" brain in the third game.
  • Bleak Level: "The Villi People".
  • Bottle Episode: The first game's secret level, Who Turned Out the Lights, is an entire level that the player may never stumble upon. How could the time and effort needed to make such a level be justifiable? Easy. It consists of the player running around in the dark with the only new graphics being spotlights, a silhouetted Jim, menacing orange enemy eyes, superimposed regular and AWOO-GA eyes for Jim, and giant menacing orange eyes. The level's music didn't even need composing, as it's the public domain Maple Leaf Rag. The level is fun and interesting and even has items hidden in hard-to-reach sections.
  • Bottomless Magazines: If the player drops below a certain amount of ammunition (100 bullets) for Jim's default blaster, it will slowly replenish itself until it hits that number again once Jim stops firing. Which is good, since running out would spell disaster when dealing with Peter Puppy (who stops and ducks when he's shot at) or Evil Queen Slug-For-A-Butt (who just takes a lot of hits).
  • Bottomless Pits: Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy has one in the laboratory level. The implementation is egregious because a powerup on that level lets you fly up the same pit, and it doesn't trigger if you're on the other side of a one-way-wall on the side of the pit. Flying down said pit stops you against an invisible floor, has the floors below the pit visible, and is lethal until you exit the pit. To properly go down, find the non-bottomless pit on the same floor.
  • Brick Joke: The cow.
  • But Thou Must: You have to launch the cow into orbit on the first level.
  • Camera Screw: The main problem with Earthworm Jim 3D.
  • Canon Immigrant: Snot
  • Cats Are Mean:
    • Evil the Cat. He is in the words of the creators "the manifestation of evil in its truest form (the cat)".
    • Number 4, Bob's invincible (unless you have a mega shot) and very mean hench-cat.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: Bosses are prone for that.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: In one of Jim's idle animations, his pants will fall down. It's probably best not to ask why a mech suit has heart-print boxers.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Taken Up to Eleven. The ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit turns an ordinary earthworm into a Super Soldier.
  • Directionally Solid Platforms
  • Drop the Cow: Quite literally.
  • Down the Drain: Down the Tubes
  • Downer Ending: Played for laughs in the first game. The cow you launched two minutes into the game ends up landing on Princess Whats-Her-Name. It's not a total loss for Jim, though, since he at least pops back into frame to swipe her crown.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: In talkie versions, instead of the ending you get a lecture about worms from Jim himself. You get the full ending on normal difficulty and a very uplifting speech if you finish on hard.
  • Easter Egg: In the SNES version of the second game, you can push various buttons to make the cows at the end of the level say "Well done." in different pitches.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: Granny Bag from Earthworm Jim 2.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: You can find nigh-invincible lawyers as enemies in the first game's "What The Heck", which is the Fire and Brimstone Hell
  • Escort Mission:
    • "For Pete's Sake", although the puppy you're escorting ALSO happens to be the biggest threat of the level. Several levels in the sequel task Jim to use a giant marshmallow to save Petey's children from being thrown out the window. It's roughly 357% less aggravating than the first game's Petey level.
    • Earthworm Jim 2 also contains "The Flyin' King", a level in Isometric Projection where Jim flies his handy Pocket Rocket through the hazardous skies to the boss. In order to beat the level, you have to gently bump a fragile and highly explosive balloon to the very end. If it ruptures before meeting the boss, you have to go back to the beginning to try again.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • In the PAL versions, "The Villi People" level was called, "Jim's now a Blind Cave Salamander!"
    • In the first game, the fifth level is called... Level 5. Also, in the second game, the eight level, Level Ate, doubles as both this and a Stealth Pun.
  • Expy: In the HD remake, one of the new bosses is an obvious expy of Keyboard Cat.
  • Foreshadowing: One of the questions Jim receives in "The Villi People" is "If Jim wasn't an earthworm, what would he be?" The correct answer is "a cow".
  • Free-Fall Fight: Happens in Level 5 during the second half of the boss fight against Professor-Monkey-For-A-Head's robotic chicken.
  • Funny Background Event: In the higher-end versions of the first game, the cow can be seen periodically going by in the background in later levels.
  • Gainax Ending \ Tomato Surprise: Done for hilarious effect in the second game: "And so, having defeated the nefarious COW , our hero, the COW , wins back the heart of the lovely COW ."
