In 2003 a new chapter of the Earthworm Jim series was in development at Interplay as a side-scrolling 3D platform that was probably meant to be released on the Playstation 2 and Xbox. Sadly the project was soon cancelled, just after the preproduction stage. The basic structure of the game would have been somewhat similar to Klonoa or Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, with 3D environment, but viewed along a track with a fixed camera.
Jim’s head would have been used to not only swing and attack, but also as a grappling appendage that could hoist heavy objects. Aside from a few tests and the concepts you can see in the gallery below, not much more work was done before this new Earthworm Jim was canned, probably because it was seen as a risky project.
Lots of crazy ideas got tossed around during the early stages of development, as a musical sequence in which Jim went to Heck (hell) and had to do a boatride through the river styx. Jim was all mopey because he was dead, and the Grim reaper turns to him (in the small boat) and says “Cheer up Jim… it’s not that bad.” [in a terribly over the top British accent] and whips off his robe to reveal the Zuit Suit (that you can see in the concept arts). At this point, it was going to be a whacky musical boatride into Heck, to the tune of something like the Squirrel Nut Zippers song Afterlife/Hell. There would have been dancing skeletons, and demons and stuff as they travel down the river.
The Cyclops monster that you can notice in another concept art was a boss for a level made entirely of cheese. Imagine Rome, constructed of cheese, with the citizens all being mice, wearing togas. He was the “Gorgan Zola”. Made of cheese, with a pimento olive for a head (the red pimento being his eye). There would have been a showdown / boss-battle within the Fondue Colliseum, with cheering / jeering mice in the crowd.
Thanks a lot to Michael and Earthwormjim for the contribution!