I spent hours as a child watching my father play ToeJam & Earl, or as my mother appropriately called the game, Burp & Fart.
When I was five, this Sega Genesis classic made absolutely no sense. Who was Earl and why does he look like a potato crossed with a pear? And what exactly is ToeJam? My mother told me it was the sweat between your toes, so why is this skinny alien-looking dude with a chain around his neck named after sweaty feet?
Even though I was confused, there was one thing I understood: ToeJam & Earl was ahead of its time.
Its co-op mode was utterly fantastic. It allowed two players to work through the entire game in tandem. When they separated to different areas of the map, the screen split into two segments, giving each player his own small screen.
The game's side-scrolling, Sega Genesis sequel, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, was utterly terrible and was trying to cash in on the side-scroller craze that was present during that era in gaming.
The 2002 remake for the Xbox called ToeJam & Earl 3: Mission to Earth was also really bad. Although the graphical update was great, it seemed like it was trying too hard to jump on the hip-hop bandwagon. The entire game's concept was forced, overly complicated, and generally uninspired.
The beauty of a lot of older games comes from their simplicity. With ToeJam & Earl, the concept was basic. ToeJam and Earl's spaceship crashed on Earth and broke into multiple fragments that are now scattered across the planet's surface. Your goal is to avoid crazed earthlings, find your spaceship parts (the giant speakers are obviously an integral part of your ship), and return to planet Funkotron.
A remake doesn't need to be any more complicated than this. Just update the graphics, throw in some analog controls, maybe some new features (like new weapons and enemies), and you have a perfect, downloadable arcade title. The burgeoning, online indie-game scene is the perfect marketplace for a relatively low cost title like this.
ToeJam & Earl's quirky nature is what made the title so endearing. That and the fact that every single one of the game's enemies are parodies that made fun of different aspects of American popular culture. My personal favorite is Dr. Feel Good, the doctor that runs around Earth stabbing you with a needle and cackling like a maniac.
The crazed mother with the crying baby in her shopping cart is also a formidable enemy as is the insane ice cream truck driver. The fact that you travel from level to level by entering an elevator is also ridiculous.
I understand that this sort of game doesn't have mass appeal anymore. ToeJam & Earl is bizarre, ridiculous, and one giant parody of late '80s/early '90s hip-hop culture. This isn't exactly the kind of game that ships millions of units, but that doesn't mean a remake with slick HD graphics wouldn't fit perfectly on Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. The title was a true sleeper hit and fans would surely be intrigued.
Any other Genesis or Super NES-era games that you think deserve an HD update? Leave a comment!