Friday, 14 November 2014

Toejam & Earl (Genesis/Mega Drive)

ToeJam & Earl title screen
Today on Super Adventures I'm inflicting my first impressions of ToeJam & Earl upon the world, though I get the feeling that the world probably has a much better idea of what this is than I do. I've never played it, I've never really seen it, and all I know about it is that it's described as being a roguelike, and that people apparently bought enough copies of it at the time for it to get a couple of sequels.

One thing I'm certain of is that it's not based on a cartoon, though that title screen made me double check. Nope, these two debuted exclusively on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, and pretty much stayed there until the third game in the ToeJam Trilogy ended up landing on Xbox a decade later. I guess the developers determined that the SNES just wasn't sufficiently funky.

Right, so the red hand with the cap is ToeJam and the slug in boxers is Earl. That's one mystery down, next mystery... how does a guy with no fingers tie his shoe laces?

Actually the next mystery is 'how can a alien with no mouth talk?' Is he using his highly devolved brain powers to psychically broadcast his thoughts into the player's head? He doesn't seem like the type really; he's lacking both the telltale veins running down the sides of his giant head, and also a giant head. Also pants, which is usually a big giveaway when it comes to judging intelligence.

These two came from the 90s outer space, from the planet Funkotron, in their highly funky, ultra cool, Righteous Rapmaster Rocketship, equipped with megawatt speakers to crank out some extremely funky tunes. You can probably guess what the music's like already.

Funnily enough, alien funk actually sounds a lot like regular Earth funk, except played out of a Mega Drive sound chip: youtube link. Radical.

Recently our two aliens ran into a small problem that developed after Earl ran their ship into a large asteroid. Actually they haven't explained what the problem is yet, I'm just making wild guesses about what happened next after ToeJam gave Earl a turn at the space wheel. In an asteroid field.

The guy actually does pretty well for a while, swerving between rocks like a pro, but you only have to hit the one to ruin your whole day.

They ended up hitting one.

You should never let Earl drive
Fortunately there was an inhabitable planet nearby to save the pair from suffocating in the freezing funkless blackness of the interstellar void... and it was our Earth!

I can't tell if they've crashed in Canada or Siberia though. Either way that globe don't look quite right to me.
 
ToeJam & Earl menu
I can play on a random world or a fixed world huh? Seems like this might actually be a roguelike. Actually screw that, I want to jam out instead!

ToeJam & Earl jam out
Not sure what I was expecting really. Hitting the different buttons makes ToeJam do a different thing to the music. If there was a player 2 around they could make Earl dance to their whims as well, but I'll be playing this all on my own.

Okay I'm bored of jamming out now, it's rubbish. I'm starting a new random world.

ToeJam is a wiener
Wow, it really isn't a platformer! I don't know why I'm so surprised that this actually what people said it was, but... it really does seem like kind of a roguelike. I'm not really a fan of roguelikes though to be honest, so don't be shocked if all I do is whine about it.

Okay so ToeJam is a wiener, he's standing on a patch of grass in sunny Canada/Siberia, and he's currently equidistant to two mysterious gift-wrapped presents. I'm here looking for 10 spaceship parts so he can repair his ship and get back home to Planet Funkotron, so I guess I should start opening stuff up.

Toejam inventory
ToeJam's no idiot, so he's brought some emergency survival gear with him in his inventory. Well he's brought four pairs... uh, sets of sneakers anyway, so he'll always have a shoebox handy at least.

I've no idea how a man with no pockets can store all this crap, but all the crap I collect is indeed stored in here, labelled with a row of question marks until I've deduced its purpose. Some of the gifts are likely to backfire on me horribly, but I'll never know what they are unless I try them, so let's see what purple with a yellow ribbon does.

Well now I know that purple with a yellow ribbon sends him to sleep. I'll just keep hitting the buttons until he wakes up then shall I? Well at least this long break in the action has given me a chance to see if his health bar ticks down over time without food, and it... doesn't.

That mysterious thing over on the right looks like a door, so I'll give that a try next. What could possibly go wrong?


