reviews\ Nov 3, 2002 at 7:00 pm

ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth - XB - Review

The original Toejam & Earl on the Sega Genesis had you collecting presents, fighting off insane earthlings, and finding the exit elevator to move on through the game.


And frankly, so does this sequel.


Not that that's a bad thing, because it's most certainly not.  In fact, it's really a lot of fun.  We start off by choosing a character to play as: Toejam, the red alien DJ with a third leg; Earl, the yellow, fat, laid-back rapper; or Latisha, the newest addition, blue, bug-eyed, and well endowed.  Each have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Toejam is very fast and can jump high, but his funk-fu ability is rather weak.  Earl's funk-fu is stronger, and he has a larger life bar, but he's quite slow and can't jump high.  Latisha is a balance between the two, jumping a decent height and running at a nice pace, and she can also control obstacles such as tornadoes in later stages. 


What is this "funk-fu" I am referring to?  Funk-fu is your first means of attack, always available.  Pressing the X button will release a colorful wave of funk, in turn "funkifying" any earthlings it hits.  There are, however, other ways of converting the earthlings.  Not much farther into the game, you'll come across musical notes that you can throw at enemies.  Some will only need one or two notes to be successfully converted, but others will take a whole lot more.  Further yet into the game, you'll come across a third means of defense: Funk Rhythm.  By triggering a funk rhythm event, you will be asked to recreate a beat made up of X and Y button presses.  Some are quite simple and easy, but others are so complicated that they become ludicrous.  Successfully repeating rhythms will funkify any nearby aliens, and perhaps give you some extra points.


Which brings me to my next point: points!  This is the first platforming game that I can think of to include an excellent leveling up system.  Whenever you funkify the humans, they'll drop a bunch of stars.  Picking up these stars will add points to your total count, and eventually, you can visit the Wise Man in the Carrot Suit (don't ask) for a promotion.  When you get a promotion, your funk-fu belt level might go up (Yes, just like in karate, there are belt levels of Funk-fu), you might get a larger life bar, perhaps gain a stronger Funk Rhythm attack, maybe gain a life... the leveling up system is quite fun and you'll want to collect as many points as possible to see what you can gain.  Along with each promotion comes a title, such as "Dufus", "Poindexter", or the simple yet effective "Dude".  Your funk-fu belt level actually makes a difference, as some humans are protected by a shield that can only be penetrated by notes or a funk-fu attack with the power of the appropriate color.  Obviously, you don't want to waste notes when you don't have to, so there is motivation to level up.


You'll go around "Earth’s various ecosystems, such as grasslands, deserts, beaches, and arctic climates.  Each of these worlds have about six levels, unlocked by a certain amount of keys.  Inside the levels might be more keys, humans, microphones, presents, and more.  The microphones are used for unlocking bonus stages and battle stages that will allow you to travel to a new world.  In fact, my only real gripe with the game is that most of the level objectives never change.  A typical mission plays out like this: "Complete the mission, unlock Present A, Present B, Find the Exit Elevator."  Completing the mission basically means find the Funkotronian Agent, and take his present to another earthling on the map, who will in turn give you a microphone.  Unlocking presents simply consists of touching various podiums with certain presents on them; and you'll be able to use that kind of present from there on.  Thankfully, the bonus stages and boss battles make up for the lack of interesting objectives in levels - most of which don't need to be completed, by the way.  Finding microphones is of course necessary to continue on, but unlocking presents is optional.  The game has a very open feel to it, which I like.


The presents themselves are fantastic.  There are the standard power-ups, like root beer, orgasmic food, and sushi, that recharge your life.  There are some really nifty ones, however, such as Spring Shoes and Icarus Wings.  Spring Shoes will, well, give you a pair of shoes with springs that allow you to jump at an amazing height and travel to places you normally can't reach.  Icarus Wings will cause you to sprout a pair of wings and allow you to fly all over the stage.  These kind of presents only last for a limited amount of time, but they feel quite polished and they're awfully fun to use.  There are also defensive items, like Funk-Fu Blast, that will funkify all enemies nearby, and even ones that will trigger Funk Rhythms.  The presents can be accessed by pressing the B button, which will pause the game and allow you to choose what you wish to use.


