Start of our ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove review, it should be noted that this is the long-awaited successor to the original Sega Genesis classic; Toe Jam & Earl. While it might not be the only sequel, many fans who grew up playing the first game never quite got the sequel they were hoping for. Between the interference from above, Toe Jam & Earl sequels always had to compromise.
ToeJam & Earl in panic on Funkotron was a direct sequel that radically changed the formula. The roguelike gameplay heard with power-ups was dropped for traditional 2D platforming. The alien protagonists didn’t need to find parts of their wrecked ship; instead, they had to throw jars at humans rampaging on their home planet.
By the time ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth happened, Sega had gone full third, and the series needed to find a home on Xbox. The third game switched the characters to 3D and tried to look more like the first title; but with rougher and more tedious gameplay. Thanks to crowdfunding, could this be the ultimate ToeJam & Earl experience? Find out in our ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove review!
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Developer: HumaNature Studios Inc.
Publisher: HumaNature Studios Inc.
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed via Xbox Series X|S backwards compatibility)
Release date: March 1, 2019
Players: 1-4 (local), 2-4 (online)
The premise of ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is almost exactly like the 1991 original. ToeJam and Earl are hiphop aliens who crash-land on Earth and must find the parts of their ship to leave. The main difference being that Latisha from mission on earth and Lewanda from Panic on Funkotron join the fun as playable characters.
The story is an excuse for some shenanigans to ensue. The opening intro cutscene lacks a lip flap to animate the voice acting, and most character development is done via text during elevator rides when moving up levels.
Generally, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is a comedy game and usually, when there is dialogue between the characters, it aims to make the players laugh. To the game’s credit, it’s quite funny at times. There are amusing examples of self-aware humor and jabs in the video game industry. Surprisingly, there are a few backstory nuggets that show some of these characters in a different light.
It’s not like Back in the groove yearns to be like Shakespeare. ToeJam’s suggestion of all characters having tragic pasts is not something fans of the show would expect to experience in a nonsensical game where one of the most dangerous enemies is a naked man in a box. cardboard-based.
Fortunately, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove never deeply indulges in melodrama. This game is a feel-good experience and as always; it supports local cooperative gameplay to keep the playful spirit alive.
Playing with a friend is essential to truly experience what Toe Jam & Earl games have to offer. Back in the groove is very playable and still very enjoyable when playing alone, but it’s a completely different experience when a friend helps you cover more ground or save your life from a platoon of chicken gunners.
The scorn of stealing a friend’s life or sending them to an untimely grave because the mysterious gift you opened turned out to be a “Total Bummer”, keeps the races spicy. Occasionally, the tall Funkopotomus will smile at the gang and grant them Icarus’ wings to easily get around a horde of boogey men.
The sudden influx of players thrown instantly after accidentally opening rocket skates and the panic of white knuckles as the poor aliens desperately try to stop themselves from flying off from the far reaches of the world is as heartbreaking as it is in 1991. Naturally , players will want to open as many presents as possible early on to identify future packages…if only it were that easy.
Just like in 1991, the RNG in ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove can be downright evil and designers have gotten much more creative than they were decades ago. There are other ways for the computer to completely turn the tables on the players; whether it’s opening a terrible gift or new types of enemies that will mix or unidentified gifts.
With the way the game can completely overturn a session, the player is put in a constant state of dreadful tension. Exploring and checking bushes and trees for any gifts that could be something good or bad becomes a necessary risk.
Earning XP to level up requires these kinds of curious actions… but at the same time, some of the more dangerous late-game enemies can also level heroes. By default, all playable characters cannot directly attack any threats; they must acquire a weapon by opening presents or spending a few dollars on the local opera singer who can blast them with her voice.
Do our ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove review; survival has always been a constant struggle. It didn’t matter if the mode was solo or cooperative. Fortunately, getting all the parts of the ship is not a long effort and Back in the groove has a high replay value due to its many extra modes and unlockable content.
Following our ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove review, it’s a culmination of everything that’s always been good about the series, while leaning heavily on the plan of the first game. It does what Sonic Mania did for classic Sonic by picking out the best parts of the different entries in the series that have moved the series forward.
Little touches like set stats for each of the playable aliens, actual timers that show how long each power-up will last, and even Panic on Funkotron’s Hyper Funk Zone minigame make their way into this beefy package. There’s even an unlockable mode for procedurally generated levels that offer endless possibilities.
The Hyper Funk Zone minigame is also much more fleshed out than it has ever been before. In this dimension, the heroes are abstracted into scribble designs and the player must react quickly by staying solid or breaking through incoming obstacles. It moves really fast and it can be easy to miss out on a ton of freebie upgrades or a lot of XP.
The aesthetic is very true to the style of the original 1991 game. in designs gives flat sprites a lot of personality.
It may have been too expensive for the team to create all the characters in 3D, but the trade-off meant the artists could create a wider range of 2D characters. ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove has a lot of enemies and even those that are glorified palette swaps take a bit more effort than just recoloring.
Details like the tattoos on the bad cherubs show that the designers have put a lot of care into filling out the list as much as possible. The environments also introduce new concepts never seen in previous games, such as different weather conditions and frozen water.
Closure of our ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove review, this is a long overdue game. This was something that was originally planned for the Nintendo DS; a concept that makes a lot of sense given the playfulness of the game and the accessibility of DS hardware. It’s a shame that it took more than a decade to become a reality.
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is recommended to anyone who grew up playing the original Toe Jam & Earl on Sega Genesis. It offers a wealth of content with its different modes and characters to unlock; one of whom is Earl’s mother. Endless variables ensure that no two sessions will be alike.
Online or local split screen; ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is still one of the best co-op experiences a player can have. The mind-blowing funk soundtrack, wavy graffiti, and fun character designs still feel like an authentic 90s throwback without any ironic poisoning.
ToeJam & Earl Back in the Groove was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s Review/Ethics Policy here.
ToeJam & Earl back in the groove is available for Microsoft Windows (via Steam), Mac iOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.