Inside Pulse 12

Review: ToeJam & Earl III: Mission To Earth

ToeJam and Earl 3: Mission To Earth

System: Microsoft Xbox

Genre: Platform

Release: October 2002

When ToeJam and Earl was first released on Sega Genesis in the early 1990s, it was totally new and unique. It followed two aliens, ToeJam and Earl on their quest to find pieces of their broken spaceship. Encompassing a cool and relatively new isometic style, the first game had a style all its own, and exciting fresh gameplay to match. The game was based around finding presents and traversing large landscapes (which changes with each game played). In addition, the original made incredible use of a two player simultameous mode, showing players together on screen when nearby, and splitting the screen when ToeJam and Earl got too far apart.

After a critically panned second game (which was itself a fresh, fun side scrolling adventure, but not in the class of the original), the series largely became dormant. It was announce for Sega Dreamcast soon after that system was launched, but it was delayed for a long time, and eventually transferred to an Xbox project once Dreamcast was killed.

Now it’s finally here, nearly 10 years after the original first crash landed onto Genesis. Have the years been kind to the space aliens who have the funk?

Gameplay

ToeJam and Earl 3 features three playable characters, ToeJam, Earl and Latisha (the duo’s new female partner). Each of them have different characteristics, with Earl being fat slow and powerful, Latisha being faster, etc.

The game plays very similarly to the original Genesis game, with large 3D levels with various obstacles and items to collect. The main task is to collect the missing funk records which are needed to save the galaxy. In addition, there are keys, presents and other assorted items to collect. However, the game is not a platform game in its truest sense.

Each level has several tasks that ToeJam, Earl or Latisha must complete. It’s usually a mix of collecting presents, converting humans and collective keys, although there are some more unique tasks. In that sense, the game is a bit more linear than the Genesis original, which had a more wide-open task of finding the ship pieces across all levels.

The three characters all have “Funk Fu” which is the primary means of attack. There are also musical notes that can be collected and fired off at the enemies. Many types of gifts fill out the offense with added power ups, and the identity of them is sometimes hidden so that it has to be identified. However, the identification process often costs money, which is also a collectible in the game. Something that adds some variety to the gifts is that some are detrimental, like evil skates.

One of the more unique ideas in the game is that each of the levels are random. The locations of enemies and powerups changes each game, which adds to the replay value.

Graphics

The game begins with a very lengthy (it seemed like about ten minutes) video bringing the story of the latest game to life. The quality of the cartoon is very high, but some of the voices leave something to be desired. The voice of ToeJam in particular seems stuck in 1992, saying “ah-ight” many times like a rap star before the hardcore rap revolution of the mid 1990s. Earl and Latisha have more universal characters.

If anything, the graphics in Toejam and Earl 3 are the best feature. They are extremely clear and detailed, and the environments are large and impressive. The game has the Dreamcast graphics style, which any diehard fan of that console will appreciate. Everything seems smooth and colorful, with nothing jagged or harsh. There is actually a good amount of fading/draw in on the levels, but it doesn’t really impede gameplay.

The character models are very well done, with each main character having tons of animation, and enemies and allies all having unique personalities through their movements. The camera is very good in most instances, and objects that obscure view are faded out of sight.

In all, the graphical presentation of ToeJam and Earl 3 is unique and impressive.

Sound

The music is an interesting mix of funk and rap, and the results are as eccelectic as one would expect from that mix. The funk songs have a good beat and set a nice backdrop to the in game levels. The cutscenes and loading screens have more robust funk/rap numbers which are also well done, but are sometimes repetitive. Then, at the beginning of each new level is a strangely placed Gospel performance by a trio of black ladies. These add a quirky funny element to each level that adds to the overall feel of the game.

The voices are sometimes entertaining, but have a tendency to get grating at times. At first they are funny and unique, but since there are so many of them, they get repetitive and annoying. The characters of Earl and Letisha are at least palatable, the ToeJam just is horrible.

Fun Factor

With the gameplay true to the original and the graphics bright, vibrant and detailed, ToeJam and Earl 3 would still be a failure if it wasn’t fun to play. And fun it is. From the opening movie all through the unique presentation and gameplay, ToeJam and Earl 3 is just fantastically fun.

Wandering around levels is usually fun, just to see all the crazy enemies and levels themselves. Everything bursts with color and excitement, and it rarely gets tedious (except the dialog!).

Ratings

Gameplay: 8

Graphics: 8.5

Sound: 7

Fun Factor: 9