Originally released in 1991, Toejam and Earl were the original Hip-Hopping, funky-aliens. A sort of underwhelming game back in the day gets re-released on Xbox live arcade, not just one but two games, ToeJam & Earl and Toejam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. With some changes made and the re-release on XBLA is it as good as you remember or does this collection deserve to phone home?
ToeJam & Earl is about two funk-loving, hip-hop-grooving aliens going on a stroll in space until a meteorite hits their ship causing them crash on a strange planet…Earth. After coming too, they realize their ship has been destroyed and scattered randomly on Earth. Now the two must collect their spaceship pieces to make it back home, it’s your job to play as ToeJam and/or Earl in getting these ship pieces back.
Gameplay hasn’t changed one bit, and that’s a good thing. Collecting presents can give you helping items like Icarus Wings, Tomatoes or even an extra life while other presents might kill you, get you stuck on a random piece of Earth or even randomize your revealed presents. Each present you pick up will be unidentified until you take the gamble and open it. That’s actually the biggest part of the game. You always get a bit of an adrenaline rush right before opening a present. These presents are actually the core of the gameplay as they’re an essence and a needed asset in some situations.
The XBLA version also comes with the sequel, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. This one takes on the idea that one (or many apparently) of the earthlings have attached themselves to the ship when Toejam and Earl came back to their home planet from the last game. This time you have to capture them in jars and put them in a ship to send them back. So it’s actually more of a Lemming’s game.
Like Legend of Zelda II the game goes from a top perspective to a sidescrolling game, and like Legend of Zelda II, it’s not as good as the original. Mind you it still has all the humor and the music is more remixed but the animation is stiff and the gameplay isn’t as smooth as it was. It’s a completely different game that the other with ToeJam and/or Earl having to search through bushes and behind signs for hiding Earthlings, it’s a lot slower than the original.
It’s still fun to play both games with a friend however and that was the best part of the series. Being a jerk and throwing tomatoes at your friend or giving them a high five to switch health was all part of the game. Thankfully (and I mean this), the game collection offers multiplayer– not only locally but also online! You can play with a friend or even a random stranger over Xbox Live. You can easily spend hours on the original Toejam & Earl just mucking around with a friend and exploring the levels for presents. Chances are you most likely will do that as well.
Sure Toejam and Earl may not have the greatest looking graphics by today’s standards but at least the game can be played in widescreen and has an option to “smooth” out the texture so it’s not so pixelated. There is also a feature to have u-scan on you TV to make it look like you’re playing on a tube TV …but other than that it looks and sounds great. The animation will most likely remind you of the crude Ren & Stimpy drawings and that’s sort of the point, the Earthlings are supposed to be the ugly ones and ToeJam & Earl are the normal looking ones. Is there a subtle message behind all this that means we, the humans, are the monsters? No. It’s just the way the art is.
The music is honestly one of the best soundtracks the Sega Genesis has farted out. These songs are memorable and you’ll find your fat little hips grooving to the songs without even realizing it. The beats are a mix of funk and funk. Every song stands out and fits the scenarios perfectly. The sound effects and random sayings that ToeJam and Earl will express will ahve you chuckle, for many years after playing the original I still say “money” the way they do whenever I find a money on the street.
Toejam & Earl is more of a cult-classic than a hit, they’re the original Sega mascots before Sonic came and blued everything up. It was a sleeper-hit then and hopefully not a sleep-hit now If you’ve played it before than you know what to expect if you’re wondering if it’s worth for a new comer then the answer is yes. It’s funny, wacky with great gameplay elements that still haven’t been done today. The random levels always keep the experience fresh and online multiplayer makes it even better. Pick it up if you’ve never experienced it before you won’t regret it.