Genre: Platformer Developer: TJ&E Productions Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
The original Toejam and Earl is my all-time favorite console game (or close to it), so needless to say, my expectations for the sequel were sky-high. And I will admit, Panic on Funkotron was a disappointment for me when I first picked it up. The unique gameplay of the original had been jettisoned and was replaced with a more traditional 2D platformer. I played this game through regardless and had some fun, but I wrongly compared it to games like Super Mario World, and it seemed like a mediocre sequel at best to one of my favorite games. The cartridge was soon collecting dust in my big pile o’ games.
I recently decided to try ToeJam and Earl 2 again, as I’m on a bit of a nostalgia bender lately. And with all of my personal baggage long since lost, I could appreciate the game on its own terms. And you know what? It’s a pretty good little game. It’s not quite in the hall of fame, but if you’re looking for a platform game with some unique concepts and personality to spare, give ToeJam and Earl 2 a try.
The plot is pretty simple. ToeJam and Earl have returned to Funkotron as heroes, but unfortunately, some wily humans stowed away on their ship as they left Earth. And naturally, those heinous Earthlings are now terrorizing Funkotron with their odd behavior and incessant lameness. ToeJam and Earl are commissioned to round up the Earthlings and send them back home, so everyone can once again live in peace and funkiness. Or something like that.
And how does one catch an Earthling? By tossing jars at one, of course. Your job is to go from level to level, chucking jars at the wily Earthlings and capturing every last one. Thankfully, you’ve got a little radar to help you track down the more elusive foes. You can also jump, of course, and collect presents for points and cash. You can even find portals into the Hyperfunk Zone, which sort of defies description.
One of the best aspects of Panic on Funkotron is that it’s a two-player game, as all ToeJam and Earl titles are. Two-player cooperative platformers are quite rare, and the experience works surprisingly well. In fact, this game pretty much demands to be played with two people, as the company of your friend will enhance the humor of the game, and help you stay sane during the more dry stretches towards the end.
One of the strengths of the original ToeJam and Earl game was its unique and charming personality, and that holds true here in the sequel as well. Your fellow Funkotronians are both funny and sweet, and the Earthlings are pretty humorous in their own right. I especially liked the phantom cows, and the naked guy who sings opera while hiding in a cardboard box. And no, I’m not making this up, nor am I on drugs. Nothing here quite rivals the majesty of the spectral ice cream trucks in the original game, but it’s still a good roster of enemies.
In fact, the game’s only real weakness is repetition. There are little side activities you can enjoy, like rhythm games and the spooky Hyperfunk Zone, but you’ll spend most of the game battling Earthlings with your bottles, or jars, or whatever they are. It’s fun for a while, but the thrill wears thin as the game rolls along, and the item-fetching quest that occurs late in the game is no picnic either. The reason the original game was so replayable was that you found all kinds of presents that let you do a lot of different things. You could fly with the Icarus wings, chuck tomatoes at your foes, rocket skate all over the place, etc. The more limited interface of Panic on Funkotron begins to feel a bit constricting after a while.
The game’s audio/video package is pretty darn smashing, though. All of the characters are large and well-animated, and the bizarre backdrop of Funkotron is implemented perfectly. As good as the graphics are, though, they’ve got nothing on the soundtrack. The music in this game is unbelievable for a 16-bit system… funky, fun, and full of bass. The melodies are very catchy, and even fuller than the songs in the original. Just awesome. Thumbs way up for the guys who did the music.
If you like quirky games with original concepts, by all means, take ToeJam and Earl 2 for a spin. While it doesn’t have the endless appeal of the original, it’s a fun little game in its own right, and the music is top-shelf. Just make sure you have good speakers, and a friend to play with you.
SCORE: 8 out of 10