One of the most creative games ever made, TJ&E is pure fun for the Mega Drive, and a classic of 16-bit era.


Anyone who had a Mega Drive in the 90s must remember the masters of funk, ToeJam & Earl. No matter if you liked the genre, it was hard to ignore one of the most important releases of the Sega console in the early of the decade.

Part of any respecting list of classics from the 16-bit era, TJ & Earl is a must-have. With unusual gameplay for the standards of the time – when sidescroll platformers were the rule – this one came with the collaborative method, in which 2 players can follow different paths on the map, sharing the screen while exploring the strange levels in search of the pieces of their spaceship. Always harassed by annoying, insane and rhythmless enemies: us, the earthlings.

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With a funny cliché (smart skinny guy and chubby goofball, get it?), memorable sound and graphics full of crazy details, ToeJam & Earl was guaranteed fun for any age. And it will always be.

ToeJam & Earl dançando

Welcome to the jungle

In the far reaches of the galaxy, a small planet called Funkotron is home to aliens who breathe funk and hip hop. During a space walk, the native ToeJam lets his clumsy friend Earl pilot the ship Funkotronic for a bit. Trying to impress him, Earl starts maneuvering between asteroids.

The obvious result: they crash and fall to Earth. The ship is in pieces, scattered across the strange planet. Now, they have to recover the fragments to restore Funkotronic and return to their beloved home.

But they soon realize it won't be easy: the Earthlings are a bunch of psychotic, weird and dangerous lunatics, ranging from groundhogs to nice Santa Clauses, hysterical ladies with shopping carts, crying children and homicidal lawnmowers. They don't seem willing to collaborate in the aliens' departure and will be in their way in every way possible.

Here and there and everywhere

Earth is designed as a bizarre place, made up of blocks of land surrounded by space, like stacked floating islands, connected by elevators. Playing alone or in collaborative mode, you level up finding the elevator, lost on the continent.

You must scrutinize every corner in search of the most important items, which are a piece of the ship and the elevator itself, as well as extras, such as gift boxes and money. There is things all around, so it's important to roam.

carrinho de mercado ToeJam
Have you ever been hit by some crazy lady at the supermarket? They kind of do.

Leveling up doesn't mean you've beat the stage for good: if you make a mistake and fall into the abyss, you'll be back on the "floor" below. There's a map, which is revealed little by little; if you hear a phone ringing, look for it in the surrounding area and answer it quickly. This way, distant parts of the map are revealed.

Playing in cooperative mode is the best part of TJ&E. More than being able to go in opposite directions, making it easier to explore the map, friends can also share energy: do a high five and your bars are split. Total friendship.

Only after collecting the essential items of the level, the elevator will be used to go up, and so on up to the 25th level / island / floor. The difficulties increase, with larger, more complicated maps and dangerous enemies.

People are strange

nerds em ToeJam & Earl

While the natives of Funkotron are smart (Earl not so much), the Earthlings are the craziest weirdos you can imagine. Some even help, like Santa Claus, who passes by and, if you have good aim, leaves you gifts – although some of them might be more like trojan horses.

The wizard, the Viking opera-singing and the Carrot Man (?!) can appear randomly and restore your energy, or identify the contents of the gift packages in your inventory. Their work must be paid for, but don't worry, because Earthlings, in addition to being crazy, lose money: you'll find bills very often.

Some enemies are less harmful, like the group of nerds who pass by at high speed, but have little direction. The Hawaiian hula dancers leave the two enchanted, vulnerable to nearby enemies until the effect wears off. Cupid shoots arrows and if hits you, your controls are affected (putting ↓ can take you to ↑, for example).

ToeJam passando de mansinho
Move slowly close to enemies sleeping to don't wake them up.

Others are annoying, like the chickens with cannons, who cackle and shoot tomatoes non-stop. The mole digs holes until it appears underneath you (if it catches you, you will lose your gift boxes) and the mad dentist, with long legs, easily catches up with the characters in the race and can do a lot of damage using the drill. The shadow appears anywhere and with a "Boo", takes away a lot of energy.

There are the more harmful ones, though, capable of annihilating you before you react, like the hamster in the plastic ball, angry bees, the shark (be extra careful when entering the water) and the man with the lawnmower: if you get caught by them, you will almost certainly die. The ghost ice cream truck is another tricky one: it materializes anywhere, running over you to the edge of the levels, throwing you a level down.

But most of them are as dangerous as stupid: it is not uncommon to see them in packs, sleeping. When you see it, walk past them quietly (hold the A button while moving) to  don't wake them up. The comical design is top notch.


Comida em ToeJam & Earl
A watermelon, then maybe a pizza?

You will find food and drinks around, and they can increase your energy. They "can", since this doesn't always happen: in addition to delicious cakes, sundaes, fruits and slices of pizza, there is spoiled food such as moldy cheese and bread, old cabbage, poisonous mushrooms, rotten fish and other delicacies.

