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The original Earthworm Jim didn’t really go in for power-ups. It probably didn’t think it needed to. And what’s more, it was probably right. When the result of every one of your design meetings is essentially the product of the cast of Monty Python vomiting madness out of their eyes until Salvador Dali walks in and warns them to “Steady on, lads. You’ve gone a bit far”, the very concept of thinking of ‘special bits’ to stick on top of the normal gameplay is arguably unnecessary, and frankly a bit insulting to all concerned.
Earthworm Jim was a game in which you played a limbless worm in a power-suit who could use his own body as a whip or a grappling hook, fought a fish-belching redneck in a junkyard (not before fighting a tuba-launching monster made of tyres), before racing a crow through a black hole, fighting a snowman in hell, riding a giant pink hamster, battling a mad scientist with an upside-down monkey for a head, and guiding an idiotically happy puppy past inexplicable tentacles and asteroid showers in order to avoid him hulking out and killing you. Expecting a couple of special weapons or abilities to stand out from that lot was like expecting a veteran porn star to be aroused by a peck on the cheek.
Once we were used to the insanity though (or perhaps just bludgeoned into submission by it), Earthworm Jim 2 decided to dabble a little more with the pick-ups. We got a homing shot (that fired homes) and a spread-gun that fired from Jim’s fingers, but the crown jewel of the belligerently surreal line-up was the bubble gun. It fired bubbles. Not acid bubbles, or bubbles with killer sharks inside. Just bubbles. And when we say “fired”, we actually mean “weakly squeezed out with all the force of a gerbil fart”. And incidentally, the gerbil had been long-dead. And hadn’t even actually existed before it died, because it’s just part of an elaborate analogy we’ve just written.
Above: We know what you're thinking and we're sorry we had to publish such a frightening picture
The bubble just floated straight up. That’s all it did. It didn’t even hurt enemies it made contact with directly above Jim. Believe us, we tried to make it do so. We tried, we failed, and we cursed the name of the wretched bubble gun forevermore after.
Surely everything you pick up in Mario Kart is going to be of some use, right? So what's the point of this one? Supposedly (though we can't really see it), it makes you go faster while it's hanging over you like a… well, like a thundercloud, actually. If it does have a positive effect, the difference is negligible, meaning all the attention turns to its other special 'benefit'.
This benefit boils down to getting zapped in the head by a smarmy-grinned thunderbolt. Sounds harsh? It is. We're sure it's meant to be a fun, hot potato juggle designed to set parties alight with hilarity and joy. It's quite literally 'pass the bomb', only with a cute little face.
But we all know what Mario Kart's collisions are like. You bump into each other… then you immediately bump again. There's no time delay before the cloud becomes able to be switched to another player, so as soon as you've passed it to someone else, they've almost certainly passed it back to you. And probably realised immediately what you're trying to do and so naffed off over the nearest hill.
Above: Luigi's only frustrated that he picked the damn thing up. He loves Mario really. Like a brother
You're left holding onto your so-called 'power up', knowing full well what's about to happen. But then - aha! You remember another item. The power block doesn't hurt you if you jump when it hits. So you try doing that, only the cloud doesn't work like that, and now the extra momentum from the jump coupled with the spin-out animation from the zap carries you over the edge of the nearest ravine. Marvellous.