Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove Review
Toejam and Earl are back in a funky fun adventure.
Developer: HumaNature Studios
Release Date: March 1st, 2019
Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Back in 1991, the world became a whole lot funkier with the release of ToeJam and Earl on the Sega Genesis. The franchise can definitely be described as an oddity. After all, it’s a weird hybrid of the rogue-like genre mixed with action and features two very funky alien dudes. But thanks to the very unique and colorful characters, it has always been ingrained in my mind as a staple of the Sega Genesis platform. There was an obvious audience who were looking to bring back the funky twosome. After all, it did surpass it’s Kickstarter goal and was crowdfunded for $508,637. So how does a game full of 90’s nostalgia fit in our current gaming landscape?
For those of you who have been living under a rock on Funkotron, here is a quick refresher on what Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove is all about. Our heroes are flying through the cosmos on their Rapmaster Rocket when they crash land on that wack planet known as Earth. Instead of wallowing in despair, the funktastic friends must unite to find the missing rocket pieces so they can return to their home planet of Funkotron.
The main objective of the game is to find 10 pieces of your Rapmaster Rocket. Each playthrough consists of 25 levels, with the pieces scattered amongst the levels. The development team makes it super easy to see if the level has a piece of the rocket by putting a rocket icon next to the level number. Once you have assembled the rocket, you make your glorious return to Funkotron!
Each level is stacked on top of each other, and access to each level is gained only through an elevator. Most often than not, the elevators are easy to find (except the pesky trick elevators that send you to the levels below). The levels are randomly generated with each playthrough, which mixes up the part and elevator locations and randomly generates annoying humans that keep you from living your best, funktified life.
The humans have been upgraded to an extent. They are still wacky and love knocking you around (and off the level if you are not careful). But while Toejam and Earl look very much a part of the ’90s, the humans have a more modern look to them. They are basically there to knock your health down in a variety of comedic ways. One of my favorites is the Hula dancer. If you run into her, then you will start dancing for a few brief seconds, which is a ton of fun until other humans crash your party and make life miserable. In my opinion, each level is equally challenging in their own way. Sure, the higher levels are tougher, but it was a good challenge overall.
One of the best ways to get past the humans is the use of presents. Presents are found in bushes and buildings, and they help you with random powerups. Rocket skates, springy shoes, tomato slingshot…all of the presents are as goofy as our heroes. At first, I kept hoarding presents, thinking I would not have enough in the later levels. But there are plenty of presents to go around, so make use of them. Except for the rocket shoes…those can go straight to hell for making me fall off of levels multiple times.
There is a lot of replay value in such a simple and small game. The randomly generated levels help a lot. But there are plenty of things to unlock. For example, you can unlock hats, funky fresh characters, and presents that can drastically change the way you play. Each character has different stats that can be leveled up with the XP you earn. And the hats and presents change the gameplay a little bit to make things more challenging. Keep in mind that you need to play on normal to unlock these items. And above all else, the game is a blast with friends. I had a more enjoyable time playing with my wife and kids than I did by myself. It hit the perfect mix of fun and challenge that is good for all ages.
Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove wouldn’t be a proper remake without some updated graphics. The game looks very nice with HD graphics and a colorful template. The big winner is the soundtrack. There are about 30 songs, each with great rhythm and funk. The only real setback in my playthrough was the framerate. Every once in a while, I would see lost frames in the main game and loading screen. It’s only a few frames that are lost, but it was noticeable.
Toejam and Earl have made a triumphant return to the current gaming landscape. Back in the Groove plays great and is a blast with friends. It doesn’t take very long to beat, and there is quite a bit of replay value with the randomly generated levels. It doesn’t rely on its nostalgia. Rather, it fine-tunes the classic gameplay and makes it accessible to a brand new generation of funky fresh players.
Editor’s Note: A key was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes.