The second Earthworm Jim is much like the first. This time, Jim is accompanied by his friend Snot, a booger who tags along on his backpack. By jumping and then pressing the jump button again, you’ll use Snot like a whip, allowing you to grapple onto certain ceilings, designated with dripping green goo. It’s a useless addition though, since Jim could already swing with his standard whip attack in the first game. Furthermore, pressing jump twice used to be the command to use Jim’s helicopter whirl – there’s a similar move where you use Snot as a parachute, but it’s activated by pressing the gun button, which is going to confuse anyone who played the first game. There’s also a protective “Manta Shield”, activated with different commands in each version.
There are several more guns to use in Earthworm Jim 2, including a new version of the homing rocket from the Special Edition, as well as a useless bubble gun, a three-way gun, and a gigantic brick house gun that destroys everything on the screen and leaves Jim in a daze. Jim has some new animations – including a strange idle animation where he seems to jog in place, and his running animation has been changed from a cool, confident stride to weird little prance. Otherwise, the graphics and sound quality is pretty much on par with the original game.
The issue with Earthworm Jim 2 is that the focus has been taken away from standard action platforming, and replaced with a number of gimmicky stages. Out of the ten stages, only three of them are tradition run-and-jump levels. The annoying Andy Asteroids stages have been replaced with a different recurring level, where you need to rescue Peter’s young nephews from being tossed out of a building, but it’s repeated multiple times through the game, and just isn’t as much fun. The rest of the levels are still pretty humorous, but not quite up to par with the first game. At least the soundtrack is still pretty fantastic, with plenty of original songs, along with some fantastic use of classical music.
That’s not to say that Earthworm Jim has lost its touch. There are still plenty of cool moments throughout the game, most notably when you complete a level. Instead of taking out his Pocket Rocket and blasting enough, Jim travels from stage to stage by tossing out a seesaw, lobbing a gigantic weight in the sky, and catapulting himself into the stratosphere. Randomly, the weight will break the seesaw instead of sending him flying, so he just calls a taxi instead. Then, you’re taken a screen with two cows – one tells you “Well Done!” while the other one smiles in the background. The quiz scene in the Salamander level is also near legendary. There’s also a password system, which is nice, but you need to collect three hidden items in a stage in order for the game to give you one. Weird.
Anything But Tangerines
The first stage takes place on some kind of foreign planet, with a few interesting twists. Right at the beginning, you can find Bob the Goldfish, blocking your path in a middle of a pond. The solution is to grab a pig from the local pigpen, carry him over to the nearby slide, hit the switch and cause him to swandive into Bob’s bowl. There’s also a segment where you need to carefully use a stairclimber to dodge an army of falling grannies (there’s an additional bonus segment that’s also much harder.) In the end, you face off against Bob once again, complete with a Mortal Kombat-esque “FIGHT!” graphic. Jim, without any input from the player, merely grabs him from his bowl, swallows him, and continues to the next stage. The Genesis and PC DOS versions of this level take place during sunset. The SNES and GBA levels have a different background at night, complete with a pleasant looking waterfall. The PSOne/Saturn version has another background at night, but looks a bit different.
Lorenzo’s Soil / Lorenzen’s Soil
Named after the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil” for some reason (in certain versions anyway), in this level, you’re buried underneath the surface of the earth. You can shoot the ceiling, causing dirt to fall to the ground and pile up, allowing you to jump further upwards. Interesting maybe from a technical standpoint, but a bit dull. The level culminates in a battle against Pedro Pupa, a larvae riding a unicycle. The Genesis version is fully lit, while the SNES and 32-bit versions are covered in darkness, with a spotlight centered on Jim. The spotlight has transparency effects in the SNES version but looks dithered in the others. This level is missing entirely from the PC DOS version.
The Villi People / Jim’s Now a Blind Cave Salamander!
So in this level, you’re a blind cave salamander for some reason or other. (The game calls this disguise “Blind Sally”.) For somne reason, the stage music is the first movement of Beethoven’s hauntingly gorgeous “Moonlight Sonata”. You swim through the dark mazes of this level, making sure you don’t hit the walls. Of course, there are pinball bumpers everywhere that will send you flying if you’re not careful. Throughout the stage, you’ll find tiny little worms. For each worm you collect, you can answer an extra question in the quiz game at the end of the round. The quiz game is brilliant, because (A) none of the questions make sense, and (B) for the questions that DO make sense, the correct answer is rarely one of the multiple choice answers. Truly sisyphysian, although it’s really just a bonus round for extra stuff.
The Flyin King / Peter Pain
This is a strange angled overhead shooter section where you control Jim on his rocket. There’s a bomb on a balloon, which you need to deliver and protect through the stage in order to destroy Major Mucus. All the while, you’re being assaulted by natives, who catapult themselves in the air and hang on your rocket, weighting it down. The music is pleasantly tropical. The water graphics look different across the versions, with the SNES one probably looking the nicest.
Inflated Head / Circus of the Scars
Another vertically oriented stage, Jim inflates his head with helium, which carries him up, up, up. Of course, Evil the Cat is hiding at various spots, shooting spitballs and causing his head to burst. In order to navigate it, you can inflate or deflate your head to float at different speeds. Also a bit of an annoying level, but the expression on Jim’s face when inflated is priceless.
A planet full of bureaucratic paperwork, ISO 9000 is filled with jumping filing cabinets and executioner-style middle management. There’s also the occasional hamster-in-a-ball, which are used to activate paper shredders which carry Jim to new areas. The exit door even has a pair of legs, which it uses to escape from Jim’s grasp. ISO 9000 one of the few (mostly) non-gimmick levels in Earthworm Jim 2, but in spite of the interesting premise, it’s actually a bit dull. Compared to the Genesis version, the SNES version has an extra background layer with additional transparent papers floating around. The 32-bit versions have similar looking but different backgrounds, although no transparencies. Again, the SNES one comes out tops.
This is a food themed stage, complete with sharp forks that act as spikes, hot grills, and evil straws. It’s also one of the few Earthworm Jim stages that moves entirely from left to right, with no vertical space. As such, it feels a bit limited. There’s also a hidden section entitled “Totally Forked”. The level boss is the amusingly named Flamin’ Yawn.
See Jim Run, Run Jim Run!
A climatic chase against the evil Psy-Crow for the hand of the beautiful Princess-What’s-Her-Name! It’s really kinda aggravating that Psy-Crow can run right through traps but Jim needs to destroy them to proceed. The music is the exciting third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The Genesis and PC DOS versions have a futuristic design to the floors, while the SNES version has completely different floors but a similar background. The warping effects on the bubbles actually look a bit better in the Genesis version.
The ending to the first game was a bit…odd, to say the least, so it’s only fitting that the sequel carries on the tradition. The congratulatory message initially reads “And so, having defeated the nefarious Psy-Crow, out hero, Earthworm Jim, wins back the heart of the lovely Princess Whats-Her-Name.” Then Psy-Crow unzips his outfit and reveals himself to be a cow, and the congratulatory message revises itself accordingly (“And so, having defeated the evil COW, our hero…”.) Then the Princess also turns out to be a cow, as does, eventually, Jim. Quite interesting!