Unsung Heroes: ToeJam and Earl

Categories: Stuff
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The more we grow up here at the Gimme Noise offices, the more we suspect that we may, in fact, be living in a ToeJam and Earl level, the absurdist and daringly misanthropic commentary on Earthly life that made a brief but heavy blip on the Sega Genesis.

The 16 bit classic wasn't just an absurdist's dream (two aliens, on an interstellar roadtrip from planet Funkotron, crash land on Earth, which is, of course, a series of 30 grassed planes populated by monster mailboxes, mad dentists and clouds of killer bees). And it wasn't just an inexplicably addicting and deep example of exploration and top notch design. It also featured some of the very best video game music ever composed-- music so maddeningly catchy and downright funky it still rings in our heads lo these many years.


ToeJam is a Weiner, Earl is on vacation.

Compared to the dashed-off, two note affairs that overstuffed the video game soundtracks of the 16 bit era, the songs in ToeJam and Earl are monumentally long, well-composed, and varied. It's drum and bass stuff of the leanest and meanest type, informed equally by P-Funk and Run DMC's Tougher Than Leather. Which is good-- because much of one's time in ToeJam and Earl is spent hoofing it around Earth, panning for shattered ship pieces. Were the music any less gleefully amusing and, yes, downright funky, the game would never have become the memorable affair it was.

But ToeJam and Earl's vision of planet Earth is perhaps its greatest contribution to our collective awareness. The designer views our planet as an unhip, pestulent place to be-- a dangerous place full of inconvenience and ill will. The enemies are not demons and dragons, but bossy mothers pushing their wailing children around in shopping carts; sadistic dentists with pneumatic drills; hula dancers; possessed mailboxes. Resting on the skin of this outstanding video game is a not-too-thinly-veiled commentary on us unfunky Earthlings and the plight of the modern age, where the devil and all his minions are impotent figments, and the true antagonists are the ignorant and the self-obssessed.

If you're not above a quick download and a not-so-quick ROM hunt, there are scads of Genesis emulators available for free download. Anyone who hasn't taken a trip through ToeJam and Earl's wonderously pessimistic take on our blue planet, bopping to immaculately grooved bleeps and bloops all the way, owes it to themselves.


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