Sunday, August 26

Review: Earthworms [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It seems that in entertainment media going with weird and creepy can pretty easily generate interest. Examples like The X-Files, Paranormal Activity movies, or Supernatural come to mind and these each had their own degrees of success. There are people who are simply drawn to this kind of experience and that seems to be what the otherwise unremarkable adventure title Earthworms was looking to capitalize on.


In it you’ll play the part of a detective who has a history of having disturbing visions who takes an assignment to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Starting out in a small town but soon expanding into some very different places you’ll work in a somewhat typical point-and-click adventure style through puzzles of various kinds to progress. Touchscreen and even one-handed controller support make this mechanically easy, and the art and music have a consistent calm but eerie feel, but it’s the adventuring itself that generally falls on its face.


There’s no doubt that the problem facing all adventure titles is how to make their puzzles feel organic and sensible in some way, this is an issue even for the genre’s best games. Unfortunately, among its contemporaries on the Switch I’d say Earthworms may be the sloppiest I’ve played. Most solutions end up being pretty brute force in some way, a problem added to by the fact that some elements will only work when you’ve triggered the right sequence of events. So that item or element in the environment you may have already checked only then becomes relevant after you’ve done something else. Given the vaguery of most of the direction you’ll get this becomes a bit annoying. Rather than rewarding your intuition in realizing what you should do next it devolves into clicking on everything you can in the hopes it’s essential, which diminishes enjoyment.


As a total package if you’re looking for something with a creepy feel Earthworms may scratch that itch, just don’t come in with modest expectations. If you plan to play it exclusively in handheld mode I’ll warn that some details will get very tiny so that may be problematic. As the game notes in every loading screen an oddity is that there’s no auto-save so you’ll need to be diligent in managing this. Given the fact that I had the game get into an endless loop once in dialogue with an NPC perhaps the concern was that saving at every transition could have had unintended consequences technically. While it isn’t an awful game Earthworms has enough issues that even with its moments of creepy and weird happenings it’s hard to give more than a mild recommendation for.


Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • Has a creepy vibe about it
  • The music and art style suit the game well
  • In terms of control options it has you covered

Cons:
  • Many of the puzzles are uninspired, some bordering on lazy
  • Too many times brute force is your friend, clicking on things until you find what it was looking for
  • Technical issues with no auto-save and an infinite loop requiring me to close the game show a lack of polish