Monday 18 March 2013

ToeJam and Earl Review (Mega Drive)

ToeJam and Earl has you searching planet earth for missing parts of two funk aliens space ship. The title is set in a sort of top down free roaming environment, players can move around the level in any direction with the aim of finding a missing part of the space ship or the elevator that will lift you up to the next area. Along the way our dynamic aliens can pick up boxes scattered around the levels in order to find new gadgets and items to help you get past the many enemies and obstacles that will attempt to halt your progress.

Toejam and Earl has a very different look to other games on the Mega Drive. However, while the graphics are somewhat different they are also quite bland. Levels on the whole are made up of a few differing shades of green and brown to represent grass with either blue or black used to represent water or space. Furthermore, levels are fairly empty with a distinct lack of creatures present on most occasions which can lead to the aliens wandering around aimlessly for large periods of time.

While levels are somewhat plain individual characters and enemies are varied and imaginative. Among the enemies that you will come across are - hamsters in balls, mad hovering grannies, hula girls and stupid Cupid’s. This enemies are a nice break from the normal creatures inhabiting sixteen-bit titles at the time. The imaginative use of enemies helps to keep the game fresh for far longer than it otherwise would be, and somehow it makes the bland level textures fit the style of the game.

Playing the title is a strange affair as all the game really consists of is wandering around looking for things. Once the level is empty it's off to the elevator to move up to the next one. Our beloved aliens move around nicely, if a little slowly, and the presents help to keep play varied as you can use all manner of strange devices to negotiate each area. However, the game is very slow paced and some players will find things incredibly dull, while others will become caught up in the charming ambience of it all. It really is a game you have to be in the right mood to play and with most people it comes down to a case of ‘you either get it or you don’t’.

What does help to make the title stand out though are a few nice touches and innovations. First of all each level is randomly generated offering something a little different each time you play. Even more commendable is the fact that a two-player mode is present, which considering the free moving level design is a good achievement and a very welcome addition. Finally, of no real importance but fun none the less is the jam section of the game. Accessed from the title screen, it allows players to ‘get down with their bad selves’ by sort of free style mixing over one of the tunes from the game.

Overall, Toejam and Earl is both good and bad in equal measure. If you get to grips with the tone of it there is a lot of enjoyment to be had, however the pace and style of the game may well put off a lot of players as things are very slow at times. As a piece of gaming history it's definitely worth checking out as there is nothing else like it around and it is a nice example of originality from the sixteen-bit era. Like it or not the two funky aliens are good characters and though the most recent game (Toejam and Earl 3), was also a touch hit and miss it is a good thing the ‘bad mother Hubbard’s’ are still mixing it in today’s market.

(if you like the sound of the game but don't have a Megadrive you can find an HD remake on both Live Arcade and the Playstation Network)

Overall 7

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