Monday, February 10, 2014

The Bechtloff's Book of Genesis: Toe Jam and Earl

I never got to play this game as a kid, I remember hearing about it, but just never played it. It's considered one of the great classics on the Genesis library, and as such copies can be pretty expensive for a Genesis game. But last week I bit the bullet and got myself a copy and I gotta say, I just don't get it.

First of all, the game is not at all what I expected. I mean it's a cartridge era mascot type game, so I assumed it would be a side scrolling platformer. Well it's not, it's a top down perspective dungeon crawler. "Crawler" being an apt word because unless you're using one of your power ups you walk around at an aggravatingly slow pace.
The idea here is that Toe Jam and Earl are aliens that have crash landed on Earth and must find the parts of their space ship to rebuild it and go home to their planet Funkatron. You start out on an island surrounded by water than you take elevators up to various islands floating in space because....ummm...I don't know. In fact, "I don't know" pretty much my feelings for this game. You have to avoid all sorts of nonsensically random enemies like devils, cupids, moms with babies in shopping carts, dentists, and giant hamsters in hamster balls. Most of the time the enemies barely seem aware of your existence and the only reason they hit you is you move so damn slow.

And then there's the power ups. You can get present boxes that you can go into your inventory to open that either give you a power up, or somehow blow up in your face. No way to tell. Like you could open it up and bees would come out and kill you. Even the "good" power ups are terrible, like when you get rocket skates and inevitably run right off the cliff.

On the plus side the graphics were good for an early Genesis game and the sprites and character designs are pretty cool. And the music is simply amazing. But beyond that I really don't see the appeal. I've heard this described as brilliant and subversive social commentary, and I really don't see it. There are no real gags here, just a bunch of random shit thrown together. I know I'm in the minority opinion on this one, but I give this game a measly one and a half red alien Flava Flav analogues out of five.

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