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VALLEY WEEKEND : Worm Sinks to a New Level for Revolting Fun : Earthworm Jim 2 has some gross tricks--but no tissues--up his sleeve. Disgusting, yes, but this sequel is super.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The worm is back in town.

In his second incarnation, Earthworm Jim lives up to every expectation set by his first video foray and establishes a whole new standard for 16-bit platform games.

Earthworm Jim 2 by Playmates Interactive incorporates every gross and juvenile bit of shtick from the first game and tosses in a bunch of new stuff guaranteed to crack players up.

Exhibit One: The Snott Parachute. The helicopter head from the original Earthworm Jim has been replaced by an easier-to-use parachute of mucus. And there is plenty to spare. Witness, for example, the ability to swing from spot to spot on whips of Snott.

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Exhibit Two: levels with names like Lorenzo’s Soil, a journey through dirt, and The Villi People, in which Jim assumes the form of a blind cave salamander and maneuvers through a dark world of intestines.

By now, most adults probably have quit reading, but suffice it to say that Earthworm Jim 2--for both Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis--is more than just a collection of bad gags. It is a truly excellent game.

As Jim would say: Groovy.

Ray of Hope: Is it possible? A great game for Atari’s Jaguar? Yes, and not a moment too soon. Just when you think the Jag is on the way out, a game like Rayman pops up its head and reminds players that Atari’s 64-bit rig may be down, but not out.

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In all respects, Rayman from Ubi Soft is a pretty standard side-scrolling platform game that looks to appeal to younger players. Despite its relative lack of inspiration, the game is technically perfect.

Characters are nice and big, and the environments are downright gorgeous. There is no malice. There is no violence. Just a simple little game that looks and plays like a dream.

Rayman alone is no reason to run out and buy a Jag, but if more games like it are in the wings, then the system may yet become a roaring success at the cash register.

Twisted Metal: What new system would be complete without a game in which the primary objective is to bust up a bunch of souped-up cars and blow up opponents? With Twisted Metal from Sony Computer Entertainment, PlayStation gets a workout and shows off just what it can do.

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With complete three-dimensional environments and exceptional vehicular control, Twisted Metal highlights why PlayStation is the darling du jour of the video game crowd.

And while some of the action--blowing the life out of other drivers--may get dull, there are some nice, although violent, touches that make Twisted Metal truly tasty. For instance, drivers can run over pedestrians.

Horrifying as that may sound to parents concerned for their children’s welfare, consider that one of the pedestrians is the Power Exec, a guy the game’s authors describe as one of those “stuffy suits who like to stifle creativity, lessen productivity and, in general, think they know it all.”

Is it bad to want to crush these sorts beneath the wheels of a killer ice cream truck?

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Lest anyone think there is no socially redeeming value to video games, let’s just say that the dog in the game is forbidden territory. For those even considering running over the poor pooch, heed these words from the designers: “Get some help! Even we’re not that sick!”

Ah, video games.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games regularly. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.


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