View Full Version : ToeJam & Earl III: All Funked Up (Xbox)

05-11-2002, 04:52 AM
The popular duo returns for a third adventure with a new look, a new objective, and new tricks up their funky sleeves.

The banner year for the Sega Genesis game system was 1991. Two years after its launch, suddenly it took off in popularity, many would say thanks to the debut of Sonic the Hedgehog as a game icon. Sega then took the little blue ball and ran with it, showing memorable commercials -- each featuring the now-legendary Sega Scream -- and inspiring all those involved to cut loose a little in their product development.

Another of the wild titles that came out around that time was ToeJam & Earl. The quirky TJ&E may not have had the impact of Sonic, though it did build its own cult following. Tracking the adventures of two rhythm-driven aliens stranded on Earth, the game featured a hilarious mix of cartoony characters and creatures, colorful settings, and the most unfunky Earthlings you could imagine. It was followed up by the Panic on Funkotron sequel, which wasn't seen by consumers -- and even its developers -- as an improvement on the original. Now, a third title is being built exclusively for the Xbox console. Prepare to get All Funked Up.

Rap it Up


The new voyage -- fully titled ToeJam & Earl III: All Funked Up -- is being planned by the developers as a return to what made the first game so much fun. Of course, it also will be "aged up" given the time that's passed since the first TJ&E and thanks to the technological strides in console hardware. Having the game on the Xbox has freed the developers to give the pair a rich 3D world, a multitude of things to do, and certainly build on their outrageous personalities. They rap and chatter along the way, and even have a few music videos that help pass the loading time.

A third playable character has also been added to the mix: the beautiful -- and blue --Latisha. She's an objet d'esire to ToeJam, and he talks a mean streak about them as a pair, but it's clear that Latisha is an independent and confident chick who can handle herself on the streets. She serves as a nice addition to the team, a different persona from the loping gentle giant Earl and the gangly, talk-his-way-out-of-anything ToeJam. During the task of retrieving the 12 vinyl albums that have been stolen and scattered around Earth, each of the characters' positive and negative attributes must be strategically factored in. For example, the charming Latisha automatically gets twice the presents that either of the other characters would in the same situation.


The game's extensive voice acting also helps to establish the characters. Earl's voice, as voiced by Greg Brown (better known as Oakland, California, rapper G-Nutt from the group DenGee), has a deep bassy tone and gives you the impression of Earl as the happy, slow-paced hulk. ToeJam, characterized by Kirk McHenry (a standup comic who's been seen on BET's Comic View), has a sharper, sassier rap that hardly ever stops. And Latisha, voiced by Sherrie Jackson (MTV and other hosting duties), is upbeat and friendly, though able to hold her own against adversity. Each playable character and those with which they cross paths utter little one-liners and phrases that are cute and humorous.

Groove is in the Heart

The theme throughout is to share the funk with others. In fact, funk becomes a "weapon" of sorts and comes in various forms, such as the powerful Funk Fu. Instead of harming foes, however, the funk "converts" them into less of a threat -- a heart symbol over their head fills up to signify that they're fully "funkified,"at which point they sprout big Afros and giant sunglasses, and generally act much cooler.

While the basic premise is to gather the dozen albums stole from Lamont the Funkopotamus -- are you sensing a funky trend here? -- TJ&E III is filled with variety and offers a ton of things to do -- and tons of ways to do them. Aside from the album search, there are various mini-games, such as matching rhythms in a "boss battle," and themed sublevels that are randomly generated for increased replay value. Each level is also filled with hidden items, which are easier to find in night scenes (there's an accelerated day/night cycle through the course of the game), but not always easy to discover.


It's hard to say that TJ&E III is an RPG, but it does feature ranks -- starting at "Weiner," then progressing to "Doofus" and so on -- as well as martial arts-like color "belts." As you become more accomplished, the belt color acts as a key to enable successful interaction with certain characters, which also extends the game beyond a simple linear design. And, as each album is found, its tracks are added to the game's background music providing a growing soundtrack for the gameplay. All of the music in the game is original and reminiscent of the classic '70s funk with cool beats punctuated by slap-bass thumps and… well, lots of funk.


Another feature is a two-player game; currently it's planned to be a cooperative mode, but the developers indicate that they may add competitive elements as well. A great innovation is that the dual game only goes to split-screen when the two characters move far enough away from each other that they can't be seen in the same frame. Best of all, the effect transitions pretty smoothly, so if the characters move in and out of the same range, the split-screen establishes and dissolves as needed.


Stereo Types

There's much to look forward to with this new ToeJam & Earl installment. It's colorful and entertaining on a basic level, it flashes back to and builds upon the original game and it has some edge to it, though with a twisted sense of humor. Truth be told, there are some aspects to which the overtly politically correct might object -- the urban feel and subjects that are the foundation for the game offer the potential for ethnic characterizations -- though it doesn't appear that the game is intended to make fun of anyone. It's something to keep in mind, just the same.

And if it's true that TV, radio, and other media broadcasted on Earth are also being beamed into the cosmos and through our galaxy, maybe there is a planet that's picked up on a groove and are planning to get down with some Earthlings. I wonder how I'd look with a bushy Afro, bell-bottoms, and a better sense of all that's funky… •



;) :D