ToeJam & Earl (video game)

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ToeJam & Earl
Part of the ToeJam & Earl series
Genre(s) Action game
Year of Release 1991
Platform(s) Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Developer(s) Johnson Voorsanger Productions
Publisher(s) Sega

ToeJam & Earl is an action game developed by Johnson Voorsanger Productions and published by Sega for the Mega Drive (Genesis) in 1991. It is the first in the ToeJam & Earl series. The game allowed for single-player or two-player co-operative play.


ToeJam and Earl were, in their own words, "two highly funky aliens" who were cruising along in their "highly funky, ultra-cool, righteous Rapmaster Rocketship" when Earl decided that he wanted a "shot in the driving seat". Earl's awful driving led them to hit a comet which damaged the ship and caused them to crash land on "the most insane planet in the galaxy, planet Earth". The rocketship was broken up into ten pieces which were scattered amongst the many levels of the planet. They had to search each level for the rocketship pieces, and the elevator to the next level. On their way they had to struggle against all kinds of Earthlings with no help other than a number of presents that were conveniently scattered around.

Once they had collected all of the pieces they put the ship back together and flew back to their home planet Funkotron. After walking through crowds of cheering spectators they were at last reunited with their families.


Upon starting the game the player must make a few choices as to the type of game they wish to play. The game allows for a single player to play alone or for two players to play in a co-operative game. If the player chooses to play alone they must choose which character they wish to play, but in two-player mode the first player is always ToeJam and the second player is always Earl. The other decision the player must make is whether to play 'random worlds' or 'fixed worlds'. The former randomly generates the maps for each level allowing for increased re-playability, whilst the latter has a specific set of levels allowing the player to learn the layout.

© Screenshot: Johnson Voorsanger productions
Ship pieces are well marked. Finding them is the hard part.

The game begins on level one. Each level takes the form of an island floating in space. Each level has some grassy areas which allow normal movement, and some roads which allow fast movement. Some also have sandy areas which slows down movement. Water can also be found on many levels. Whilst this is not lethal, it slowly drains the players health bar and the player must reach dry land before they die. Once they reach dry land their health bar returns to full over a few seconds. The edges of levels are open space. Should the player fall off the edge (or through holes in the middle of some levels) they are returned to the previous level. In order to progress the player must find the elevator which takes them up to the next level. Some parts of land are hidden until the player approaches it, and these 'secret' pathways must sometimes be discovered in order to reach some areas.

Players can move up, down, left, right and diagonally around the screen. There is no jump button, however if the player tries to walk off the edge of the level or into water the character will jump. In some circumstances they may jump far enough to reach land rather than fall. In two player mode the players share a single screen until they move off in opposite directions to the extent that they do not both fit on the screen. When this occurs the screen changes to split-screen mode until the players meet up again.

At the beginning of some levels (excluding level 1) the player may be informed that there is a ship piece on the level. The player must explore the level until they discover this ship piece, and must eventually discover all ten pieces of the ship in order to complete the game. In addition to this the player must discover the location of the elevator which will take them to the next level.

At any point players may view a map of the level that they are on. The map is split up into an 8 by 7 grid, and each square in the grid is initially hidden until the player has entered that area. Occasionally players may also find a telephone which will uncover a few random squares. The map shows the type of land (grass, road, water, sand or space), the location of both characters, and the location of the ship piece and elevator if they have been discovered.

Earthlings and collectables

© Screenshot: Johnson Voorsanger Productions
The player can collect presents, but must avoid Earthlings.