  • Gasshole: The boss of New Junk City arguably; it's not easy to be sure whether he's belching out or throwing up when he hocks dead fish at you. Given the artwork from the manual depicts him with a beard-like smear of vomit down his chest, he's probably vomiting the fish at you.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The Pocket Rocket. Really?!
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: "Boogie Nights of the Living Dead" from Earthworm Jim 3D. Also, Billy the Bin's theme from the HD remake of the first game.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Jim uses his own head as a whip.
  • Grossout Game: The Title Scream is belched, rather than actually screamed. Let this set the tone for the rest of the game.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Combined with Psycho Strings to make the music for Intestinal Distress.
  • Heart Beats out of Chest: This happens to the titular character as he is about to kiss Princess What's-Her-Name.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Throughout many levels, many walls and ledges...aren't. Leading sometimes to some frustratingly cheap deaths, but also used to hide secret paths. Especially obvious in the final level.
  • In Case of Boss Fight, Break Glass: Inverted. The game has a level where you have to carefully guide an underwater vehicle around. More cracks appear in the glass every time you hit a wall. Oh, and there's a time limit.
  • Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat: In Earthworm Jim 2, there's a sandwich pickup called a Chip Butty that restores 200% health...even if it's been buried underground.
  • Insect Queen: From the game and its respective cartoon, there is Queen Pulsating Bloated Festering Sweaty Pus-Filled Malformed Slug-for-a-Butt, who's a queen termite with a very squicky self-explanatory name.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Two of his idle animations are to twirl his blaster on his finger, throw it in the air, catch it and holster it. The aversion is done successfully, with no harm done. In the second (straight) version he catches it wrong, and it blasts him in the face. (Unfortunately, his head does not asplode.) A third idle animation splits the difference — after Jim tosses the gun in the air, it lands on his head, but doesn't go off.
  • Landfill Beyond the Stars: Subverted with New Junk City, which appears to fit the trope, but research on the game reveals that the level is a city-sized landfill in Texas, of all places.
  • Mad Scientist: The inventor of Jim's suit, Professor Monkey-For-A-Head.
  • Medley: There are two existing melodies that make up the music for "Inflated Head": "Lichtensteiner Polka" and "Clarinet Polka".
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: A tiny cat mook will do this to Jim if he approaches it. Then again, it's a really fast way to skip parts of the level if you have enough energy to endure it.
  • More Dakka: Jim's gun.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The super suit is indestructible. The worm inside it? Not so much. Running out of health results in Jim getting vaporized, leaving the indestructible suit behind.
  • Nintendo Hard
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Professor Monkey-For-A-Head originally invented Jim's suit, so why doesn't he just make another one? The monkey ate the plans after the prototype suit (what Jim wears) was made; he's after Jim to get the prototype so he can make a new one via reverse engineering.
  • Papa Dog: The "Puppy Love" levels in the second game involve trying to save Peter Puppy's kids, using a giant marshmallow, when Psy-Crow tries to throw them out a window. Let 3 get killed, and Peter rips Jim apart. Why he doesn't rip Psy-Crow apart is left nebulous.
  • Platform Game
  • Poison Mushroom: The Bubble Gun in the second game, although not directly harmful, is intentionally useless and meant to inconvenience the player. Worse in the Genesis version, which didn't allow for weapon swapping. It actually distracts the alien things. If there're a few of them attacking you and you shoot, they just fly around the bubbles until you run out.
  • Polygon Ceiling: 3D hit its head pretty hard on it.
  • Pop Quiz: Spoofed in 2, where the quiz halfway through "Villi People" features ridiculous joke questions like "If cigarettes cause cancer, what causes Capricorn? A) Poor-fitting shoes in southern France B) Dental Floss C) One and one half pounds of butter"
  • Powered Armor: Jim's Ultra-High-Tech-Indestructible-Super-Space-Cyber-Suit. Unfortunately, while it is technically "indestructible", running out of atomic energy will cause it to forcibly eject and/or explode whoever is inside it.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack:
    • What the Heck starts with music based off one, but switches to a different melody soon afterward.
    • Part II uses both the melancholy first movement and the frenetic third movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Both are strangely appropriate for the stages they play in.
    • The "Puppy Love" stages in 2 use the traditional Italian folk tune "Tarantella Napolitana" and then segues directly into "Funiculi, Funicula," just for the hell of it.
