Search This Blog



Retrospective: ToeJam and Earl

As big of a Sega fan I was during the 16-bit days, I have to admit that I overlooked quite a few amazing experiences. That may have to do with the fact that I was pretty much tunnel visioned into the Sonic the Hedgehog series and very little else. The original ToeJam and Earl was one of those games I missed out on, which is why I'm glad developers have been bringing back their classic games as digital titles with HD support and other bells and whistles such as online multi-player. I love seeing retro games being re-released this way, and these remastered ports usually excite me a lot more than new games.

ToeJam and Earl is a game that's often really hard to explain, there's just so much going on in it that it truly feels far ahead of its time. Still some reasonable comparisons can be made, because the it's usually described as a rogue-like video game, that is, a video game with randomly generating levels, layouts, enemies, items etc. making each play-through unique. I've only just gotten into the genre over the past few years or so, mainly with games like Shiren the Wanderer and a bit of Fatal Labyrinth, both being role playing games. I have to say I quite enjoy these very unpredictable yet organic adventures.While I haven't delved much into the rich history of rogue-likes, I still think ToeJam and Earl is a really awesome game. As a rogue-like adventure platformer, there really isn't much like it in the medium.

It takes place in this truly zany and satirical depiction of our planet, and you play as two intergalactic aliens who have crash landed onto it. They need to find parts of their broken ship while avoiding the monsters that are in the form of several human stereotypes (the stampede of nerds is a force to reckon with), and repair their ship in order to escape the crazy world that is planet Earth. So you explore all these random levels, searching for ship parts and elevators, never knowing what to expect in terms of layout and adversaries (the sand storm is the worst).

The real beauty in ToeJam and Earl are the abundance of presents, much like in other similar rogue-like RPGs, the game puts special emphasis on loot gathering. However, it makes things interesting by making these presents both a blessing and a curse. Some presents can really save your hide and grant you health, weapons, abilities, and all sorts of things, but at the same time there are presents that are simply designed to destroy and handicap you in a variety of cruel and unusual means.

The best part? you never know what's inside a present box unless you open it, making it a pure gamble with 50/50 odds. The good thing is that when you open a present (or meet a wise human dressed as a carrot...umm yea), the game will identify what they are for the remainder of your play session. However if you stumble upon this one particularly dreadful present, you will lose all the identifications and have to second guess all over again. This system constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat, and adds a whole lot of depth and strategy to the gameplay.

Now you could play the game alone, which is fine, but ToeJam and Earl simply must be played in co-op in order to truly appreciate what it offers. The HD port allows you to take the co-op action online, and I've been playing the game with a good friend who happens to be the biggest fan of the game. This expertly designed co-op experience is full of compelling team-work, a ton of laughs, and a whole lot of cussing and blaming. It's the most fun I've ever had in a co-op game, exploring unknown and uncharted territories with a friend, and it's particularly fun if you and your friend differ in risk-taking tendencies.

As old and retro as the game is, it still has a ton of style and charm. The simple visuals simply ooze with personality, and the music is simply funky and catchy, with some hilarious sound effects to boot. As a Mega Drive game, it was among the best sounding. While the graphics seem primitive, the cartoon art-style has aged well, and you can't go wrong with those cool character designs.

ToeJam and Earl is an unmissable Sega gem, particularly as a co-op game, and there are very few experiences that are superior in that regard. The recent HD edition with online play is the way to go.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it clean, keep it cool