This article originally appeared in GamesMaster magazine.
When ToeJam & Earl shifted from the top-down collect-a-thon in randomised levels of game one to a traditional side-scrolling platformer for the sequel, some fans were understandably miffed. The world had lost a hugely innovative series in a 16-bit generation already overloaded with platformers.
But what many people didn't realise is that we'd gained something marvellous in the same stroke: a psychedelic adventure exploding with colour, secrets and laughs that did the unthinkable and showed the Sonic wannabes there was more to gaming than emulating Sega's blue 'hog. It didn't equal the first ToeJam & Earl in the quality stakes, but then few Mega Drive games did...
Panic on Funkotron naturally began with loveable rogues ToeJam and Earl (ToeJam's the lanky, three-legged red alien, Earl's the more rotund one) returning to their home planet after their foray on Earth. Unfortunately for them they weren't the only ones, as a few dozen humans managed to travel back with them uninvited for a holiday. Cue scenes of panic as the Frunkotronian residents were bothered by humans from all walks of life.
The only way to clean up the mess was to catch the offending people and blast them back to Earth. It was easy in principle - toss a few empty jam jars their way to bottle 'em up, then hurl them into a ship bound for Earth - but the variety of bad guys made it tough in practice.
Bratty kids kicked you in the shins, workmen with pneumatic drills vibrated you silly, tourists blinded you with camera flashes, obese middle-aged women set their pink poodles on you, naked guys in cardboard boxes assaulted your eardrums with singing, and the less said about the floating ghost cows, the better... When regular jars weren't enough to cope with them all, it was time to break out the screen-clearing Funk-vac to cleanse Funkotron's pink fields of enemies.
Yep, we said pink fields. Funkotron lived up to its name with ease: it was a planet where rocks had faces, where golden birds flew around in sunglasses, and where shaking purple trees and bushes saw presents, spare tyres and bowling balls fly out to surprise andFish lips bruise in equal measure.
And there was far more going on in Funkotron than first met the eye. Giant sponge-pads sparked gymnastic mini-games officiated by alien judges and beat-box-boogieing aliens broke it down in rhythm-action dance-offs in which your performance was rated with a Lame/Awesome-ometer.
Doorways into the Hyperfunk dimension messed with our brain more than an episode of The Inhumanoids, while barely a screen went by without an invisible platform or secret alcove appearing if you jumped at the right spot/Funk-teleported into a wall.
ToeJam & Earl II was packed with secrets and boasted one of the funkiest slap bass riffs we've ever heard. If you haven't already, make sure you take a day trip to Funkotron...