ToeJam & Earl 2: Panic on Funkotron
ToeJam & Earl 2: Panic on Funkotron takes place on the hip-hoppin’ aliens’ home planet. Dozens of pesky humans have stowed away on TJ & E’s ship, and now they’re irritating the locals to no end. It’s up to our funky heroes to bag them all and ship them home. A weird (and slightly mundane) plot, but what else would we expect from this silly series?
The sequel mixes things up more than usual by switching genres. Instead of a Rogue-like, it’s a platformer. TJ & E can no longer split up; they are confined to a single screen. If one player remains off-screen too long, he'll die. The contents of presents they find are still sort of randomized, but they’ll always be good, and they come in a much smaller and less useful variety. Basically, everything that made the first game special other than the humor and musical references has been excised in favor of increased mainstream appeal.
That said, ToeJam & Earl 2 is not a bad game. You get to run through its 17 levels solo or in co-op, hunting down obnoxious earthlings and trapping them in jars like they deserve. I’ve wanted to do that to my bosses at work a few times over the years, let me tell you. Speaking of co-op, during the occasional section in which the characters bounce on sponges, the first player controls both characters until they land. The sponge bouncing is annoying any way you slice it, so perhaps the designers actually did player two a favor in that regard.
Panic on Funkotron’s lack of bosses or much urgency to the plot doesn’t exactly make for a compelling adventure, though the dialogue between TJ & E and their NPC friends can be amusing. The characters are large and detailed (though both games are lacking in animation frames), and the backgrounds boast plenty of sweet parallax scrolling. The controls and movement feel a bit off, like most American platformers from the nineties, but they get the job done.
Like other Sega Vintage Collection XBLA releases, Sega Vintage Collection: ToeJam & Earl has some nice extras you wouldn’t find in the original cartridges. These include beautiful 3D menus that recreate the Sega Genesis hardware and several objects from the games, graphical options and filters, new widescreen borders, the ability to play the American or European ROMs, and more.
The best additions are undoubtedly online multiplayer and save states. Unfortunately, only the first player gets Achievements, whether playing online or offline. The first player actually has to perform the Achievement’s action, too; you don’t get credit for anything that Earl does. Considering these games are flat-out intended to be played in co-op, such an oversight (which also plagues the other SVC games) is a big mistake. Hopefully M2 will stop arbitrarily denying Achievements to the second player in future games.
Achievements aside, Sega Vintage Collection: ToeJam & Earl is a terrific co-op collection. The original game is the star of the show, and well worth the price of admission on its own. Think of the second game as a bonus. I’m so glad SEGA has preserved this stylin' series for today’s gamers. Let’s hope they publish the seldom-played ToeJam & Earl 3 on XBLA and PSN someday as well.
Sega Vintage Collection: ToeJam & Earl costs 800 Microsoft Points ($10) and you can find it here at Xbox.com.
The Co-Op Experience: Team up as ToeJam and his buddy Earl through both games.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.