STAGE 2.


The elevator took me up to a floating island guarded by pitchfork wielding imps! So that's about two minutes the game spent in a world even slightly resembling our real Earth, and I spent most of that time asleep.

Hang on, where my slingshot gone? I'm sure I was holding a slingshot a few seconds ago. Now I'm armed with my default ability to creep around uselessly, just in case I ever wanted to walk slower than I already do. ToeJam may be stranded on a hostile alien world lightyears from his home, but he's in no hurry to do anything about it.

Hey is that a buck over there?

A buck!

I nearly sent ToeJam toppling over the side of the island then, so I need to be more careful where I walk in future.

Well I've found a floating life-sized ToeJam balloon and a mail box. So there's that.

The mail box is a mail order shop! Suddenly something about this world makes some kind of sense. Of course they don't actually tell you what you're buying, so it doesn't make that much sense.

Well I can only afford either the mysterious package or the mysterious package, so I'll guess I'll buy... the mysterious package.


LATER.


ToeJam and Earl map
I've explored a decent amount of this floating island now, but it looks like there's a path to another floating island on the top left. Bollocks to that though, I've already spent enough time just walking down here to the lift door, and I can't be bothered going all the way back again just to do some exploring.

Alright, let's see what floor #3 has in store for me.


STAGE 3.


A miniature race track and a ship piece huh? Well I'm glad it tells me which stages have the ship pieces on and it's good to know I haven't missed any, but if the pieces show up every three stages does that mean I've got 30 levels of this to hike through? I'm already getting kind of tired of it after 2.

Wow, that's pretty harsh, especially considering that guy is just minding his own business and will actually heal me if I throw some cash his way. Which is handy, but my life bar isn't all that much of a concern for me right now. ToeJam's lost a little health through evil surprise gifts (I wonder who hates the guy enough to send him a personal thunderstorm that chases him around shooting lightning at him), but the enemies have allowed him to stroll around these early islands pretty much unhindered. Or trundle more like. Plod. Amble. Trudge.

Oh hang on, I just noticed the bar on the bottom of the screen explaining that it is I who is the dufus. I guess I must have gotten a level up somehow.

And now he's a poindexter? What? How? I haven't even done anything! Is there actual gameplay in this playing out on a level that my human mind cannot perceive?


A FEW PRESENTS LATER.


Hey it's a... some kind of sack maybe? What it is, I get the feeling the game's trying to draw my attention to it, so I'll see if I can steer my new jet skates around without sending myself flying off the side of the island.

It's a ship piece! Gotta admit, I kinda knew it was going to be.

Just like I knew I was going to send myself flying off the side of the island right after getting it.


STAGE 2... AGAIN.


Turns out that the drop wasn't lethal, it just sent me back to level 2! I even managed to find a bite to eat I'd overlooked last time through, so I've got more health than I started with.

I've also discovered a new feature: if I step in certain areas, new paths will materialise, extending the island. There doesn't seem to be any indication of when it'll happen though, so I can't trigger it deliberately without walking on every bit of ground around the entire perimeter of an island.


STAGE 4.


Hey jetpack Santa, check out my Icarus wings!

No idea what that guy's about, he always jets off before I can even get close to him. Screw him though, I've got my own ways of flapping gracefully through the sky now. These wings are probably the best gift I've found yet, as they get me safely past enemies, over gaps, and across lakes.

In fact their own downside is that the bloody things just ran out, and now I'm wingless again. Useful power ups from mystery gifts really don't last long, annoyingly.


STAGE 5.


Dead end.

Another dead end, huh?

Damn, the random level generator has given me a level I can't complete! What the fuck?

No, no, hang on, I've been collecting other power ups as I go, so there must be something in my inventory that can get me across a gap.

Spring shoes! These things give me the power to jump, so I can simply leap from rock to rock until I reach the main island!

Turns out that he wasn't quite lined up right. Plus the rocks didn't lead anywhere anyway. Still, I'll survive this. It just means I'll be back down on the last stage again, a short walk away from the exit lift.


