Review by Retro
"Funky. Original. Hilarious. Classic. One of the best games ever made!"
Two totally different looking aliens are cruising through space in their weird rocketship that resembles a sort of sled with a TV-shaped body. Something goes wrong and it takes a horrible crash. The impact was so severe that the various parts of the ship have scattered about everywhere. Toe Jam and Earl must do what they can to find every last piece of their treasured vehicle so they can put it back together, unless they want to be stuck on the dreaded planet earth forever!
Toe Jam is a red ballcap-wearing creature who has three legs, and his friend, Earl, is a terribly overweight, tall brown being who sports a pair of cool shades. You can play by yourself and use either one of these hilarious aliens in your adventure, or you can play a two-player game with a friend in split-screen, simultaneous action. Both Toe Jam and Earl are pretty much the same, except that Earl has a little bit more energy, and Toe Jam walks a little faster.
After playing for awhile, you'll notice that Toe Jam & Earl is comprised of several levels in outer space that all look the same, except for the differing shapes and sizes of the landscapes. All the inseparable alien duo will be doing while they're visiting earth will be to walk around in every direction as they search every crook and cranny for the pieces to their ship. As you look around each level, it would do you good to pause the game and glance at the map of the current level as a reference. The map shows your current location and other landmarks such as the elevator, ship pieces, and lakes. But you have no choice but to actually explore around first before you can fully use the map.
For instance, you just landed on a level for the first time. Pause the game and you'll see that the square that you're currently in is uncovered on the map, but all around you are squares that are still there covering up the map, including one to the left that you're seemingly just a few steps away from. Unpause the game and walk a little bit to the left. Now, when you pause the game and look at the map, that place to the left that was a square just a second ago is now uncovered! Not all levels hold a piece of Toe Jam and Earl's ship, but each one does have an elevator that they must find and climb inside to make their way up to the next section of earth.
But they'll soon find out that planet earth isn't exactly a dead part of the galaxy.
Whether it's the pestering little monsters, a huge hamster that's running inside his closed wheel, or a crowded stampede of human beings, Toe Jam and Earl are certainly not alone on this planet that they accidentally discovered. Apart from a few living creatures such as a nice wizard who will refill your energy in exchange for some dough or a depressed man dressed up in a carrot suit who gives pointers on what is inside the various presents, most of the life on planet earth is downright mean. Just a few hits from any of the meanies will kill Toe Jam or Earl and instantly turn them into a ghostly angel that floats up to the heavens.
There are not many better feelings in real life than to see a stack of presents that have your name written on them under a Christmas tree. Fortunately for Toe Jam and Earl, there are more than enough presents scattered about through each level. Most presents hold unique items that can be of great help to you during your upbeat journey. To find out what's inside a wrapped box, you can either walk around a few minutes and hopefully collect a few dollar bills that are lying on the ground and then pay the carrot man, or if you're feeling lucky, go ahead and open up a mysterious present even if you don't know what's inside (it'll have ??????? beside it). You could get something basic from a gift, such as a luscious hot fudge sundae that refills a nice chunk of your energy, a slingshot for a way of actually killing some enemies (you won't be defeating many enemies in this game, and there are no bosses), or one of several luxurious items that can be used to your advantage.
Both Toe Jam and Earl can go swimming anytime they want, but there is a shark that inhabits most of the land's lakes. Using a goofy-looking inner tube will allow you to swim much faster than normal to escape the hungry jaws of any fish. When an almost invisible phantom won't quit sneaking up and scaring the living daylights out of you by pushing you and saying, ''Boogie woogie woogie'', or when a lanky ass dentist refuses to stop using his long legs to run up and take energy away from you as he laughs like the Joker from Batman, use an item that will allow you to get away from these beasts as quickly as possible. Slip on a pair of Bonus Hitops and haul ass in the opposite direction! Is your treasured puzzle piece or the elevator located on a different island in the sky? Use either the pogo stick to bounce over there easily or the Icarus Wings to literally fly at will.
