I was reminded recently by a friend that in nearly all circumstances, if you wanted to take a break while playing Nintendo or Genesis but also keep a campaign going, it was necessary to leave the game running. Many games had no save option or password system, so only alternative was to finish the game in one sitting. It’s a self-defeating gesture on the part of cartridge manufacturers: if you cannot complete a game because it requires devoting 15 hours in a row to do so, you aren’t going out and buying more titles, potentially by the same manufacturer. I used to leave the Nintendo running for hours when I got called downstairs for dinner, or we had to run to the store, and I had somehow pushed this fact completely out of my mind.
I’m sure if my parents had been playing closer attention to my video gaming activities, they would have been thrilled to discover that the $150 system they had purchased for me was sitting idle all afternoon, getting hotter and hotter as it ran and sucking up electricity.
The thing I brought up that triggered my friend’s response and this recollection was that I re-purchased ToeJam & Earl not too long ago. There’s a very good reason that copies on eBay fetch $35 and up; the game is inventive, entertaining, and genuinely sort of funny. I loved it the first time around when it was released in 1991. What I discovered, however, when I went to save and turn off the game after playing it for a couple of hours in 2018 is that I had forgotten that ToeJam & Earl doesn’t have a save function. If you want to gather up all the pieces of the ship and get back to Funkotron, you’re going to have to put all the time in over the course of an evening. This both deflated me and reminded me why I never finished the game the first time around.
Apart from the reason I don’t really want to play the game ever again now, it’s a lot of fun. ToeJam & Earl are a game designer’s early 1990s idea of cool, with hip hop clothing and catchphrases, plus boomboxes and dancing. They inhabit a cartoonishly goofy world, featuring cupids, killer sharks, devils, hamsters in wheels, nerds, and more. When our heroes drink pop they burp, when they see a hula girl they are entranced into dancing along with her.
The game design is based on an early 1980s dungeon crawling RPG called Rogue, adapted to create villains out of exaggerated versions of mundane character types people encounter every day. ToeJam & Earl’s only goal is to get home, and the Earthling characters attempt to thwart that goal essentially by annoying them.
If you played ToeJam & Earl in the 1990s, it’s as much fun as you remember, and maybe worth looking to pick up if you have 12 hours free. Just don’t let your Genesis overheat, and don’t let mom and dad catch you leaving it on.
In the time since I originally drafted this article, a new ToeJam & Earl has been released. Presumably you can save in this one. It can be found here.
Were you a Toejam & Earl fan? Did you burn down your house by leaving your NES or Genesis on? Let us know below or on Twitter.