From ye old days of the Sega Megadrive, two delightful hip hopping aliens came onto our screen and thrilled us with their humour, originality and of course, funkalicious music. ToeJam and Earl was an enjoyable platformer that while not reaching the expectations Sega had hoped, received a cult success status and was successful enough to produce sequels entitled “ToeJam and Earl in Panic on Funkotron” in 1993 and “ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth” almost 10 years after Panic on Funkotron. Now Sega has brought the funkalicious duo back onto our screen with the Sega Vintage Collection containing the Original ToeJam and Earl along with Panic on Funkotron. Does this Collection live up to its funky legacy or is it just cruising for some cash?
ToeJam and Earl is about two hip hopping, funk loving aliens who are cruising along and get hit by a meteorite and land on a strange planet, which of course had to be Earth. When the two funktastic aliens come about, they realise that their ship has been totalled and as a result, you must control ToeJam and/or Earl to get through the levels and collect all the parts of the spaceship so you can return home to Funkotron.
On the flip side however, ToeJam and Earl in Panic on Funkotron finds our lovable duo back on their home planet but they’ve taken some stowaways with them. It is now up to ToeJam and Earl to capture all the humans that inhabit their home planet and put them into cars to be sent back to Earth in a ship.
ToeJam and Earl takes a unique try on the Rouguelike genre that was popular at the time such as The Legend Of Zelda series, complete with randomly generating stages, a hell of a lot of loot and plenty of enemies to kill. Every stage’s main objective is to find the elevator and as such proceed to the next setting. Some environments however will have a piece of your smashed up ship located on the map, which you must then track down and obtain to properly progress before boarding to the next level. This is done by either going in by yourself as either ToeJam or Earl or tackle the game in co-op mode with both aliens trying to search for the ship parts. If co-op is chosen, the screen splits when the characters separate, and lives and health are shared amongst the players. Such an example of this is that you can hi-five your opponent to switch health bars, which is a pretty neat feature. It’s a formula that works well despite going through various terrains and encounters, but like many things in life, presents make this game better.
On each world, Santa has been busy dropping off gifts across the various lands, and it is your job to open them all and receive what unique and mostly useful power-ups they contain. There are so many to choose from but Icarus Wings (which allows you to fly across the sky for a short time), Super high-tops which offer a speed boost and tomatoes to pelt enemies (or your friend) with. Of course it wouldn’t be a game without the chance of getting a bad present and they’re plentiful too, such as some containing instant death items along with other useless techniques that are intended to make what is a simple game quite difficult. Each gift is in its own box so the first time around its complete pot luck as to what you get, but after that you will know what gift you’re opening. This aspect of the game certainly keeps you on your toes when it comes to receiving loot.
Panic in Funkotron is a different experience to the first game however. While the presents are included within the game, they play a smaller role than they did with offering just one of three assists. The title is also in a different genre altogether, if you could believe that. Instead of the top down Rouguelike perspective that was adored in the previous game, we now get a more traditional 2D side scrolling platformer method of gameplay. After selecting which of the duo you wish to be, the player must then explore while following hint arrows that lead them to the stowaway humans. Then it’s up to you to toss jars like a mad man until each human is caught. There are some fun little mini-games that appear from time to time as well as other Funkotonians to speak with, which makes for an awesome atmosphere while also making both games feel related despite the genre difference.
As this is an updated collection, there have of course been a variety of extra features included that weren’t available during the games original releases. Online co-op has been added, letting two players from across the globe funk it up on their respective mission. Local co-op is also available, allowing you to play it the way it was made. One of the best inclusions however is the ability to save at any time in the game now, providing to be very useful. There are also a whole host of wallpapers and extra options which complement the two games.
Graphics and Audio
Sega has done a nice job of incorporating the 16 bit graphics from 1991 and 1993 by not doing a damn thing with them. This is the best thing they could have done as the amount of varied colours used enable the titles from showing their age. The amount of variation and life that inhibits both games more than make up for the 16 bit graphics. Panic of Funkotron looks more polished than the original but given that it was released later, this is expected.
The soundtrack is on a whole world of its own by beating out some funky groove that will have you humming them for hours after you turn off the console. In something you don’t see a lot of these days as well, each power up has its own unique sound, adding to the charm of this game and makes it an enjoyable ride no matter what generation you’re from.
ToeJam and Earl first came out when originality was needed and Sega was looking for something to go against Nintendo’s Mario and Zelda. This game certainly delivered on the originality as the gameplay is still great fun no matter what mode you play. ToeJam and Earl are two of Sega’s mascots that have been forgotten by the masses due to a certain spiky haired hedgehog but have proven through this release that their unique style, charm and most importantly of all funkalicious music can be enjoyed and loved 20 years after the release of the original debut. No matter if you’re into retro games, have a soft spot for Sega or have never ventured into anything bar your Xbox 360, ToeJam and Earl deserves a look in so they can fill you with the funk you know is missing in your life.