  • Pun: Just one example: the boss of Level Ate is a fire-breathing steak named Flamin' Yawn.
  • Punny Name:
    • The levels "New Junk City" and "Lorenzen's Soil" from the first and second game are named after two films, New Jack City and Lorenzo's Oil.
    • Psy-Crow, Flamin' Yawn, and Level Ate.
  • Rogues Gallery
  • Rule 34: One of the characters is anthro, so no surprise there.
  • Save the Princess: Parodied with Princess What's-Her-Name.
  • Sampling: The "Hey!" at the end of the "Andy Asteroids Win" music comes from The Terminator. It was replaced in re-releases probably due to copyright.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Parodied in the manual for the SNES version - it claimed that the X button "turns on the porch light of Mrs. Schultz in Germany. So quit pressing it!" So naturally, what did everyone who read the manual do? Press the button. And of course, it does nothing at all.
    • Done again in the manual for 2, where the D-Pad "withdraws all moneys from your bank account and transfers them to Shiny Entertainment. It also makes Jim move."
    • The manual of the Genesis version of 2 says that the B-button "orders a large pepperoni pizza" in "The Flyin' King". Again, it does nothing.
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop: Compared to the first game, Earthworm Jim 2 has a lot fewer instant death traps (generally just bottomless pits, and even those are rare in 2), easier bosses, and generally less frustrating levels.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Both original games. Both times for laughs.
  • Shark Tunnel: "Down the Tubes"
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the trailer for the HD remake, one of the new levels it shows features a Cool Shades-wearing Musical Assassin cat playing a keyboard. This is likely a reference to the Keyboard Cat.
    • Some of Jim's voice samples in the Special Edition:
  • Skippable Boss: In the earlier versions of the game, one could skip Billy the Bin in New Junk City by finding a teleporter in the form of a toilet, and Rusty the Snowman can be skipped by finding the appropriate hook to swing under one of the platforms to skip an entire level in What the Heck?.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • "What The Heck?" starts with a snippet from Mussorgsky's "Night on the Bald Mountain", then, following a Record Needle Scratch, switches to elevator music backed by screams of pain.
    • Andy Asteroids is a fast-paced race through an asteroid field set to banjo music.
  • Spikes Of Doom: Buttville. The Descent. Enough said.
  • Stealth Pun: Quite a lot. For example, one enemy in "What the Heck?" is a snowman, a reference to the phrase "a snowball's chance in hell".
  • Straw Scientist: Doug Tennapel, a self-professed Creationist (believer in Intelligent Design), has said that the Professor Monkey-For-A-Head character was created as a dig at some of his Darwinist teachers.
  • Supernatural Aid
  • Take That: The quiz in the second game has few, such as:
    • Q. These walk down stairs, alone or in pairs.
    • A. Toys that were metal but are now plastic and not nearly as cool as they used to be.
  • Title Belch
  • Tube Travel: The second game had this in the ISO 9000 level, though it looked painful (the entrance was a grinder).
  • Tuckerization: The "Andy Asteroids?" segments from the first game are named after the game's programmer, Andy Astor, and the Big Bruty in the Special Edition is named after the art director, Nick Bruty.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: 2 has so much of it that... Let's say, after swimming in a salamander suit, taking part in a quiz show, bouncing puppies, bouncing explosive balloons, flying on a bloated head and carrying hamster cages around such unexpected gameplay changes are generally to be expected, at least since level four. That's while also making much of your collectible ammunition useless most of the time. Then the game throws you a ball by making Level Ate play like a more-or-less linear level with all your guns intact, and with the hot kitchen stoves being its only gimmick. To top it, even the pizza boss fight is done in a traditional "shoot him till he drops" fashion. Now, after all the adventures you've had before, this is quite unexpected.
    • That's right: EWJ just subverted a subversion trope.
  • Visual Pun: The homing missiles in the second game are shaped like houses.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Psy-Crow in 3D.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted with the cow you launch in "New Junk City".
  • Womb Level: "Intestinal Distress" in the first game, and "The Villi People" in the second.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Bob the Killer Goldfish in the first two games. The first game's "fight" with Bob ends when Jim does anything at all against Bob, even bump into him. The second game appears to be a much more dramatic affair, revealing Bob behind a few barriers, with the word "FIGHT" appearing on the screen... at which point Jim just reaches into Bob's bowl and eats him.