Those are only a few examples of the good items that can be received from the gifts and how they can be used. There are even more, such as Rocket Skates for traveling almost as fast as the speed of light. Keep in mind, though, that not all of the presents contain something good! Open the wrong one and you could get things like an Instant Bummer (lose a life right away) or a spell of Tomato Rain, in which hundreds of tomatoes will fall from the sky like rain.
Hidden goodies and baddies are also scattered throughout the terrains in all directions. If you're a little low on energy, by all means eat a hamburger or a slice of pie for a little snack, but you'd want to avoid things such as moldy bread or a rotten mushroom. Every now and then, you'll hear a telephone start ringing out of the blue. Find the telephone and pick it up and a few of the squares on the pause screen will turn over, possibly revealing the location of the level's elevator or puzzle piece!
You can also use a good bit of strategy while you play Toe Jam & Earl, such as literally jumping off the cliff to go down a level in order to escape mindless enemies (you won't die from falling, you'll just have to use the level's elevator to go back up). If you see a sleeping enemy that you don't want to awaken, slowly sneak around it on your tiptoes. Did you just look at the map and see that it appears you've reached the end of your journey because you've uncovered most of the squares and you still don't see where to go? Walk around the edges of the island (many pieces of land are not surrounded by water, but outer space instead, so I call them islands for lack of a better term). By doing that, you're likely to find hidden passages that appear out of nowhere, forming brand new paths to explore. If an enemy is catching up to you faster than you can get away, get on the road so you can walk faster!
Toe Jam & Earl doesn't have spectacular visuals by any means, but they definitely get the job done. The levels' terrains look the same even though they're all laid out differently. Pitch dark outer space with a few stationary stars overlooks the flat green land that you'll be walking on using a semi-overhead view throughout the game. On the other hand, the characters are animated very nicely. From the Hawaiian girls that are constantly dancing, to the fat woman pushing her crying baby around in a shopping cart, to the cupids that float on clouds while shooting arrows at you, to Toe Jam and Earl themselves, the characters look great and move fluidly. Another nice standout is how patterns of colors and shapes quickly pass by as you're flying up, up, and away in your elevator en route to the next level.
Toe Jam & Earl's sound effects are all clear and well done, all the way from the various laughs and voices to the realistic splashing sound of jumping into the water and the effects of using a gadget that you get from a present. Music is definitely one of the game's strongest suits. It's hard to explain what makes the tracks so special. They're just real funky, memorable, and they seem to fit together with the current mood like a hand and glove. Best of all is the jamming option that allows you to press buttons and make both Toe Jam and Earl dance and groove to the in-game music tracks, or you could even make your own music (I always did dream about being a rock star)! Oh yeah, and controlling Toe Jam and Earl is a cinch. You'll mostly be using the control pad to walk along and explore the environments, and when you choose to use certain items such as the hitops, just press and/or hold the action button.
What makes Toe Jam & Earl so special?! Well, everything about it does, but if I could sum it all up in one word, it would be originality. Back in the day (early 90's) and even today, there was no other game that played like, sounded like, or looked like Toe Jam & Earl. And there still isn't. This is mostly due to the game's personality. Just wait until you see Toe Jam shake his booty and look from side to side when he gets too close to one of those dancing Hawaiian girls. Let Earl stand around too long and he'll just lie down and fall asleep on you. Eating a burger, fries, etc., will make Toe Jam and Earl burp or say something such as ''Yummy.'' Do well enough in the game, and your energy bar will grow. At the same time, your honorable tag will change from something such as ''Toe Jam is a wiener'' to ''Toe Jam is a dude''.
Little things like that along with the unique music, gameplay, etc., are what makes Toe Jam & Earl one of the best games of all time. On top of being a game that is so original that it can't really be placed into a certain genre, it's always fun to play any day of the year, in both the good times and the bad. If Toe Jam & Earl's replay value were represented on a car's fuel gauge, it would stay at full forever; it would never move. You might as well leave ½ a tank, empty, etc., off of the gauge. The originality, nonstop replay value, and hilarious antics of Toe Jam and Earl are what I love the most about the game. That's what makes Toe Jam & Earl one of my five (probably three!) favorite games of all time. No matter how many great games I come across, that fact will never change.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 05/02/01, Updated 03/11/03
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