During their exploration players will encounter a number of Earthlings which must be avoided. Earthlings come in many forms including hamsters in balls, crazy needle wielding doctors, shadow monsters and flocks of photographing tourists. Most of these will cause cause the player to lose health. Should the player run out of health they will die and lose one of their lives, but will be resurrected in the location that they died. Once all lives are lost the game is over. Players begin with three lives, however they can gain extra lives from reaching certain point barriers or through the use of presents. Earthlings do not follow a predictable path but move randomly until the player comes within close proximity in which case they start to follow you around. Some Earthlings will be asleep when they appear on the screen, and the player may hold down the 'sneak' button to move past them without waking them. Killing or 'popping' Earthlings is only possible with the use of the tomato power-up. As well as causing loss of health, some Earthlings have additional effects. For example, Cupid will randomly change the controls so that pressing one direction will cause the character to move in a different direction, whilst the sand tornado will pick up the player and carry them off to a different place - including sometimes into space which causes the player to fall back a level. Hula girls will make the character stop and hula with her for a few seconds, leaving the player unable to move. This can happen repeatedly if they remain close to her.

Whilst walking around the level players will also discover some items scattered around the floor. Some of these are 'bucks', which are the in-game currency. Players may also discover food, which comes in two main types. Good food restores health that the player may have lost, but rotten food will lose the player health. However the most useful collectable item comes in the form of presents. Presents are randomly scattered around the levels and offer both power ups and penalties to those brave enough to open them. When the player first picks one up they will be labelled as ?????. Each different type of power up is contained in a specifically packaged present, however this is randomised at the start of the game. Once the player opens a present they gain the power-up or penalty inside of it, however they then also know the contents of that packaging. If they later collect another identical present it will then be labelled with it's contents.

A wide variety of power-ups are available. These include tomatoes which can be thrown at Earthlings to 'pop' them; Super Hi-tops which make the character run faster; decoys to make the Earthlings stop following; and fudge sundae to help you replenish your health bar; and many others. Penalties include a 'total bummer!' which kills you instantly; bad food that decreases your health bar; and a randomizer which randomises the contents of all of the presents so the player no longer knows what is in them. In two-player mode if both characters are on the same screen and one of them uses a present then that item good or bad affects to both players. Each player can only hold 16 presents, however they may drop ones that they do not wish to keep. These can later be picked up again from where they were dropped.

There are also a few non-violent Earthlings that do things to help the player. The man dressed in a carrot costume can identify the contents of a ????? present for 2 bucks per present, the wizard will fully restore the players health bar for 1 buck and Santa will drop several presents if the player manages to sneak up on him without being noticed. There is also a mail box which will either be real or fake, the fake one will turn into a monster when the player approaches it, whilst the real one will sell the player presents for bucks.

Cheats and secrets

© Screenshot: Johnson Voorsanger Productions
Level 0

There is only a single cheat for the original game. Once activated it gives the player all of the pieces of the Rapmaster Rocketship except for one, and ensures that the last piece will be found on the next level up. The cheat can be activated using the following sequence of keypresses:

  • Press the START button to pause the game
  • Then press UP, A, B and C simultaneously
  • Then press RIGHT and A simultaneously
  • Then press DOWN and B simultaneously
  • Then press LEFT and C simultaneously

If entered successfully a chime is sounded, at which point the player can un-pause the game and continue[1].

In addition there is also a secret level - level zero. This can be accessed by falling through a hole in level 1, however there is only one hole in the level which is in the bottom-left corner, and it is difficult to access due to large amounts of water in the way. The easiest way to access it is to use rocket skates which allow you to fly across the water, however it is also possible to use multiple innertubes to allow you to swim without losing health. Once the player has reached the bottom left corner they will find an island which has several presents on it and a hole in the middle. By falling down the hole the player can reach level 0. This level is unusual in that there is no bad Earthlings, no rocketship piece and no elevator. Instead there is a small island with a hot-tub which will fully replenish the characters health and a lemonade stand which grants an extra life. To leave the level the player simply jumps off the island, which returns them to the highest level that they were on. This is useful, as it can often be quite far into the game that the player collects suitable power-ups in order to access the secret level.


In December 2006 the game was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console. Nintendo Life gave it seven out of ten stars, saying that "with nostalgia glasses on it will be easy to award this game top marks, but looking at it from a newcomer's point of view it is a bit dated."[2]


  1. - ToeJam & Earl Hints & Tips
  2. - ToeJam & Earl (Virtual Console) review on Nintendo Life