Contrary to recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, in the game, the more calories and tastier the food, the more life it restores. A sundae or pizza fills your life much more than an apple, watermelon or vegetables (broccoli probably isn't good for aliens, because it takes energy away instead of giving it; cabbage is always old).

Root beer fills your energy, but it will make them burp, slowing down your movements.

galinhas com canhão
Which other game would have enemies like chickens with tomato cannons?

Despite this maybe politically incorrect fat-energy relationship for today's world, the game is light and the most lethal weapons are those that shoot tomatoes, such as the slingshot and the tomato rain.

Among the tools are sneakers for better running, jet skates, clone balloons (to distract enemies), wings (to access secret parts in the map) and the unforgettable Boombox, an 80s big radio that plays rap music and makes the earthlings dance while you safely flee away.

The items are disposable, being effective for a limited time and then disappearing. If you raise up to another level using one, it continues to work until its time is up. Overall, they are quite varied, rich and creative.

Mundane dangers

morto pela caixa de correio em ToeJam & Earl
Be smart with mailboxes, or you can end up like this.

Gift boxes and even parts of the world can be dangerous. One of the enemies disguises himself as a mailbox: when you get closer, it electrocutes you and reveals itself as a monster that chases the characters.

Water, in addition to drowning quickly, can also be inhabited by sharks – and when they are close, the sound changes to the classic sound effect from the Spielberg movie.

The contents of the gifts, even benign ones like jet skates and Icarus wings, become a problem if misused. Putting on the skates near the abyss, the character will suddenly sprint straight into the hole. If you are wearing the wings and are flying over an abyss and it ends...

Other harmful gifts are spoiled food and a black cloud that follows you, striking you in the head with lightning bolts. Because of this, you need to think twice before opening gifts in a moment of low power.

Earl com calção caído
Be careful playing with Earl. His pants may drop, leaving him vulnerable for a short time.

The levels are super colorful, with detailed sprites like trees, a sky full of stars, roads. Hilarious characters like sleeping groundhogs, typical nerds (complete with traditional glasses), match the protagonists themselves: ToeJam is a skinny little dude with three legs, red, wears a cap backwards and a chain with a medallion, like an 80s rapper. Earl is the "funny fat guy", orange, wears sunglasses, a loose floral shorts and high-top sneakers.

TJ is the "smart" type. Earl is the "clumsy" one – somehow like Laurel & Hardy. TJ is agile and fragile; Earl is strong and slow.

Although they are not very large or fantastically well-drawn, both protagonists and enemies are convincing, with a comical, stylized style. Stop for a moment and wait for their reactions: from the initial dance, they gradually become bored, until they fall asleep. Move the d-pad several times and see what happens.

ToeJam dormindo

The level raising is marked by the classic psychedelic elevator ride, with lots of colors.

Sound trip to Funkotron

Cantora de ópera com ToeJam
The viking singer can perform an opera for you - if you pay for it.

If the story and graphics are top-notch madness, the sound is not behind. Each action is accompanied by a funny effect, such as eating (burping), balancing on the edge of a cliff ("Oaaaa, oaoaoaoa"), finding some money ("Money!"), the sfx of Looney Toones' Road Runner when using running shoes, and the mad dentist's mocking laughter or ridiculous screams when they are hit.

Highlights include the "Haaa-leeluia" when energy is replenished, and fireworks when a character gets a promotion.

The songs, compositions inspired by jazz-funk and hip hop, are a bit repetitive, since it's a reasonably long game, but they don't get in the way. On the contrary, you may start whistling them shortly after starting a new level.

Mago com ToeJam
A miraculous cure, always under the "haaaaleluia" song.

Infinite fun

Even after finishing, there are tons of challenges on each new game, using the Random World mode, when the scenarios, positions of items and enemies are modified randomly. It's almost like a totally new game after each reset.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons it became a cult classic, which even without sequels of the same level in the generation (ToeJam 2 is way weaker), will always be remembered as part of the "best" of the Mega Drive.

Tips for first-time sailors

  • Never try to shoot back the chickens. They are fast and have a cannon, and you, a slingshot!
  • When you see a sleeping enemy, pass by silently: hold A while walking.
  • The water is your enemy: swim only for very short distances. And watch out for sharks.
  • The levels with ship pieces are informed as soon as you disembark: "Ship Piece Here".
  • If you are encumbered with useless presents and want to pick up more, throw some away. In the menu, choose what you want to drop, press C to change from Open to Drop and press A.
  • When possible, walk on the roads to go faster. If you have enemies chasing you, running on land is a pain, especially against the fast ones like the mad dentist and the groundhog.
  • When you see the Carrot Man, spend a few bucks to identify the contents of your gift boxes. Opening a spoiled food or black cloud when the power is low won't be fun.
With a show of creativity and humor, TJ&E's gameplay guarantees fun and high replay value. The franchise deserved better exploration from Sega.


  1. Excellent coop mode
  2. Sountrack
  3. Replay value


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