Guess the Game Commercial: Grandma Cthulhu?

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HINT: A nice old lady becomes demonically possessed as she stuffs her face with live worms!

STOP SCROLLING: In Guess the Game Commercial, we invite you to guess which game is being advertised based solely on a single out-of-context screen grab. The video below will feature the commercial and generally a short sizzle of our own making with the game in question. Scroll no further than the video below unless you’re stumped and ready to spoil the answer for yourself…

Scroll down for the answer

… keep going…

ANSWER: Earthworm Jim [Multi, 1994]

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ewj028As much as seeing this commercial irks the shit out of me, proudly featuring an old woman stuffing her terrifying face with wriggling worms in order to promote a 16-bit sidescoller, it’s not entirely inappropriate. As ubiquitous as “extreme” commercials like these were back then, and I have zero problem referring to this period as video game marketing’s “Attitude Era,” it somewhat suits Earthworm Jim. While MTV camera angles and stock footage crossed with Ren & Stimpy gags may’ve done games like Mario and Star Fox an embarrassing disservice… it almost feels right for Jim. Both that style and the game were born of the same era, and yeah, it’s important to remember that shy of Mortal Kombat, Earthworm Jim was about as “edgy” and “in your face” as console games got.

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As for me, I say it all the time, but all I’d ever wanted at that point was to play a living, breathing cartoon. (Note how I’m ignoring Dragon’s Lair, which is actually more of a Don Bluth short film that tricks players into rewinding it.) And long before cel-shading and the Ubi Art engine, Earthworm Jim was the biggest stride toward the goal of a playable Saturday morning TV show. Oh, other games based on animated cartoons certainly tried – like, say, Tiny Toons so I can link to something – but while you’ll find some quality product, none had truly succeeded in the visual department.

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Most games based on cartoons looked cute. Isometric, slightly de-optimized for pixelated continuity, and still appeared somewhat crude compared to their cartoon counterparts even while we headed into the 32-bit generation. And IMO, the fact that Earthworm Jim didn’t even have an origin in TV or movie animation makes it even more impressive; because it looks as if it did! Like a group of season WB animators sat around tossing out gags, sketching concepts to their absolute perfection and then painted the backgrounds with… actual paint?!

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Here were the exaggerated movements of our favorite cartoons of yore, animation that felt more fluid than anything on the Super Nintendo or Genesis, and character designs that looked like they were ripped straight from an animation production cel. It was fucking glorious! And as a further testament to the hard work of Shiny Entertainment, the short-lived Earthworm Jim TV cartoon somehow managed to look less animated than the game.

I suppose that makes Shiny’s eventual demise all the more sad. Following EJ, a successful sequel was forged, as well as the MDK series and Wild 9. Conversely, the studio kids like me had naively assumed were infallibly Triple-A were also behind some of the most notorious flops the industry’s ever seen. Earthworm Jim 3D, Messiah and Enter the Matrix proved to be costly experiments, and the studio’s final game was Sega’s The Golden Compass. Bleh!

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But the Shiny team is still out there and good work you’re probably familiar with. At an internet glance, they changed hands from Playmates to Interplay to Infogrames, briefly fell under the Atari moniker, and eventually merged with another dissolving team to form Double Helix Games, the studio behind the Strider and Killer Instinct reboots, and who recently acquired by Amazon. Oh, but that commercial… MAN!

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4 thoughts on “Guess the Game Commercial: Grandma Cthulhu?

  1. I remember one Christmas when I got earthworm Jim, Aladdin and lion king for my Sega genesis. One of the best Christmases I ever had, thanks for the memories.

  2. Ugh, the X-treme era of games; it’s weird to look back and see how we defined a good game with how much blood plus dick/fart jokes they can cram into a cartridge. Not to say that Earthworm jim didn’t rock the fucking house, I just always wonder how many good game ideas or themes were cut to make room for more electric guitars.

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