When it comes to cute, anthropomorphic animals for video game characters, the humble earthworm might not be the first creature that comes to mind. Nevertheless, Earthworm Jim was quite the star back in the 1990s, with videogames and even his own cartoon show. This edition of the game for Windows 95 includes extra levels and improved graphics and animation and is considered by some players to be the definitive version.
The game is actually designed to play directly from the CD, however we are going to need to copy the contents to our hard drive in order to update one of the games DLL files. Create a directory anywhere on your computers hard drive (C:\Games\EWJSE would be perfect, for instance). Now, copy the entire contents of the Earthworm Jim Special Edition CD-ROM into this directory. When you are finished, you should have two files and a folder called “ASSETS”, which contains the bulk of the games files.
Patching and setting compatibility
For a game designed to run on Windows 95, Earthworm Jim – Special Edition actually runs pretty well on modern versions of Windows, though there are some caveats. First of all, you are going to need to apply this unofficial patch/update to one of the games files. If you do not, you will either not be able to hear any sound effects, or find the game will freeze after a few seconds. Download the zip file here (link broken? Let me know here). Once downloaded, open the zip folder and copy the WAIL32.dll into the ASSETS folder, overwriting the existing one.
Now, find the “WORM.EXE” file in the ASSETS folder and set it to run in compatibility mode for “Windows 95”. If you don’t know how to do this, see this tutorial.
You can now start the game by clicking the “Worm.EXE” file. Start the game like this in the future, do not start it from the CD, though you will need the CD in your computers optical drive whenever you want to play. You may get an error saying that “dispdib.dll” is missing, but it doesn’t seem to matter so you can simply dismiss this warning. You should now be taken to the games title screen.
Setting game preferences
Game preferences can be set by going to the “File” menu and choosing “Properties”. There are a number of settings you will want to configure here.
System tab:- Here you can set the screen size, notice that there’s no full screen mode? We’ll come to that in a moment. For now, set the display size to “Double Window (640×480)”.
Sound tab:- Make sure both Sound Effects and CD Music are enabled.
Difficulty:- Set this to taste, you get a different ending if you manage to compete the game on Normal or Difficult (you also get my respect, as this isn’t the easiest game!).
Joystick:- Earthworm Jim supports digital controllers only. You can map your controller here, but if you have a copy of Xpadder, it’s easier to simply disable Joystick and use Xpadder instead.
Keyboard:- As you might expect, this is where you go to change the keyboard controls. To quote from another famous platform game, “A gamepad isn’t required, but neither is bathing. Think about it”.
For those of you who do use Xpadder, here’s a picture of our layout for reference:-
You can move Jim with either the analogue stick or the D-Pad. The A button (W) will make Jim jump. The X button (Q) will make him ‘whip’ and the B button (E) button will make him fire his gun.
Playing the game in a tiny window isn’t much fun, so where is the full screen option? Earthworm Jim Special Edition does support fullscreen. However, the game only supports a full screen resolution of 320×240. This resolution has not been supported by most graphics cards for many years. Since the game can’t detect this resolution it won’t allow you to switch to full screen modes. You could try adding the 320×240 mode as a custom resolution. Both AMD and Nvidia include software with their cards to create custom resolutions. Doing this is a little complicated however and certainly not guaranteed to work. Check the documentation that came with your graphics card for more information on this.
One other approach is to use the Fullscreenizer tool. You can download this tool here. The program downloads as a single .exe file, it does not need installing. Run Earthworm Jim Special Edition and then run Fullscreenizer. You should see a window like the one shown below.
Click on “Earthworm Jim” and then Click “Fullscreenize”. The games window borders should now disappear (the menu bar will not disappear however) and the window will be zoomed to full screen size. Things will probably look pretty hideous though, so exit the game (you can do this by right clicking on its taskbar icon and choosing “Close window”). Now, change your screen resolution to the lowest available value. You can do this by right clicking on the desktop and choosing “Screen resolution”. There’s a full tutorial here. Typically the lowest resolution will be 800×600 or 640×480. Particularly in Windows 8, some graphics card drivers do not support any resolutions lower than 1024×768, so you might want to investigate adding a custom screen mode through your graphics cards software.
Once you have done this, click on “OK”. You will notice that your desktop is a lot bigger with less room to navigate. Start Earthworm Jim again and use the Fullscreenizer to make it full screen like before. You should now have a much nicer looking (almost) full screen version of the game. If you are using multiple monitors remember that Fullscreenizer will always make the game appear full screen on your main display. You may also want to hide the Windows taskbar, you can do that by right clicking on your taskbar and choosing “Properties”. Then, in the window that appears, find and select “Auto-hide the taskbar” and click “OK”. Unfortunately you will need to do this procedure every time you play the game if you want to play fullscreen.
Troubleshooting and known issues
CD Audio tracks do not loop – While playing, you will notice that the games soundtrack doesn’t loop once finished, leaving you playing the level with just sound effects. Currently there’s no known fix for this (the _inmm.dll tool appears to be incompatible).
Cannot enable in-game sound effects – Make sure you set Windows 95 compatibility mode for “WORM.exe”.
Cannot access full-screen mode – See “Playing fullscreen” above.
Game freezes when in-game sounds effects are enabled – Make sure you installed the updated “WAIL32.dll” into the “ASSETS” folder.
Problems saving games or settings – Earthworm Jim Special Edition stores all its settings in the registry. You will find the settings in the following locations:-
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Activision\Earthworm (on 64 bit versions of Windows)
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Activision\Earthworm (on 32 bit versions of Windows)
With the increased security in Windows Vista, 7 and 8, regular users aren’t normally permitted to write to this part of the registry. If you find your game preferences and settings aren’t getting saved properly, you can fix this problem with a little registry editing. If you’re not familiar with editing the registry, see this tutorial.
To get started fixing the problem, first open up the registry editing tool (regedit) as an administrator (right click and choose “Run as administrator”). Now, browse to the key shown above. Once you have located it, right click on the “Earthworm” key/folder and choose “Permissions…”. A security permissions window will then appear. Click on “Users” under “Group or user names:” and then tick/check the box that says “Full Control” and then click on “Apply”. If you did everything correctly, the window should look like the one shown below:-
Now, try playing the game again and change some settings (e.g redefine some keys). Exit the game and start it again and verify that your settings were saved. Note that there appears to be a bug in the game regarding Joystick controls. Joystick will always be enabled when you first start the game regardless of what the saved settings in the registry say.
Is this the best version of Earthworm Jim?
There’s no easy answer to that question. This version of the game has more content and levels than the other versions, including the PC version of the game you can buy from our friends over at GoG.com. When the game originally came out for Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive/Genesis, most people agreed that the SNES had the better graphics. The graphics in this version are based on the Sega version, but they have been enhanced and extra animation has been added.
The special edition also came out for the Sega CD console. This version supposedly has slightly poorer graphics, but doesn’t have the problems the PC version has running full-screen. Of course, you need to have access to a Sega Megadrive and MegaCD unit in order to play it (or use an emulator).
Finally, there was a HD remake of the game launched for PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles (sadly, there’s no PC version). This version is more or less faithful to the original, but doesn’t feature all the levels from the special edition and also has a different voice-actor for Jim, amongst other changes.
To find out more about the different versions of the game, check out this page on Hardcore gaming 101.