ToeJam & Earl
Sega - 1991
Machine: Sega Megadrive
This has to be one of the most laid back and fun games of all time. I suppose it's basic premise is hackneyed - especially now - but games with this much charm can only rise above cliché and over familiarity. Two aliens, who happen to be best friends, crash onto Earth. Their spaceship is in pieces and yes, you guessed it, they have to recover all of the missing parts so that they can escape this 'crazy' planet. Each level is a (relatively) vast, forced perspective map. You can tackle the level in any way you wish, giving you a refreshing level of freedom. It is possible to fall from the level that you're on, down to the level beneath (The levels are all stacked on top of one another, you see. In the same way that Earth is. Um.) Anyway, on each level Toejam and Earl have to try to find the elevator that will take them up to the next level. They need to look out for the all important spaceship parts as well. Since this is a two player game, you can split up so as to cover more ground more quickly. There are various baddies to avoid (killing them is difficult) but fortunately there are 'presents' to collect, most of which being quite helpful... When you pick up a present you can elect to open it straight away, or you can store it for later use. The gifts range from the useful (slingshots to kill the baddies,) the tasty and life restoring (ice cream sundaes) to the downright dangerous (rocket skates.)
As a two player co-operative game, this game almost reaches perfection. It is occasionally frustrating, but the anything-goes gameplay is such great fun, especially considering the vintage of the game. Some of the baddies ('Earthlings') are excellent and so bloody annoying it's untrue. I personally love the chickens with mortar cannons. And the Nerd Herd. And the Hula Girls...The 'Presents' idea is novel in that it adds a Russian Roulette angle to power-ups... Racing your mate with rocket skates has to be the most fun in the world... and then watching them fall to their doom can be too much to bear. There is so much in this game, so many distractions and brilliant touches. Sometimes, even the object of the game seems to become less important than the fun that you're having... and when that happens, you know that you're playing a classic.
Tip: On the first level, get some rocket skates or Icarus wings and fly to the BOTTOM LEFT of the level. There's a nice surprise for you and your buddy.
Bubbaray 06 Dec '02
The Official Site - Basic stuff.
Wikipedia's ToeJam & Earl page - Lots of great information.