Earthworm Jim and Rayman
Earthworm Jim and Rayman are not better than Super Mario 3, because nothing is better than Super Mario 3. Both games, however, display the same ingenuity, the same willingness to take chances, the same clever high concepts, and the same unflagging innovation (most of the clones which came before had a grip on Mario’s dynamics but no inkling about Mario’s spirit). Both games also have better graphics and more fluid play-action than anything conceivable from the now-ancient NES. Earthworm Jim, coming soon to a movie theater near you, casts the player in the title role, then invites you to use your gun and your own head as weapons. The action reaches hyper-intense frenzy without ever becoming too complicated, resulting in some breathless sequences that never dissolve into video gibberish. Rayman has less stress on action and more stress on clever cartoon-style gameplay; you’ll be able to take a breather between or even during scenes, and the game helps to you ease into it by offering up a first level with no bad guys. Both discs offer consistent surprises and beautiful graphics, and both elicit some real laughs, no mean feat for variations on a theme that was developed over a decade ago.
The impending arrival of Nintendo 64 may well spell the demise of old fashioned 2D scrolling Mario-type games – a terrible shame, as two recent releases prove beyond any doubt. Rayman (UbiSoft – ages 6 & up) and the impossibly popular Earthworm Jim (Activision – ages 8 & up) have the feel of an art form just entering its golden age, only to be pushed aside by the latest new technology. Both games take their inspiration from Super Mario Brothers 3, the Mario game that elevated jump-and-shoot scrolling games from simple entertainment to brilliant flights of fancy.
– July 1996
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