Review: Earthworm Jim (iPhone)

Earthworm Jim - looking good!

I’ve been having real problems trying to review Earthworm Jim for the iPhone. Not just the score but how to explain what it’s all about. The game’s a definite port of the SNES/Mega drive classic of 15 years ago so a lot of people should have already played it. At the same time, 15 years is long enough for a good few generations to have grown up without knowing anything about the game. So for them, I’ll summarise my thoughts on the classic Earthworm Jim – it’s an incredibly solid platformer with slick graphics, uniquely comical characters, refreshing level designs and great audio in every sense. So that’s the game but what about Gameloft’s port? Is it just as good? Sadly no but it’s not far off. Read on to find out why…

Earthworm Jim - Those ghosty things are a pest

My first reaction to this game was how good the visuals are. Everything looks to be redrawn with the kind of polish that we’re all accustomed to nowadays. The animations are smooth and still retain the humor of the pixelated versions from yesteryear. Musically, EWJ’s score has been remastered from the original game making the already great soundtrack even better.

As ports go, so far so good. But this is where things start to slip and it’s all to do with the controls. Once again, the solution of an on-screen d-pad and buttons isn’t as capable as having the real thing. There maybe the option of an analog stick rather than d-pad but it’s not any better. When the tension builds it’s very easy to miss the buttons you’re after causing an unnecessary loss of life. The controls aren’t terrible by any means but they’re not able to do the game any justice and throughout my playtime I always felt how much better the port would be if it handled better. Between the platforming levels is a debris dodging space race with Jim on his ‘scooter’ against bad bird Psy-Crow. Gameloft have opted for using the iPhone’s accelerometer for this which feels it’s been added for the sake of it. Tilting the iPhone left and right and forward to gain speed gets frustrating when levels become more challenging.

Earthworm Jim - a d-pad would suffice

The checkpoints need more work too because in it’s current state, your progress will only be saved once you complete a level. Being something a portable as an iPhone, I expected to be able to leave the game mid-level and return to the same place when the opportunity arose. Depending on how you play, levels can last anywhere between 1:30 to 10+ minutes in some cases so making you start from scratch if you happen to get interrupted can get annoying. Minor gripe I’d admit but still a gripe. As well as the remastered soundtrack there is an option to listen to music already on your iPhone – well there should be but the function doesn’t really work right now. I had issues when trying to select a specific track and at one point, all the music just stopped leaving me in silence. Hopefully an update will be released fixing these issues but at the time of purchase, it’s a bit glitchy.

As a package, Earthworm Jim is incredibly good with the core gameplay, humor, audio and visuals all enhanced for the small price of £2.99. The fiddly controls really do let the game down and do tarnish what would have been an almost perfect score. Saying that, It’s still a great game and definitely one of the more enjoyable games on the iPhone.

Verdict:
Great
A highly commendable game with some truly exceptional moments.

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