ToeJam & Earl is a surreal-comedic action-adventure roguelike developed by JVP and published by Sega for the Genesis on July 21, 1991. The game stars two bodaciously funky alien rappers (three-legged red ToeJam and fat orange Earl) as they explore various floating islands (representing Earth) in order to find pieces of their wrecked spacecraft.
The game received two sequels: ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron (a 1993 side-scrolling platformer for the Genesis) and ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth (a 2002 action-adventure platformer for the Xbox). The original game was re-released on the Wii (via Wii Virtual Console) on December 22, 2006 and both the Xbox 360 (via an Xbox Live Arcade compilation) and PlayStation 3 (via PlayStation Network) on November 7, 2012 (as part of the Sega Vintage Collection series).
The entire game revolves around collecting presents, gathering ship pieces, and fighting or avoiding enemies. In this surreal world, Earth consists of hundreds of suspended grass platforms in space, sometimes containing water or sand. The levels are scattered with Earthlings, who, without an offensive weapon at the aliens' disposal, must be avoided at any cost.
The game has two modes. In the first, "Fixed Mode", all the levels are pre-created and will be the same every time the game is played. In "Random Mode", the levels are all randomly generated and populated with presents, earthlings, and ship pieces. This was one of the first games to popularize randomly generated levels. The game also featured a revolutionary version of split screen mode, where both characters would be on the same screen, but when far enough apart the screen would split, allowing each to continue on their way. The screen would then become a single one when the characters got close enough again.
The main goal is to collect all the pieces of ToeJam and Earl's ship. Once done, they launch off to their home planet and win the game. The player also wants to collect as many presents and cover as much of the map as possible. Covering map blocks and opening/identifying presents will net points, which allow ToeJam and Earl to level up. The player progresses through the stages by getting into elevators scattered across the levels.
- D-Pad - Move Around.
- A - Use item (if selected), Hold to sneak (if no item selected).
- B - Enter/exit present menu.
- C - Map, Toggle Between Use & Drop (if in present menu).
In co-op, when Toe Jam and Earl walk past each other perfectly they give each other a high five. Doing so averages out both players' health bars, which is especially useful if one is near death.
- Super Hi-Tops - Cover ground quickly, stay on top of custard. This item can be found inside presents, but it can also be found in special shoeboxes that look the same in every game and cannot be randomized.
- Jackpot - Gain five Bucks.
- Icarus Wings - Allows the player's alien to fly, at the cost of looking ridiculous, for a brief period of time by mashing A.
- Slingshot/ Tomatoes - Projectiles to kill enemies.
- Un-fall - When an alien falls down from one level to the previous one, Un-fall will bring them back up to the level they fell from. It will not allow the player to skip up a level; the player must have already reached the level above.
- Togetherness - Only available in a two-player game, allows the player who uses it to teleport to the other player's location.
- Extra Life - Instantly gain another life.
- Promotion - Instantly level up (see levels, below).
- Innertube - Cross water without drowning. Watch out for sharks.
- Rosebushes - The player character drops a rosebush directly beneath them when the player presses A. Unless the player character is moving when the rosebush is dropped, it will cause them damage. This rosebush will stay until another one is used (only one bush can be present at a time), and disappears once the present expires. This is okay for blocking the progress of more aggressive enemies like the lawnmower guy, mad dentist, & bees. It's not so effective against the boogieman, phantom ice cream trucks, or tornadoes. It's useless against devils, shopping cart women, or hamsters, because they be can easily outrun regardless. It can also be used to interrupt a hula sequence. Rosebushes do not work on sand.
- Decoy - Will distract enemies by having them attack this inflatable decoy instead of the player character. It will pop after taking a certain amount of damage.
- Boombox - Makes all the enemies start dancing, temporarily distracting them.
- Spring Shoes - Enables Toejam or Earl to spring to far distances. Good for jumping over gaps to islands or away from enemies.
- Randomizer - Resets all the identified presents to "????????" and re-randomizes the sprite graphics in case the player had any memorized.
- Total Bummer! - The player character instantly dies. Kills both the player character and their co-op partner if they're on the same screen.
- Earthling - Summons a random enemy right next to where the player character is standing.
- Rain cloud - Creates a rain cloud above the player character's head that shocks them at random intervals, dealing damage, for about two minutes.
- Book - ToeJam or Earl will read the book, which is so boring that they quickly fall asleep and become vulnerable to enemies. The player has to wake them up by tapping the controller buttons quickly. If both players on the same screen, both will receive a boring-ass book.
- Rocket skates - Causes the player character to fly off straight forward at high speeds, unable to stop. Great to get to the secret area on level 1. Not so great on any other level, as it might cause the player to fall down 5 or 6 levels by accident.
- Door - A doorway appears, a portal to a random point in the level. It could take the player to an elevator or a ship piece, or it could drop them on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, and they would have to fall down to the previous level to progress.
- Food - Good (read: delicious) food will heal the player character, bad (read: healthy or rotten) food will hurt them.
- Tomato Rain - Rains tomatoes on the whole level for a few minutes. This is both good and bad, good because if the Earthlings get hit with enough tomatoes, they'll die. Bad because the player also have to avoid the tomatoes or take damage.
- Grass - The player character will have normal movement speed on this terrain.
- Sand - Sand (which actually appears to be custard) slows them down. The longer they spend in it the slower they move, as the character eventually sinks up to their eyeballs. Super hi-tops will place you on top of the sand when used, as will contact with the other player.
- Road - On roads they will move twice as fast.
- Water - In water the health meter acts as a sort of air meter. It decreases while underwater, but returns to its prior state when the player character surfaces. This means the larger amount of health they have, the longer they can swim.
