Thursday, October 22, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Toe Jam and Earl

Retro Game of the Day! Toe Jam and Earl

Toe Jam and Earl for Sega Genesis, released 1991. What the heck is this madness!!!

Okay, a strange little game to be sure. An inspired roguelike, if that means anything to you, TJ&E puts you in command of 1 of 2 hip-hop-funky-fresh aliens who must crawl the "landscape" of Earth searching for remnants of a destroyed spacecraft, so that the two "funked-out interplanetary travelers" can be on their merry way. George Clinton, what have you wrought!

One of the more out-there games to appear on the Sega Genesis - or any system - this "Earth" is represented as a series of random vertically arranged platforms, inhabited by strange beings (armies of chickens, mailbox monsters, evil Icecream Trucks, roving packs of Nerds). Actually it doesn't sound terribly dissimilar to the real thing, come to think of it.

To progress, the player finds "presents" (power ups) which will aid or deter in the journey, and to advance up a platform they must locate elevators. The game is largely kid friendly (abstract and cute, non-violent) and combat consists of tomato-tossing. So, after all of this - what is the draw of this game, exactly?

The draw comes in the surreal presentation and execution. TJ&E is nearly the videogame equivalent of "hanging out," in a way. Everything is randomly generated, so it's never the same game twice - with 2 players, the characters can interact or split up and explore individually. There's definitely fun to be had, but the game is not what you'd consider fast-moving (or ever any kind of hectic, really). For me, I could just have a good time at the title screen posing the characters and making them spout digitized phrases "Jammin'! Jam-jam-jammin'! B-I-I-I-G EARL!!!"

TJ&E enjoyed some cult love, and were initially pushed by Sega as mascots to follow in the footsteps of Sonic the Hedgehog - this was ultimately not one of "those kinds of games" however, and the franchise never got much further. Still, for what it was, TJ&E was an interesting and fun little romp back in the day. It might look a bit dated now (between tech and style), but it was a fund and weirdo adventure, for what it was..

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