Next: Level Passwords and Cheat Codes
Two versions of the original Earthworm Jim game have been released for the PC – a Windows 95 version and a DOS version. You can find a detailed comparison here. Most of the information below is specific to one or the other, some to both.
Earthworm Jim gives you mid-level checkpoints, limited lives, and “continues”. You start with 2, 3 or 5 extra lives, depending on difficulty, and 0-3 continues (can-of-worms), which gives you another set of lives (again, the number depends on the difficulty level). You can find extra lives in the main levels, and you can gain extra continues by outrunning PsyCrow in Andy Asteroids, while collecting at least 50 bubbles. If you lose the race, you have to battle PsyCrow and don’t get a continue, regardless of bubbles collected.
Dying in any level will have Jim restart at the latest checkpoint, but losing the last life will take you back to the beginning of the level (or “game over” screen if you are out of continues). Since you can always start at the beginning of every level (see above), the continues are pretty worthless in the PC ports; they are a leftover of early console versions, which did not have passwords to start on specific levels, and you were forced to beat the game in one go.
If you struggle in a level, the last thing you want is to lose all your lives and have your progress reset. For this purpose, banking extra lives when you can is important. The good thing is that they reappear after Jim’s death, so if there is an extra life close to a checkpoint, that you can always re-grab with little risk, you are almost guaranteed never to run out. Moreover, if there are multiple lives between two checkpoints, you can even gain lives by repeatedly collecting both of them, dying, then collecting them again. Here I show a few such points, where you can strategically collect lives to help with your quest.
The maps are courtesy of The Video Game Atlas. I cropped out the relevant sections, and did a bit of editing + highlighting of the important spots. Click on the images to open them full-size.
New Junk City (DOS)
This level is so broken in the DOS port, that it is funny it can still be completed 100% with all pickups. The platform (A) leading to the first secret life under the start point cannot be grabbed at the left ledge, so you better make the jump back long enough and use the helicopter, to land on it directly, or Jim falls to his doom. I am pretty sure I once managed to fall through the point (B) and die, but could not reproduce it. All the spiked areas in the secret zones under the level, marked with (C), can be no-clipped through to instant death as well. If you choose to take the secret passage through the toilet to the area with the extra plasma, I recommend not trying to catch the hook to swing to platform (7), but using the platform above it, then using the hook on the way back. This way if you miss and hit the spikes, you can probably jump up to the platform (7) and survive.
Taking the shortcut by swinging on the moose antlers at (1) and taking the toilet warp lets you skip most of the level, but also give up 1 extra life (out of 3 in this level). Therefore, my preferred route does not involve this shortcut. Instead – ride the bottom hook down to the area (2) and make sure to visit the little nook there until you see the light swirl. This triggers an extra life to appear at (4) which you can get after the conveyor belt. On your route you can also climb up at point (3), grab the hidden chain above the level and travel it to the two additional plasma shots.
After grabbing the checkpoint under the second moose head, swing on its antlers (5) to get to the hidden area under the level. This way you can get the extra life at (6), although you cannot reach the hidden area to the right where the toilet warp exit is. After the extra life, jump up to the battle with Billy the Bin a.k.a. The Junk Thing. Beware: it is possible to fall back underground after triggering his appearance, and once I somehow managed to no-clip through the left wall at (D) and get stuck, because level scrolling is disabled during the boss battle and I could not travel back around to get to the top and fight him. If this happens, the only way out it to attempt suicide on the spikes or use the suicide cheat code.
New Junk City (Windows)
The Special Edition of this level has a whole new second part, and the final boss battle was moved there. The first part is mostly like the original level, with some differences. The doghouse platform at the start is now solid, so you can jump on it, and collect two extra plasma shots (A). The big shortcut through the first moose antlers and the toilet was improved significantly; platforms were added up above with homing rockets ammo (B), and the warp exit area has a secret-within-a-secret: from the warp exit (1) head right to the platform (5), then jump up to collect the ammo. An upward boost will propel you through the extra life (6) to the secret exit toilet (7), without battling Billy the Bin at all. The original route (2-3-4) is shown in blue for comparison. You still get 1 extra life less this way compared to the long route, but the shortcut is more significant.
In the second part, when Jim is a naked worm, if you want to take the ‘Stud’ route, hold the left direction as you are propelled upward, and you will land in a hidden section where you can pick up homing rocket ammo, some health and an extra life (as shown below). If you subsequently die, pick up the same life again, so you never run out, and always end with +1 after a successful completion.
What The Heck (DOS/Windows)
The SNES/Genesis/DOS versions have three extra lives in this level, marked (A), (B) and (C). The one at (B) is of particular importance, as it is just before the part where Evil the Cat explodes a bomb that triggers waves of very damaging and hard-to-avoid stalactites. Should you succumb to them, you restart at the checkpoint right before, and can just regrab the extra life before trying again. This essentially gives you unlimited attempts in this part.
The Windows Special Edition added homing rockets next to the lives at (A) and (B), but removed the life at (C), which is a pity if you die in that last part of the level.
A shortcut exists that allows skipping the entire bottom-right portion of the level and the first green gem (the part inside the blue contour). From the point (1) take a leap and helicopter down to the platform at (2). It is a bit harder in the DOS version due to the physics. From there you can get the extra life at (A). The hook (3) was removed in the Windows version, but it is still possible to get the life with a running leap and a grab at the edge of the platform. Then, return to the platform (2), and jump up to (4).
