Modern Review - Sega Vintage Collection: ToeJam & Earl

Modern-Review-Sega-Vintage-Collection-Toejam-And-EarlAlthough it’s already been available for a little while, SEGA’s latest Sega Vintage Collection seems to have been sadly overlooked by Joe Public. Now we here at RetroCollect can’t let that happen – so we take a slightly belated look at the two classic nineties titles in a bit more detail.

Now if you’ve played any of the other Sega Vintage Collections then you will be right at home with the way this title is set up. The main menu screen takes the form of two SEGA MegaDrive/Genesis consoles hooked up to suitably ropey-looking televisions – with each screen playing one of the selectable games on offer. It’s a perfect fit for a nostalgia-fest right out of the gates. It’s one of those rare moments in modern gaming guaranteed to bring a smile to the stoniest of faces, and a great start for SEGA. Yes, all of the other SVC titles use the exact same format – but if the shoe fits….right?

The original Toejam & Earl was one of a kind. You play as the titular aliens as they search for pieces of their broken ship following a crashed-landing in a top-down pseudo-platform-cum-adventure type…thing. Beginning on level one you must collect presents (with a completely randomly assigned item inside) to aid you in your absolutely bonkers-mental quest to return home – with the contents ranging from anything like root beer and cake to throwing-tomatoes and turbo-boosting hi-tops. Level one acts as your introduction to the game and its mechanics, granting you no enemies and a pre-defined layout. Feel free to have a wander and get a feel for things (and maybe see if you can reach the secret level zero) before heading to the elevator to level two.

What happens in the 90s...

Now you know what you’re doing, the game kicks things off proper. From this point onwards (and for a great many people, including myself – this was the title’s biggest draw) you will never play the same level twice. The stages are randomised in size and shape, with items and enemies suitably distributed. And speaking of enemies – to this day Toejam & Earl has some of the most bizarre and downright odd enemies you will come across. One minute you’re outrunning a mutant mailbox or invisible Boogieman, the next it’s Santa Claus and a crazy dentist (who by the way has THE greatest laugh ever). It’s great fun uncovering all the map areas and seeing what they have hidden away, and even now still has that different kind of feel to it.

The problem is that Toejam & Earl was made in the nineties, apparently by the nineties. The menus are backed with the kind of colour schemes you’d best remember from Saved by the Bell, the hip-hop soundtrack feels dated and some of the jokes just don’t make sense anymore. While it truly is a great blast in two-player mode, it just hasn’t aged well – as times have changed, it just isn’t as relevant anymore (the same feeling you get when watching a Schwarzenegger movie from the eighties). It’s fun for a while (especially if you played it back in the day), but unfortunately rose-tinted glasses only stretch so far.

The sequel, on the other hand – is quite different again. Panic On Funkotron is a straight 2D platformer tasking you with rounding up human tourists that have infested your home-planet. It’s standard platforming, if a little floaty in the control department. Although the action is very basic (moving left-to-right, jumping and attacking are really the only moves you will bother using, or indeed need to), it’s the game’s sense of humour that sets it apart. From the stereotypical tourist sprites to the intentionally cheesy dialogue – it’s a very funny game. To be honest, I can’t think of another title that allows you to annoy its world’s inhabitants by repeatedly ringing their doorbell – never mind encourages it.

There are a set number of humans loose in each stage, and you will need to find them all in order to progress. How do you remove them? You catch them in glass jars (obviously). It’s this type of humour that keeps the game afloat, and keeps you wanting to progress to see just what madness the next stage has for you. It almost seems that the developers were aware that the nineties were fast running out, and pasting over some of that abrasiveness with a subtle injection of narrative and well written humour worked perfectly.

SVC: ToeJam & Earl (Gameplay Video)

Summary

This entry in the SVC series is by no means bad, just a little outdated. Both games have their strong-points and both are great fun – if you take them as they come. They are by no means outstanding, but they’re both just different enough to warrant another playthrough.

And with the price at 800 Microsoft points (or £3.69 for you PlayStation fans) there’s really never been a better time to sample some pure nineties cheese.

SVC: Toejam & Earl is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Link: ToeJam & Earl on the Xbox Marketplace

Link: Find ToeJam & Earl on eBay


Last Updated ( 21 January 2013 )  

Comments 

(Link to this comment) EvilTheHuman 2013-01-23 09:59
I'm not one for swearing on forums really, but fuck off is Toejam & Earl 2 even half the game the original. The first is 1 of the highlights of the 16bit era, the sequal is another 2D platformer. A good & funny 1 but it's nothing on the original.
And I won't have a single word said about the soundtrack. How does 8bit funky hip hop date a game more than say 8 bit cock rock, present on a hell of a lot games from this time.
I know gaming is all about personal opinion, but yours is wrong ; )
(Link to this comment) ewjim 2013-01-23 18:28
First one was miles better than the second, the novelty soon wears off on the second one, along with the punishing difficulty with some of the enemies and 'leap of faith' jumps that are almost rage worthy.

Its nice to have the idea of a true ending on the second (collecting all the items on various levels) but it becomes such a chore and you don't even realise you have to do it until you have accidentally got past a level with one on it. By the end i simply beasted the game because I just couldn't be bothered with it. Once you get over the brilliant graphics and animations, its just rinse and repeat till the end - and there are so many laborious levels to get through where as the first one is a joy to explore every inch of each map in order to get your 'funk' rating up!

I spent a lot of time 100% ing each game (bar the true ending on the TJE2) and enjoyed the trip of yesteryear, the first game still holds a place in my heart today.
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