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's co-op mode was utterly fantastic and away ahead of its time. It allowed two players to work through the entire game in tandem. When they separated to different areas of the game's map, the screen split into two segments, giving each player their own small screen.
The game's side scrolling Sega Genesis sequel, Toejam & Earl II 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 III: 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 band wagon. The entire game's concept was forced, over 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 anymore 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 were parodies that made fun of different aspects of American popular culture. My personal favourite was 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 was also a formidable enemy, as was the insane ice cream truck driver. The fact that you travelled from level to level by entering an elevator was also ridiculous.
I understand that this sort of game doesn't have mass appeal any more. ToeJam & Earl is bizarre, ridiculous and one giant parody of early 90s/late 80s 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?
Follow Patrick O’Rourke on Twitter: @Patrick_ORourke.