In the original releases and in the DOS port it is possible to skip the mid-level Snowman fight. From the spinning wheel you encounter the first lawyer, turn right and whip down. You will grab the hook at (5), which will carry you through the floor, directly into the secret area (B). Normally that hook should have only been accessible after the Snowman fight, since you would spawn where it says “Start 2”. The hook was moved to the right wall in the Windows version, so this trick no longer works there.
Pod Race (DOS)
From the continue point, you start in the bathysphere at (1) and immediately refill the air to 99 at a nearby pump. Traversing the entire level without running out of time or destroying the sphere is very challenging, but gets much easier once you learn of the hidden pump marked with (4). There are to extra lives hidden behind fake walls on your path, marked (2) and (3). If you manage to collect them both before you run out of air, you can commit suicide, and still end up with one life more than you had before. If you are patient, this can be repeated to attain the maximum 9 lives. At the very least, you should always grab the first life at (2) so that you never end up negative, even if you die along the course. From my experience, grabbing the life at (2) and the extra air at (4) will allow you to complete the race at a leisurely pace and net +1 life.
Tube Race (Windows)
This version of the level has no extra lives along the race, but you can skip it in its entirety. The starting point is (1) and shortly you will free the hamster from its cage at (2). Instead of riding the hamster, jump up into its cage, and do a sequence of jumps at the right wall. Eventually you will enter a secret passage that leads to a stash of ammo, an extra life and a hidden warp to a bonus round of Andy Asteroids, which has no asteroids, only goodies. Collecting 50 bubbles and outrunning PsyCrow should be a piece of cake, so you can chalk up an extra life and an extra continue, while avoiding the difficult water level.
(*) The Original Tube Race map with legend is by Galen Puronen.
Intestinal Distress (Windows)
There is a continue spot on a platform (1), not far ahead of the final encounter with the boss, Doc Duodenum. He can be a bit tricky and kill you quickly if you don’t get the rhythm right from the start. Therefore it’s good to know that you can collect not one, but two extra lives, between the checkpoint and the boss fight. This way, even if you die, hey, you still end up ahead.
Normally from the checkpoint, you follow the line of health bonuses and helicopter to the next platform. Deliberately fall a bit short, and helicopter down to the platform below it instead, which has an extra life (2). Now helicopter back down to the left and return to the checkpoint. As you continue up you will at some point be moving on a chain above some spikes. At the end of the chain, fall down one platform and immediately go left. Destroy a couple of baddies, and swing across two hooks to the extra life (3), then swing back and continue up the tube towards the boss. There will be a few health bonuses on your path to replenish your health, if you missed some of the hooks and fell into the spikes.
Buttville (The Descent a.k.a. Helicopter Part a.k.a. “Use Your Head”)
The first part of the level is devious, as you float down using Jim’s helicopter head, navigating around deadly thorns. There are multiple paths through this level; at the first fork, the right path is easier, and at the second fork the left path is easier. No matter which path you take, any successful completion gives you at least +1 extra life, since there is one near each of the exits (marked with (4) and (5)). The optimal path (taking the harder left route at the top fork and the harder right route at the bottom fork) will give you +3 lives (and a few rounds of plasma too). To get this you need to float past the point marked at (2), which makes another extra life appear next to the right exit (5). Collect the life at (3), float to the right, and get two more extra lives there. You can opt to take the right path at the top, and try to catch the hook and swing to the hidden extra life at (1), but this way you miss the spawn point (2), so you can still only get +3 lives max. In the DOS version the platform at (1) also has 4 plasma rounds.
In the DOS version you can get all 5 extra lives by exploiting the bug that allows no-clipping through thorns (and taking advantage of the reduced damage). Swing to the hidden life at (1), no-clip through the middle section to the left path above point (2), grab life (3), navigate to the left bottom pass, and carefully take life (4) without triggering the exit warp. Now take a running leap right, and the spikes should bounce you up into the right exit chamber, where you can obtain the last two lives. As a bonus, you will probably collect 9 plasma rounds on your path. Totally ridiculous.
Buttville (Main level, DOS version only)
This version of the level is based on the Sega Genesis, which means the secret path that leads to the final extra life above the queen’s body consists of three hooks – starting from the rightmost cocoon, you need to make 3 swings with a direction change (light blue path on the map). However, unlike the Genesis, where it works consistently, in the DOS version I could never get it to work (and I tried many many times). Even with the helicopter, Jim cannot do it. He gets very close to the platform edge, it seems like he should grab it, but he doesn’t. Either his jump boost is just a bit too short due to the different physics of this port, or the platform is bugged. It seems they forgot to playtest this part.
Due to the bug that allows no-clipping through damaging surfaces, you can fall through the thorns next to the queen’s body, and end up below her, at the final checkpoint of the level (yellow path on the map). If it happens before you fought the mid-level boss (the queen’s butt), take the plasma shot at point (1), go all the way to the right to point (2), look up to see it high above and shoot to kill. Note how the lightning flashes change from blue to red. This will remove the invisible wall at point (3), and activate the last part of the level where you fight the queen herself.
The final boss, the Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt, is destroyed with just a single hit with the whip. This is either a bug or an easter egg, because the same technique works in some versions (such as Genesis and Earthworm Jim HD), but not in others (like SNES, Sega CD and Windows). However, in the DOS version it seems to be the only way to destroy the queen: she is either invulnerable to gun fire, or has ridiculously high health. Out of curiosity, I discovered that even 8 plasma blasts and over 5000 ammo rounds will not finish her off.
Next: Level Passwords and Cheat Codes