ToeJam & Earl (SG)

Nine long years it took me to beat this game. Nine long years of walkthroughs, FAQs, Game Genie, and secret lemonade stands.

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  • System: Sega Genesis
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Max Players: 1-2
  • US Release: June 1991
  • Developer: Johnson-Voursanger Productions
  • Publisher: Sega

Nine long years it took me to beat this game. Nine long years of walkthroughs, FAQs, Game Genie, and secret lemonade stands. Nine long years of asking friends for help. Nine long years of sleepless nights spent in front of the glowing television screen. Nine long years of frustration. Finally, I have beaten this game.

“But Paul!” you exclaim, in utter disbelief. “You’re the Editor-in-Chief of GameCola! A real professional! How could it possibly take you so long to beat this game?!”

“This is not your typical game,” I respond, the worlds lingering in space for several moments. “This game requires patience, and offers little in reward. This game causes frustration, and will oft leave you in tears. This game is quite depressing, and is one of my favorite games of all time.  This…” I pause, and your eyes beg for me to continue. “This…is ToeJam & Earl.”

A goofy 16-bit cutscene lays down the story as we begin a new game of ToeJam & Earl. Both aliens from the planet Funkatron, the lanky ToeJam and the portly Earl were cruis’n through space in their highly funky, ultra cool Righteous Rapmaster Rocketship when Earl caused the spacecraft to strike an asteroid and crash-land onto Earth’s surface. Upon impact, the ship shattered into ten pieces, scattered all throughout this bogus planet. Conveniently, each piece landed atop twin marble pedestals adorned with an illuminated purple sign, causing them to be quite visible as our intergalactic funk lords go about retrieving them. This is what TJ&E (as we happenin’ hipsters call them) spend the game doing—traveling via elevator throughout the apparent twenty-five levels of Earth locating the lost pieces of their ship so they can piece it together and jet back to Funkatron.

tjesn1Suffice it to say, the game would be kinda sucky if all you did was prance about the dandelions gathering up your fins and megawatt speakers and whatnot, so thankfully this Earth is teeming with aliens who want nothing more than to both poke and prod TJ&E. You’ve got devils, moles, evil dentists, “nerd herds”, angry bald men with lawnmowers, chickens with tomato-firing cannons, etc., all of whom are either trying to snuff out our bodacious protagonists or push them off the edge of the world.

The latter is this title’s greatest source of frustration, because falling off the edge means going back to the previous level, making your way back to the elevator, getting back into the elevator, heading back up to the level from which you fell, and starting back at the beginning of that level. It’s not uncommon for you to fall down three or four levels at a time, thus going through that tedious process three or four times. The weaker gamers among us will probably hit their little sisters with a Genesis controller; those strong like me will work through this frustration and enjoy the challenge.

Suffice to say as well TJ&E aren’t totally by themselves in their excellent adventure. In addition to “good” earthlings (Vikings, man-carrots, etc.), this planet Earth is a cornucopia of powerups in the form of festively wrapped presents. These presents include Icarus wings, tomato slingshots, and doors, and are quite helpful in avoiding and/or defeating the earthling assholes. Of course, some presents, such as instant death, are not so helpful, and as the presents aren’t initially identified; there’s somewhat of a risk factor involved in the opening of them. The vaguely loose nature of the controls, despite their being simple to learn, adds to the established frustration of this hunting/gathering process, but not enough to hinder your enjoyment a whole heck of a lot.

TJ&E is a two-player game with a single-player mode. As in, single-player isn’t the main focus of this game. It was just thrown in to supplement that of dual gamers. When playing with a partner, the screen is split in half, unless you’re both in the relative same area. Then you both share a screen, and additionally, you share any presents opened. If near death, you can high-five your partner and steal his health, or if dead, you can appear as a ghost and steal his life.

TJ&E surpasses countless other Genesis titles in both sound and graphic quality. The pastel environments all end up looking the same, but a pleasant same it is. Characters, both enemy and friendly, are all quirkily animated, adding to decidedly goofy atmosphere that this game successfully strides for. Music is among the type that you’ll rip from the ROM and create a soundtrack of; the faux hip hop beats and catchy jingles will infect your ears for years.

TJ&E will keep you playing for years, with the random level generation (which, incidentally, creates an almost “loading time” between levels, quite bizarre for a cartridge-based game) and presents whose contents are inconsistent making every time through a new experience. The two-player mode is just awesome for a pair of intrepid adventurers, and single player is great if you’re home alone on a Saturday night, waiting for that phone call that just never comes. Word. If you have a dab of patience and can handle a bit o’ frustration, I guarantee that ToeJam & Earl will be one of the most fun games that you’ll ever have played. Just don’t open any presents marked “tomato rain”.

  • GameCola Rates This Game: 7 - Good
  • Score Breakdown

  • Fun Score: 8.7
  • Audio Score: 8.4
  • Visuals Score: 8.1
  • Controls Score: 4.6
  • Replay Value: 9.5
0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 100 votes, average: 0.00 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)

About the Contributor

From 2002 to 2013


  1. No. TJ&E is an arcade game begging for you to take it home and feed in quarters that it doesn’t want or need. It’s a failed attempt at dethroning Mario & Luigi as mascot gods. It’s a point and click adventure with too much action and not enough control.
    It’s a travesty that will give you Stockholm’s Syndrome and feed you sadness through your rosey nostalgia goggles.
    I had a SNES when I was a kid because my parents loved me. Every time I went to the rental store, I saw this funky beast on the shelf and thought it would be amazing. But when I finally got to experience it. I knew that I would never pick up a Genesis controller again. Nothing has ever let me down so severely that I wanted to give up games. Even when my heart was shattered going into college, I still had gaming to comfort the wounds. But Toejam and Earl. Thank Spaghetti the sequel was better. And not by much.

    1. Sort of comes across as though you haven’t played it, and if you have, for no more than five minutes. There are no arcade elements, and no point-and-click elements. The closest genre you could describe it as would be “roguelike”, due to its randomised map and obfuscated items.

      The rest of your comment is simply bizarre. “I had a SNES when I was a kid because my parents loved me.” Sheesh.

      1. Say what you will, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Mine just happens to be vastly different than the author’s. It TJ&E always felt Arcadey to me, in the worst ways. Granted I’ve only logged a total of 4 hours into the game but it’s nowhere near a masterpiece. I want it to be fun, I really do, and maybe it’s not because I never had a player 2 to play with.
        As for point and click, I just mean the awkward pacing.

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