Earth is generally avoided by the intelligent races of the galaxy, as it has been conclusively proven that most Earthlings are completely out of their minds. Earthlings are scattered throughout the game, appearing more frequently on the higher levels, which also contain the more powerful enemies. In a fashion completely unique to this game, most enemy encounters are solved by simply escaping them. Since ToeJam and Earl mostly walk (unless they have a set of Super Hi-Tops active), they will have to walk in certain patterns to avoid enemy attacks or paths. Some presents will allow them to throw tomatoes as projectiles at the enemies to defeat them, but given the occurrence of these presents in the game world, it serves as more of a power-up than a primary weapon. Less common are the helpful Earthlings, who may perform a service for some bucks.
- Devil - These devious imps bounce around in unpredictable patterns. Try to walk circles around them if needed.
- Hula Girl - She will distract ToeJam or Earl with her sensuous dance if they walk near her, leaving them open to enemy attacks. Avoid the temptation at all costs!
- Bees - The bees do high damage and come after the player character quickly. Try to put as get as much distance from them as possible, or use rosebushes.
- Cupid - He will fire arrows at ToeJam and Earl that cause them to fall in love, stupefying them and randomizing the control scheme. It will wear off over time.
- Mailbox Monster - He appears to be a normal mailbox until the player gets very close. Then a horrifying, gaping maw opens up and he chases the player character down with his terrifying cry of "breee!".
- Hamster In A Ball - This hamster will follow the player character very slowly and try to flatten them. They should be able to outmaneuver him easily.
- Boogieman - Totally invisible unless moving or attacking. He'll set up ambushes, and when the player character is close it will grab them while shouting "Boogie Boogie Boogie!"
- Mole - The mole digs around the ground and cannot be attacked while underground. He will try to burrow underneath the player character and steal their presents. Stolen presents cannot be retrieved.
- Shopping Cart Lady - This mega-mart shopper pushes a crying kid in a cart around and is constantly getting in the player character's way.
- Insane Dentist - The crazy dentist will sprint at the player character at full speed and try to drill them while laughing maniacally. He's exceptionally hard to avoid, and the best bet is to stay away.
- Lawnmower Man - A fat man with a lawnmower and a cigar, who has an odd tendency to try to run the player character over with his bladed contraption.
- Nerd Herd - A cluster of fast-moving nerds that flattens the player character upon contact, dealing serious damage.
- Chicken Army - A group of chickens toting around a tomato-launching mortar cannon. The mortar is wildly inaccurate, but they fire a lot of tomatoes in one volley and they have a very long range of attack.
- Phantom Ice Cream Truck - This ice cream truck materializes out of thin air, runs the player character down, and disappears like a Boogieman. It repeats this process until the player character is dead.
- Dust Tornado - A fast moving dust tornado will sweep the player character off their feet. They spawn and move randomly on some of the higher levels with sand. If the player character gets sucked into one it will take them quite a distance and then dissipate, often over space or in water.
- Scavenging Mole - A moving dirt bump. If it catches up with the player character, a hole will open and they'll shake out a present or two. Sometimes the bump will stop and the mole will pop up out of the hole with a miner's hat on and look around.
- Shark - Sharks are only found in water, where they will attempt to bump into the player character while humming the theme to Jaws. This is dangerous, because health is already constantly draining while the player character is in the water, unless they have an innertube, but this is not their biggest threat: that would be a major bug that causes the game to lock up and freeze if the player character jumps into water and land on top of a shark, leaving the player with no other option but to reset or turn off the system and lose all progress.
- Wise Carrot - This wise old man in a carrot suit can be seen pacing back and forth. For two Bucks he will identify an unknown present for the player, allowing them to potentially avoid dangers like the Randomizer and even Total Bummer!s.
- Opera Singer - For three bucks this valkyrie will kill all onscreen enemies with the power of opera.
- Wizard - The wizard will give the player character a full heal for a single Buck.
- Santa Claus - Santa is a rare Earthling that can be seen rummaging through his sack and warily looking around for threats. If the player character happens upon Santa, hold A to sneak (if they aren't using an item). Sneak towards Santa while he is rooting through his sack. If he looks up, stop and stand in place. Don't continue moving until he looks down and roots through his sack again. If the player makes it all the way over to him and touches him, he will drop two or three presents before flying off. If he sees the player character moving, he will fly off immediately. A popular Game Genie code for the game made Santa Claus the only type of Earthling to appear, making the game significantly easier.
Present Island & Level 0
If the player collects two inner tubes, two pairs of rocket skates, two sets of Icarus wings, or any combination of those items equaling 2 or more, they can access either of the secret islands on level 1. The first, Present Island, is in the upper right corner of level 1. It is literally covered with presents.
The second, Level 0, is a secret area that can be accessed by falling through a hole in the lower left corner of level 1. On level 0, the player character can drink from a lemonade stand for an extra life, or chat up some babes in a hot tub, which will heal all wounds. To get back to the highest level the player was on, jumping off the side of the Level 0 will let them fall back to it.
While playing the game, opening and revealing presents along with revealing more and more of the map will level up the player. Each present opened earns 2 points while each square revealed earns 1. Gaining a level will result in an increase to the player's life bar and in some cases will grant extra lives. Here are the following levels with corresponding point requirements:
- Wiener (beginning level)
- Dufus (40 points)
- Poindexter (100 points and an extra life)
- Peanut (180 points)
- Dude (280 points)
- Bro (400 points and an extra life)
- Homey (540 points)
- Rapmaster (700 points)
- Funklord (880 points and an extra life)
This game includes a beat machine with which the player could make beats with different drums and sound effects.