Back in the early 90’s when rap music was first starting to become popular, SEGA created some contemporary video game characters to go along with the trend. Toe Jam & Earl are two funky hip aliens who were big time stars back in the SEGA Genesis 16-bit days. Now you can enjoy the first two games in the series with SEGA Vintage Collection: Toe Jam & Earl downloadable for Xbox 360 (both games are also sold separately on PS3).
Toe Jam & Earl was a fairly unique title for 1991. In the game you can play as either Toe Jam or Earl, or both in co-op mode. The two funky aliens crash land on Earth, and now must find the parts to their ship so they can get back home. You’ll explore a weird version of Earth from an overhead perspective as you avoid wacky enemies like giant hamsters in balls, hula girls, and ladies pushing shopping carts. Hidden on some worlds are parts for your spaceship, find them and search for the elevator to reach the next level. Pick up presents to give you helpful power-ups, but watch out because some of the presents are traps. You’ll never know what you’ll get until you open one! You can choose to explore a fixed world or a randomly generated one, so in a way the game is kind of like a dungeon crawler.
Toe Jam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron was released in 1993 and was a bit of a departure from the first game. The two aliens make it back to their own planet, but some Earthlings hitched a ride and are scaring the locals, so it’s up to Toe Jam & Earl to catch all the Earthlings and send them on a rocket back safely home. But Panic on Funkotron took the form of a 2-D platformer. You could still play as both aliens at the same time, but now you must use a radar to search high and low for Earthlings, throw magic bottles to capture them, and then find the rocket in each level to take them home.
Be careful, because when you search behind bushes or shake trees, either helpful presents could pop out or you could get conked on the head with a bowling ball or trash can! And some of the Earthlings can be dangerous, too, and including shin-kicking bratty kids, obnoxious tourists with flashing cameras, and even weirder oddities like ghost cows that can possess you! While both games have obnoxious colors, the graphics in the sequel are especially good, and really give the game personality. The collection allows you to save replays, listen to the games’ music, and even play co-op online. Even though both entries are a bit dated and can be insanely difficult at times, gamers who had special memories of these titles in the past, or anyone curious about what made these games so beloved will definitely want to download this.
Kids will love the cartoony characters, but might get frustrated at the unclear goals and slower paced gameplay of the first game. Plus, while it starts out easy, the first game gets pretty difficult later on, and the sequel is always difficult. However, there is one saving grace in the sequel. Panic on Funkotron has a “Lil’ Kid Mode” where you can’t die. You can only reach level 5 in this mode, but it’s long enough for little gamers to have fun with (although the last level has some tricky bubble jumping). Two players can go at the same time, so that’s a plus, too. Reading skill is helpful for the text instructions. SEGA Vintage Collection: Toe Jam & Earl is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Comic Mischief.