The Intellivision Amico is one of those products which, by this point, needs little in the way of introduction.
Announced in 2018 and delayed multiple times, the console still has no solid release date, with company CEO Phil Adam claiming that an "announcement" is being worked on – which, for those who laid down their cash some time ago, will come as scant consolation.
We all know that games sell systems, and one of Amico's most high-profile titles was Earthworm Jim 4, the latest entry in a series which began life at Shiny Entertainment way back in the '90s. To generate interest in the system, Intellivision president Tommy Tallarico hinted that all of the key members of the original Earthworm Jim team would be involved.
"We have been talking about this moment for many years," Tallarico said in a press release circulated at the time, "It’s a dream come true to finally get the entire team back together. We’re looking forward to sharing a small part of our reunion and initial design meeting with fans from around the world."
A fourth mainline Earthworm Jim title has been in something resembling development hell for some time now. Originally announced by Interplay in 2008 – almost a decade after the release of the previous game in the series, 1999's Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy on the Game Boy Color – nothing else was heard about it in the years that followed outside of vague rumours. During a 2015 AMA event on Reddit, Earthworm Jim lead artist Nick Bruty revealed that the fourth game "almost happened" five years beforehand:
A new EWJ game with the original team almost happened about 5 years ago but a deal with the IP owners couldn't get worked out. I think everyone would be up for it sometime. Feels like unfinished business but hard to align everyone. I wouldn't do it without the key players.
It would seem that Tallarico was somehow able to convince Interplay – which still holds the rights to the series – to license the property, and he was also able to get the original team to commit to at least discussing it – hence the initial announcement in May 2019.
However, Tallarico was forced to issue a statement soon afterwards that Jim creator Doug TenNapel would only be serving as an unpaid consultant on the project following controversial remarks he had made; in August 2020, TenNapel confirmed to VentureBeat that "he participated in one brainstorming session with Tallarico’s team and is open for unpaid consulting on the project. But he said he has not been part of the team in any other way so far. He is providing any consulting as a friend and said Intellivision only needed him for consulting from time to time just to make sure the character and story were remaining consistent."
Since then, steps have seemingly been taken to reduce the focus on Earthworm Jim 4. GamesIndustry.biz reached out to Tallarico in 2020 to clarify the situation with TenNapel, and was told that "the role Earthworm Jim played as a part of the Intellivision Amico's line-up was a small one, noting that the company has been quiet on the game since its initial announcement in 2019, but has shown gameplay for 30 other games for the system since. He added that Intellivision is neither the developer nor the publisher of the game." That final line seems odd, given that Tallarico – Intellvision's CEO at this point – had made it very clear that he was part of the 'reunion' to make the game.
Fast forward to the present day, and the Amico still hasn't launched. We've heard nothing about Earthworm Jim 4's development for over two years, and – perhaps most notably of all – Intellivision has removed the much-hyped Earthworm Jim 4 trailer from its YouTube channel (although the 'Amico Special Event' video from August 2020, which contains footage and a short interview segment with the 'team' remains live at the time of writing).
Keen for some kind of answer on what exactly is happening with Earthworm Jim 4, we decided to reach out to Nick Jones, who worked at Shiny on the original Earthworm Jim. He confirms that, despite being involved in the project in its very early days, he isn't working on it, and never was:
I wasn’t / am not involved in Earthworm Jim 4. The Shiny team did get together for a reunion that Tommy Tallarico organized. He also used that to start a live stream to the world to talk about the Amico console that he was spearheading, of which Earthworm Jim 4 was going to be one of the titles released on that console. At the reunion, we all did get together privately and talked about ideas for the next Earthworm Jim game, but that was the extent of it from me. It was a fun moment where it felt like the old team was back together. I believe some of the other original Shiny members were interested in making it, though.
We've also reached out to some of the other former Shiny staffers who were apparently involved in the game's development. Shiny founder David Perry told us that he's largely in dark as to the current status of the game, saying he assumed the Amico version was "on hold" and that Interplay "controls" Jim's destiny now.
So, is Earthworm Jim 4 still being made? The fact we haven't seen anything of the game since that initial reveal doesn't categorically prove it isn't – after all, games are in development for years before they're shown off, in some cases – but the fact that one of the original team (who Tallarico claimed was involved) has revealed they haven't, at any point, done work on it certainly raises cause for concern. Place that concern alongside the fact that the Amico looks no closer to being released, and it's fair to assume that, at this point, there is no Earthworm Jim 4.
If we hear back from Intellivision or any of the team members 'involved' in its creation, then we'll update this post.