Real Talk By: Ms. Throwback
ToeJam & Earl has become a sleeper hit, originally sales of the game on the Sega Genesis were not impressive. Only later in its life did ToeJam and Earl get the recognition it deserved as a true classic of the 90’s with the sequel ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. Both games had a re-release on Wii’s virtual console in 2006, and this month they will again release on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. 21 years after the launch of the first game we delve into its review with a look at what makes both games a classic success.
The original game simply titled, ToeJam & Earl, introduces us to a duo of aliens that crash-land on the planet and must collect the pieces of their ship to make it back home. Somewhere along their journey in space it seems they have gained some urban appeal as ToeJam sports a large flavor flav type medal around his neck, and Earl rocks the hightop shoes and super suave sunglasses. It’s hard not to love this game from the second you start it. 80’s era geometric shapes fly across the screen in the backdrop as the player learns the back story of our fun alien friends. Bright colors scatter the landscape as we track across a purple, neon green, and super red earth to find our ship parts. The template of the game is a top-down view, almost an orignal Zelda series type feel, where the character is moved across a large environmental backdrop without a foreground to speak of. Although the game is set on Earth it will seem quite unfamiliar to the earthling playing it. Funkotron is where ToeJam and Earl crash-land with the enemies being huge hoards of nerds, police chickens, and living mailboxes.
Single player or Multi-player, co-op modes are options in the game. During the single player mode, the player may choose between the two characters, each of which have a unique feel and personality. If you have a friend the Multi-player mode creates the ability for players to separate during their search efforts by splitting the screen when players get further away from each other or, creating a single screen when they are close. ToeJam & Earl are comically interactive during gameplay, constantly cracking jokes and getting into ridiculous situations that are truly entertaining.
Two years after the first game ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron is released. 1993 would mark the time of great success for the series as Panic on Funkotron is widely regarded as the best game of the series. Unlike the top-down view of before we are introduced to a platform side-scrolling game, because of this, more detail in the unusual world can be enjoyed. Purple trees, bubbly growths, planets coming up over the horizon, and hairy platforms are just some parts of the environment we can enjoy. We also have much more interaction from the “enemies” or humans in the game. An insane construction worker comes at our heroes with a drill, while avoiding the paparazzi of camera happy tourists. There is no end to the hilarity of ToeJam & Earl with this installment.
Panic on Funkotron is also much more interactive. The Funk Scan allows us to find invisible hidden item, mini-games keep our attention, and we can also teleport from one place to another with the Funk Move option, allowing us to side-step platform holes or enemies. Secret platforms appear out of no where and clues to these hidden platforms lie in the environment themselves creating the motivation for the player to constantly survey and find hidden treasures of the game.
If you missed these two title releasing on the Wii’s virtual console it is well worth the purchase on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. Both of the games will be available for the PSN for $4.99 each or come in a bundle for XBLA for 800 points making a two in one deal that can’t be beat. Though many people would see the gameplay as standard and the first game as sub-par, I believe they are true classics and deserve a rightful place in the download section of anyone’s game library. Both versions have also been updated with support for achievements and trophies, as well as full online co-op support. The humor and fun that comes from ToeJam & Earl is mostly unmatched and a throwback to the 90’s funky vibe.
ToeJam and Earl Duo Gets:
Out of five
+ Fun Environments
+ Game play
+Control of either character
– First game top-down design
– Lagging controls at times
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