The game's multiplayer mode is incredibly fun.  Each player chooses one character to play as.  When the two of you are standing close by, the screen will expand into one window to allow for a bigger view of the action, but when one gets too far away, the game goes splitscreen.  Various friends I've tested the game with call this feature "Very nifty", and I have to agree.  Also, when the two of you are close together, when one person uses a present, you both get to use it's power.  This option can be turned off, but I think it's pretty slick.  You can also share life by high-fiving, and experience points collected will be added to both players totals, so one is never really left behind.  This game is made to be played with a friend.


I've spent all this time talking about the game, and I've barely even touched on the graphics.  They are fantastic.  No, not quite Dead or Alive 3 calibur, but close. Textures are great, animation is smooth and clean (as is the framerate), the levels are colorful and varied, and the characters are, for the most part, really cool looking.  The water looks magnificent, with ripples and reflections and splashes as you jump in.  My only gripe is the draw distance, which isn't bad most of the time, but can become a pain when trying to look off into the distance.  The sound is well done, too, with voices sounding good and music decent.  The game is actually quite funny, but if you're playing with a child you have the option of turning the dialogue down to a nicer tone.  Honestly, there's sexual innuendo up the wazoo, with comments like "Hey Earl, wanna touch my pom-poms?" from cheerleaders holding very large pom-poms, and chants like "Ra Ra Ree! Kick him in the Knee!  Ra Ra Resticle!  Kick him in the--" I think you get the point.  The clips can get annoying after hearing them a few times, though, so you may want to turn the voice volume down after repeated playing.


Overall, Toejam & Earl 3 is great fun.  Playing with a friend is a great time, and playing alone isn't that bad either.  There's also a ton of replayability, with a second mode that creates completely random levels, and downloadable levels and characters via Xbox Live.  If it weren't for the lack of differing mission objectives, I'd have given this game a higher score.  Nonetheless, anyone should check this game out, and fans will not be disappointed. 



Gameplay: 8.0

Wow, this game is fun!  Romping through colorful environments, collecting presents, keys, and Albums of Funk has never been this fun.  The game has such an open-ended feel to it, since there's almost always more than one way to do something.  The only problem is a real lack of variety in mission objectives.  Downloadable content in the future via Xbox Live should make for a ton of replay value.


Graphics: 9.0

The graphics in TJ&E3 are very nice.  Textures are wonderful, animation is great, and most of the character designs are really cool.  Lighting and shadows give the funky environments a realistic touch.


Sound: 8.0

The main goal in the game is to collect the twelve lost Albums of Funk, and when you do, you can choose which one to listen to, each having several tracks.  None of the music is particularly great, but it never gets too annoying.  The voices are well done, although some of the clips can get tiresome after awhile.


Difficulty: Medium

The game starts off very simple and easy, but then the challenge is upon you.  It never gets insanely difficult, since you can often skip around levels, or go to find presents that will help you when you need them.


Concept: 7.0

This game is more like a 3D remake of the original Genesis title than a real sequel.  Nonetheless, there is enough new content to satisfy, and some of the presents are quite innovative.


Multiplayer: 9.5

This is the heart of the game.  Co-op plays wonderfully, with the best camera around.  You can share presents when you're in close proximity and share life by "high-fiving" each other, or limit yourselves to using only the presents and experience you collect.  Either way, this game is a riot with a friend.


Overall: 8.3

Don't go into Toejam & Earl 3 expecting a serious plot or extremely deep gameplay.  At it's heart, the game is all about collecting presents and funkifying earthlings; and it's a lot of fun, especially with a friend.  Take it upon yourself to rent this one, at least.  Fans should buy it immediately.  Go!


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