Retro Let's Play: ToeJam & Earl (1991)

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by elvis, Nov 15, 2018.

  1. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Retro Let's Play for late November 2018: ToeJam & Earl

    Developed by Johnson Voorsanger Productions and published by Sega for the Sega Megadrive and Genesis in 1991. It is currently ranked number 29 on HG101's Top 47,858 games of all time.

    To find out what this is and why we're doing it, click here.

    ToeJam, a red, three-legged alien, and his best friend Earl, an orange, fat alien, are two of the raddest dudes in the whole galaxy. They're travelling in their space ship back to their groovy home planet of Funketron, when Earl's crazy driving sees them crash land on an awful planet called "Earth".

    Inspired by classic games like Rogue and Nethack, ToeJam & Earl follows the groovy aliens on their quest to find their broken spaceship parts and get back home. It came out very early in the Megadrive's life, and never found an official release in Japan.

    The game features very little combat, with only a few ways to actually fight enemies. Playing either in one or two player mode (with the latter being worth the effort if you can find a retro gaming buddy), you must traverse the "levels" of Earth searching for the components of your spacecraft in order to rebuild it and return home.

    Like Rogue, the game has a variety of randomised elements. Firstly the entire world itself can be played either on a fixed set of maps (definitely beatable), or on a completely randomised world (potentially unbeatable if you're unlucky, but you get a different game each time).

    Within the game power ups, like the scrolls and canes of rogue-likes, come in the shape of presents. On each play through the contents of the presents change. Sometimes they can be helpful, and offer powerups or rudimentary weapons (in the shape of tomatoes to throw at enemies), speedups (high top sneakers) or harmful, like a school book that will instantly put your character to sleep, or a box of bees that will harm you! There is a character in the game that can identify an unknown present for you, for a fee. But often you're forced just to try one randomly and hope for the best.

    Artistically, the entire game is a massive piece of satire on early 90s west coast USA lifestyle. The main character wears a backwards cap and 90s rapper gold chain, with music heavily inspired by the likes of Herbie Hancock and Grandmaster Flash. Enemies appear as everything from nerds to crowds of tourists, chickens and mailboxes. And of course the language in the game, whether between the characters, or for your own level status, ranging from "wiener" and "poindexter" to "dude", "homey" and eventually "funklord".

    Two sequels exist. "ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron" which disappointingly changed the game to a bland side-scroller, and "ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth" on original XBox, another bland game, this time in 3D. Neither captured what was likely only possible at a given point in time of the first game. A crowdfunded roguelike sequel was recently floated, but appeared to fail in reaching funding goals.

    This first title remains the best of the series, and very much worth playing.

    Playing the game:

    The original Megadrive cartridge still often pops up on eBay for slightly less insane prices than most retro games. Although in 2018 it's hard to know if you're getting a genuine product or a Chinese clone cart, the latter of which can also be easily purchased from places like AliExpress.

    Conversely, Sega do an excellent job of making legal emulation of old games available. ToeJam and Earl is playable on Steam right now for the ludicrously low price of US 99c :
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/71166/ToeJam__Earl/

    Releases also made it to the PS3 and XBox 360 online stores.

    More info:
    * Mean Machines Magazine review:
    http://www.meanmachinesmag.co.uk/review/204/toejam-earl.php

    * Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ToeJam_&_Earl

    PAL Box art:

    toejamandearl.jpg

    Long Play video:

     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  2. power

    power Member

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    I just could never get into this game, not a fan of the controls but love the sense of humour. this game needs a modern re-imagining stat.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    By all accounts that's what the attempted Kickstarter remake was going to be - hand drawn HD graphics, smoother engine, but the same roguelike experience.

    I tried playing the original waaaay back, and hated it. But since then I've played quite a bit of Fatal Labyrinth and Dragon's Crystal (both pleasingly Sega gems as well), and developed more of a taste for roguelike.

    I'm going to carve some time out of my very tight game playing schedule (largely dominated by RDR2 currently) and have another go at this one to see if my opinion's changed.
     
  4. Rass

    Rass Member

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    Remember this TV advert?

     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Had a very quick play on the weekend, and definitely enjoyed it more than last time I played it.

    Last time I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. This time (a) I read the manual:
    https://classicreload.com/sites/default/files/TJE_md_us_manual.pdf

    And (b) had played "Fatal Labyrinth" and "Dragon's Crystal", and developed more of a love for rogue-likes.

    Keen to play some more during the week if I can.
     
  6. Grant

    Grant Member

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    Oh man, they say this game was ahead of its time, but the level what we'd call emoji in that manual is through the roof!
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Sunk a solid hour into this today. Oddly enough I think the game crashed on me - getting in the elevator on level 6 saw me go up forever, and never reach the next stage.

    I tried restarting, but couldn't go through all those early levels again.

    While I enjoyed it initially, by modern standards this is tough. There's much better rogue-like games out there (I keep mentioning "Fatal Labyrinth", but it is pretty fun), and this doesn't really offer enough new stuff on each play (even randomised) to keep me coming back.

    I think they dropped the ball on the music. What's there is great, but there just needs to be more of it. More tracks and more variety could have been added for not too much extra space, and that would have helped enormously.

    Good for a laugh, but I can't understand why this is so high on the Top47K games list.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    A proper sequel (not the horrific platformer or 3D versions that came out a few years back) is due for release March 1 on all major computer and console platforms. Limited Run Games will be handling physical release on PS4 and Switch, the rest will be digital releases.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ToeJam_&_Earl:_Back_in_the_Groove

     
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  9. Grant

    Grant Member

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    The remake might be interesting, I think the consensus is it was a neat idea at the time with awesome aesthetics, but it was too immature of an action-roguelike to hold up to modern games. Hopefully the remake is a little closer in scope to what was probably originally intended.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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  11. power

    power Member

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    I should give this another go now that i have it on Switch.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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