BACK DOWN ON STAGE 4.


Crap, I didn't expect the bees! They were waiting for me, waiting to ambush me when I fell. I tried to escape, but ToeJam doesn't understand the concept of running, so that didn't work out.

That's my first life lost by the way... so I can finally confirm that the game has lives! Stay tuned to learn if it has continues too.


RETURN TO STAGE 5.


By some miracle I found a second set of Icarus wings so now I can simply flap my way across from my island prison to freedom! Assuming that these snaking paths actually lead anywhere.

Man, this is ridiculous. I'm miles away from a solid chunk of ground now, and running low on wing power. Once these run out I'm entirely trapped; I can't jump from path to path because I can't jump!

And there he goes again. The wings ran out a second too soon.

Well I suppose now I have to go back through the other four levels, collecting enough bucks to buy more Icarus wings from the mail order shop, assuming that the shop even sells the things. Maybe it sells something better, who knows, they're all just question marks to me.

Wait, I've got a better idea! I'm going to continually throw myself into enemies until all my lives are gone to see if the game features continues, saves or passwords!


LATER.


There's no continues, no saves, and no passwords, though I started up a new game as Earl and did eventually find some interesting and challenging enemy chickens! Also man-eating mail boxes, invisible bogeymen, and quicksand... joy.

I got up to floor 9 in the end as Earl without getting trapped this time, but the place looked a lot like floors 1-8 so I'll spare you the screenshots. I actually managed to slip past these tomato chickens and antisocial nerds with a decent number of lives left, but the game still beat me regardless. It bypassed my health gauge and eroded my willpower instead. I can't take any more of this, I give up.


CONCLUSION

ToeJam & Earl is... a randomly generated stack of floating grass islands with stuff on them as far as I can tell. If it's walking around, you dodge it, if it's got a dollar sign or a ribbon on it you grab it. You get the freedom to go anywhere in the stage, return to any island you've visited, but there's nowhere worth going. This game world is a miserable place to be, and you walk around it miserably slow.

And I was told that this was going to be Earth! What's the point of making a point of having the aliens trapped on our strange homeworld if it's going to be nothing like the planet in any way? It's just random videogameland, with enemy designs straight out of a ZX Spectrum game. It's rare that you have the ability to harm any of these weird and wacky creatures you come across though, so it's mostly about walking around things. Or trying to anyway, as some of them are faster than you, and chances are that those boxes marked ???? in your inventory ain't likely to help much.

I wanted to stick with it until the gameplay kicked in, but the longer I played, the less potential I saw in it. All the promise drained out, replaced with a vision of hula dancers keeping me locked in place with their siren song while imps slowly poked me with pitchforks... forever. Granted I only played it in single player mode, so maybe it's twice the game in co-op, but it'd have to be a whole lot better than that to encourage me to give it another look.

Basically, ToeJam & Earl is a wiener.


That's what I think anyway, but I've been known to be ENTIRELY WRONG about things before, so if you disagree with anything I've said here then feel free to say something in the box below. It's also good for agreeing with me, talking about my website, guessing what the next game is, or anything along those lines. So if you feel like leaving a comment, then by all means do so.

4 comments:

  1. Actually, this game is really funny in co-op =D
    And a maze-like world, with crazy guys and things trying to kill you with no reason.... this may be the best simulation of Earth I've ever seen in a game XD

    ReplyDelete
  2. it's described as being a roguelike

    I... had never considered that but it's sort of true. There you go, you're newer to the game than I am and you've taught me something I didn't know about it.

    No idea what that guy's about, he always jets off before I can even get close to him.

    You're supposed to sneak up to Santa then mug him for presents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But... that's horrible! Those gifts are meant for children!

      Some kid out there would've been waiting all year to finally get their own pet lightning storm or rocket skates, only to find on Christmas morning that there's nothing waiting for them under the tree and the news is saying that Santa's in hospital. Sorry kid, aliens exist and they've declared war on X-Mas.

      Delete
    2. It was the 90's. Mugging beloved children's characters was considered tubular back then.

      Delete

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