Leading up to Halloween, I’ve been wanting to write about horror games because that’s what you do in October, right? I still might; I’m playing the oft-recommended Fatal Frame II for the first time now and am planning to revisit Condemned. But before I get to those, I have been thinking about games that aren’t traditionally deemed scary that managed to get to me anyway.
My mind jumps back to Shiny Entertainment’s classic action-platformer Earthworm Jim 2. What a surreal game. It went places you wouldn’t expect even if you had played its predecessor or were otherwise familiar with characters like Professor Monkey-for-a-Head and Queen Slug-for-a-Butt.
This was a game willing to dress you up like a blind cave salamander and force you to flap around villi-filled intestines to the tune of “Moonlight Sonata” for a single level. And god forbid you bounce off one of those mischievous pinball bumpers (whose intestines are these?) — the ensuing scream was horrific. But The Villi People isn’t the level that prompted this article.
That distinction belongs to Puppy Love, a stage whose title alone strikes fear into my heart.
Just watching this video puts me on edge, but I needed to make sure it was a decent representation of the hellish stage. It sure is. Getting a clip with mistakes was crucial.
No one I knew ever played Puppy Love flawlessly; you’d slip up sooner or later and the worse you performed, the more unnerving it became. I can admit to being terrible at it. Shit is hard!
You have the herculean task of catching puppies thrown out of a tower before they go splat, literally. Innocent, adorable puppies, and lots of ’em. Except, you aren’t catching them — you’re continuously bouncing them off “the giant marshmallow o’ love” (haha, this game) until they reach Earthworm Jim’s pal, Peter, who is all the way on the right-hand side of the screen.
It sounds simple, but Jim’s nemesis Psy-Crow — the jerk throwing the dogs — times his tosses with such evil precision that you practically have to be in two places at once to save everyone. And that marshmallow you’re using as a safety trampoline? Unwieldy on a good day.
Once you miss enough puppies — again, you will, eventually — Peter freaks the hell out. He transforms into a monster who tears across the screen to slice Jim to pieces and the accompanying sound effect is unforgettable in the worst possible way. Just awful.
It’s a testament to how much I dig Earthworm Jim 2 that I was ever able to put up with Puppy Love. At least the level ends with a reassuring cow who says “Well done.” I needed that.
[Image credit: Hardcore Gaming 101]