You might have noticed there was no gaming post last Monday. Well, I couldn't think of a good one, truth be told. It's a week later, and that hasn't changed. So sadly, I may be out of games that I enjoyed enough to have an interesting post about. Thus, it's time to go the other way, and talk about games I had that I disliked, probably out of disappointment. Today, it's Earthworm Jim 3-D, for the N64.
This one stands out for a few reasons. One, it's one of only two games I owned for the Nintendo 64 that I wish I hadn't. Two, because I enjoyed the original Earthworm Jim game, and the cartoon, so much, this game just felt like a huge letdown. Third, it seemed to take forever to be released. It was supposed to come out one year in time for Christmas, it ended up taking another year beyond that to hit the market. In the extra time I spent waiting for it's release, I got at least five other games that I really enjoyed, so it was a sense of "I waited so long for this?" Probably not fair, but so little in life is.
On the surface, the premise captures the tone of Earthworm Jim well. Jim has a cow drop on his head, and he's knocked inside his own mind. Now he has to travel between four different parts, and set things right. The parts are (in order you play through them): Memory, Hunger, Fear, and Imagination. Personally, I never got past Fear. There's two different stages in each area, and then a boss battle. There are different objectives to complete in each mission, and completing them will gain you a reward: Golden Udders. You need X number of these before you can access the next part of your mind, provided you defeat the level boss. That's where the trouble starts. For example, you can defeat Psycrow, the boss of the Memory level, but if you haven't collected enough Golden Udders after that, you still can't enter the Hunger portion of your mind, you'll have to replay parts of one of the Memory levels to get more Udders. Likewise, a sufficient number of Udders means nothing if you haven't defeated the boss of the previous level.
Furthermore, as you progress through levels, you have to collect marbles. As you collect more of your marbles, your intelligence goes up, from say, Waffle to Sponge. You can't fight a Level Boss unless your intelligence is of a certain level. Here's the trick: even though you can play through levels as much as you want, you can't just boost your intelligence by playing levels over and over. If you play the first level of the Barnyard Wars once and collect 60 marbles, then play it again and collect 62, you do not have 122 marbles. You have 62. You can only increase intelligence by boosting your high score on a particular level, or by playing a level you haven't yet, which isn't always an option.
The problem is, I can't see any reason the game should be that way. Why can't you just start in whatever part of the brain you wish, and play whichever levels you wish? Sure I understand making the player beat the levels in a particular part before facing the boss, but the rest of it seems superfluous, making us jump through hoops for no reason. Keep in mind, the Golden Udders and the marbles don't actually give Jim any kind of a boost. They don't teach you new skills, or give you more health, or better weapons. So it really feels like those time-filling assignments you had to do back in grade school, the ones the teacher assigned just to keep you busy? Yeah, not the comparison a game should be drawing, in my opinion.
There's some good. In addition to your standard blaster, each level typically has some other weapon that will specially help you there, such as the Meat Cleaver Gun Jim's wielding in the picture. The humor is there. The setup for the boss battles is sort of clever, initially. You enter an arena on the back of a pig (or as Jim calls it, "porkboarding!") The boss has some more imposing vehicle, be it hover tank or UFO (I only faced the first two bosses; I don't know what the later bosses used). There are 100 marbles in the arena. You have some, the boss has some, and others are scattered throughout. You have to get all 100. The only way to make the boss give up their marbles is to pick up one of the massive bullets in the arena (there are three, you can hold two of them), and hit the boss with one, causing them to drop marbles.
Of course, the same is true of you, and here's where I think it went too far. See, you lose health for every hit you take, 20% per hit by the 2nd fight. Each marble restores only 1%. The boss doesn't have to worry about such things. You can shoot him all the doo-dah day long, and he'll never stop, unless you get the 100 marbles. You on the other hand, can lose by him collecting 100 marbles, or you dying. It seems unnecessarily stacked against you. Just put no health restrictions, and first to 100 wins.
On the whole, Earthworm Jim 3-D just seems to be a game of missed opportunities, at least as far as my gaming experience went. The concept was good, the execution not so much.