There’s only one videogame that every member of my family has played, and continues to play after 18 years:
My brother comes home from Japan (the Land of Videogames) after working there a year, and what’s the first thing he wants to do? Play Toejam & Earl with me. So we play Toejam & Earl, and we still love it.
And for good reason: its funk soundtrack is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the greatest to ever be committed to cartridge. Its cartoon stylings capture perfectly the dissonance between our duo of chillaxed aliens stranded on a frenetic, hostile Planet Earth. It was both an hilarious parody of hip hop culture and a devilishly clever satire on modern Earth life. In an age when local multiplayer is treated as indulgence, and cooperative play a fiscal liability, Toejam & Earl represents one of the most delightful experiences that can be shared with two controllers. All of these things comprise the funny, funky package that is Toejam & Earl, but they are not reason enough for its remarkable longevity. There are many other titles that could be said to be “the full package” and yet I can almost guarantee I won’t be playing them in 18 years time.
Those who have played Toejam & Earl will find all this talk of packages to be rather apt. The game is every bit as surprising as the wrapped gifts that feature so prominently in it. If I could summarise the essence and appeal of Toejam & Earl in a single word, that word would be ‘Random’. No two play-throughs of Toejam & Earl are ever the same, lending the game virtually limitless replay value. Let’s explore this Funkotronian phenomenon to see how it achieves this rare feat.