The other week my Digital Fix inbox received a curious PR piece on the Intellivision Amico. A novel little throwback that largely seems to offer modern polished reinventions of retro arcade-style titles. It was cute but hardly something worth writing about, I imagine the system will come and go with all the staying power of a vole’s fart in a wind tunnel, but one thing stood out to me.
Earthworm Jim 4 as a system exclusive.
If you are too young to remember Earthworm Jim, here is a little recap from someone who got to experience it first-hand. Earthworm Jim was a 2D platformer on the Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive/Genesis, back in the days where hardware power was so small you could still sum it up in bits. The series was developed by Shiny Entertainment and created by Doug TenNapel and designed by the legendary David Perry.
And it was incredible. The graphics came in a truly unique hand-drawn style, beautifully animated, and bursting with absurd imagination. You played as Earthworm Jim, an earthworm (surprised?) that found its way into an advanced power suit that allowed him to run and jump and shoot, and he did all of these things on an intergalactic adventure that saw him face off against such enemies as Psy-Crow and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head. It was brilliant. As a kid, it was one of my favourite games on the Super Nintendo, which was an impressive feat given that systems incredible library, and its visual style and imagination along with challenging but tight gameplay ensured it remained a personal favourite.
The sequel, Earthworm Jim 2, took everything that worked about the first game and improved upon it. Earthworm Jim 3D, the first game developed without Shiny or the original creators, was an unmitigated mess. A Gameboy Colour title called Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy landed shortly after but even if this game was good (it was not) the damage to the franchise was already done and everything went quiet for a long time.
Nearly ten years later, talk of a fourth game emerged but chatted remained muted until recently when it was revealed that Earthworm Jim 4 was in development but would also be a system exclusive for the Intellivision Amico. Whatever the Hell that was supposed to be.
Gameplay footage now exists for the long-rumoured title and it is severely underwhelming.
After all this time, they thought having Jim running across a largely unpopulated and rather mundane looking desert island level was going to suffice? Not to mention the vastly inferior animation quality. The 16-bit originals hold up beautifully to this day, this new look Earthworm Jim looks like it was a lost relic from the Flash animation era. It is not great.
Yet, it would not matter if Earthworm Jim 4 looked and felt every bit as stunningly crafted and essential as Earthworm Jim 1 and 2. Society has progressed past the need for Earthworm Jim 4 and the person that deserves all the blame for that is series creator, Doug TenNapel.
There is no easy or polite way to put this but Doug TenNapel is an asshole. An unrepentant bigot who uses his platform and reputation to lob attacks against marginalised and vulnerable communities.
TenNapel was good friends with Andrew Breitbart, founder of the right-wing misinformation racket that shares his name, a man so utterly wretched that when he died the world automatically got at least 10% better. Alas, Doug has been intent on carrying on the legacy of that bloated sack of spoiled ham by going out of his way to micturate on anyone who isn’t a white cis-hetero male
In 2017, game critic Heather Alexandra published a piece critical of the dated satire present in Earthworm Jim. Rather than taking it on the chin like a big boy, Doug grew incensed that a 25-year-old game may not hold up to modern standards of decency and proceeded to prove that decency never claimed residency in his brain in the first place. He callously persisted in misgendering Heather, a trans woman, which anyone with a shred of empathy would understand is an act of emotional violence.
And it’s not just trans people that Doug has a problem with. When asked what opposition he presents to the idea of two men marrying, he said it would be “the same argument I have against letting a man take a dump in the ladies room. And office appropriate for one sex isn’t automatically appropriate for another, no matter how much a man loves taking a dump in the ladies room.”
That argument does not remotely make sense and it feels like a very deliberate call back to the incessant bathroom debate that conservatives and transphobes (see: Graham Linehan and JK Rowling) love to bring up against trans people. The notion that a trans woman in the women’s bathroom is the same as having a man in the women’s bathroom.
While TenNapel is undeniably a horrible person arguing in bad faith to harm people he hates, he is not so stupid as to make parallels like that unintentionally. He is simply dog-whistling to his garbage fanbase.
Recently, TenNapel has turned his hate-encrusted eyes towards the Black Lives Matter movement and you will not be shocked to learn that his views are every bit are reprehensible as they are towards the LGTBQ+ community.
Doug has a podcast called Audio Mullet, which he hosts with Axe Cop creator Ethan Nicolle (another big let down) and used to host with MST3K star Mike Nelson before Doug’s crappy views got too much and he had to bounce. On several episodes of this show, he has taken to attacking the protests that have risen up since the state-sanctioned murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. At one point, Doug says “The Black culture and Black communities are not doing well. They, too, are still the fallout victim of their own ignorance — and maybe their own willful ignorance, or fatherlessness, or whatever — so it’s not all whitey’s problem.”
In another episode, TenNapel said Black Lives Matter “were given cultural cover to unleash their revenge fantasy. The riots were in their hearts already, and they were given the cultural excuse. They were practically praying that a Black man would have a cop kneel on him so he’d die. Antifa did, Antifa loves exploiting. They were thrilled that happened. ‘Thank goodness, now I can take my hammer and bash out car windows along this block.'”
The contentious sack of shit has also taken the opportunity to call the COVID-19 crisis currently ravaging the planet “fake” and “a fraud” on several occasions.
Everything Doug TenNapel has done since the release of Earthworm Jim 2 has been a strong argument against ever giving the franchise another chance. He has a well-used urinal cake where his soul should be and nothing he produces will ever be of true artistic merit because he is not fuelled by passion, he is fuelled by hatred. The fact his new game looks so banal and crappily designed adds further proof to the notion that bigotry rots your brain.
Fuck Doug TenNapel and, it pains me to say, fuck Earthworm Jim 4. We do not need either of them in 2020.
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