STAFF REVIEW of Toejam and Earl 3: Mission To Earth (Xbox)

Sunday, December 1, 2002.
by Stephen Cameron

Toejam and Earl 3: Mission To Earth Box art The main objective of ToeJam & Earl III is to retrieve the twelve albums of funk which have been stolen from the Funkopotamous (also known as Lamont). You take control of one of three alien characters ? ToeJam, Earl, or newcomer Latisha. Each one has their own particular advantages such as better speed, jumping ability, and so on. Utilizing the art of Funk-fu as your main weapon, you must travel through various hub worlds, each containing a number of levels. These levels are randomly generated and can probably be best described as ?islands? in the sky. Along your journey you will collect various items, such as power-ups in the form of presents, food for health, and musical notes for a special ?funky? attack. Ultimately, you must defeat the ?Anti-funk? lest the world suc !&%$@#* b to all that is not funky.

As far as style goes, this is one of those games that you will probably either love or hate. If you?re into bizarre, off-the-wall characters and environments, and like to put your brain on pause for awhile, then this game will probably suit you just fine.

You move your character around using the left analog stick, while the right stick controls camera movement and zooming. The characters jump/fly using A, use their Funk-fu with X, throw musical notes with Y, and bring up the presents menu for health and power-ups with B. Control of the characters is very tight, and the camera movement is also very well done. If the viewpoint isn?t quite to your liking, a flick of the right trigger will quickly reposition it behind your character ? quick and seamless.

The gist of the levels is pretty much the same throughout the game ? unlock and collect presents for special abilities and power-ups, convert the humans to the funky side by attacking with your funk-fu or by throwing musical notes at them, and escape through the elevator once everything else is done. During levels, you will often have to travel from one island to another. This can be accomplished by jumping (with spring shoes), flying (with the Icarus wings), or even teleporting. I do appreciate the fact that although there are no obvious boundaries at the edge of the islands, you don?t just automatically fall off them when you get too close. Rather, you are given time to save face and pull back while your hero flails about in an attempt to regain balance.

As to the actual art of Funk-fu, you will often come across certain enemies who have a higher ?belt level? than your character, and as such, won?t be affected by your inferior Funk-fu attacks. Thus, you will have to rely on throwing musical notes at them to convert them instead. Of course, the catch here is that the musical notes must be collected throughout the levels and are in a limited supply. The two different methods both seemed to work well, and I never really found myself lacking musical notes when I needed them. The more humans you manage to convert, the more points or experience you receive, and once you reach a certain amount, you then become eligible to advance your Funk-fu belt level by speaking with a wise man.

If this all sounds relatively uncomplicated, that?s because it is. As I?ve stated above, you definitely won?t need your thinking caps for this one, boys and girls. This is for those of you who are looking for a fun(ky), mindless romp ? and not much else.

The graphics are a hit and miss. On the one side, we have wonderfully colourful and detailed worlds to explore. However, the draw distance is rather limited, and seeing as how much of the game plays out through travelling from island to island, this certainly gets irritating after awhile. Animations of the main characters are wonderfully fluid. The enemies, however, don?t seem quite as well done by comparison. There just doesn?t seem to be quite enough detail put into them. On the one hand, I suppose that their simplistic design, and the hyperactive way in which they move about fits the quirky mood of the game, but on the other hand, smoother animations and more detail is almost always a better thing, no? It?s not as if the Xbox is incapable of pulling this off, either.

Something that I didn?t particularly enjoy was the FMV sequences of the three heroes dancing to rap music during a lot of the loading segments. The designers probably intended this to be some form of entertainment to hold our attention while the game loads the next section, but I found it to be more obtrusive than anything. I realize that many of you out there probably could not even care less, but I enjoy continuity. If I see Earl jump into an elevator to take him back to a grassy knoll, then don?t suddenly pop up with a video of all three of them suddenly together bustin? some moves downtown for seven seconds. Stick with the program, people!

One would assume that a game which places such extreme importance on funk, funkiness, funkification, or not being swayed to the dark side of the funk, would certainly make an attempt to utilize that particular style of music well throughout. While the tunes that play during the course of the levels have a certain degree of funkiness to them, they certainly don?t stand out as anything spectacular. It?s very disappointing that there is actually no licensed funk music to be heard especially considering how many times they throw the word around in this game.

The Gospel Choir is not a bad touch. Each time you enter a new level, these three ladies sing a little tune about it ? giving you a bit of an idea of what to expect ahead. The quality of the singing is excellent, and although it?s done in FMV, it?s much more fitting than the out of place FMV dance sessions.

The heroes and other characters will spout off various one-liners throughout the game. While they are mildly entertaining at first, they quickly become repetitive, and consequently, annoying. It seems that every single time you come in contact with another character, a comment is made. I would have preferred that the chances of a comment being made were significantly less. The sound effects throughout are pretty standard fare. As I?m writing this, I can?t even recall one effect that stood out ? not the best of signs.

Ditch the FMV loading screens. Also, the game?s style is all over the map ? if it?s supposed to be all about funk then use it!

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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