It has been a long twenty-eight years since the first ToeJam & Earl dropped and became a weird cult classic among gamers of the time. Also for the current generation of gamers out there as they backed this little passion project from HumaNature Studios to get this game back out there. Not in a traditional remaster form, but as a title that could be claimed as a solid entry to what we had before. This time with new features and a few more mechanics for the modern gamer to take in. Here is our review of ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove so you can get an idea of how well the team did.
The funkadelic alien duo are out for a fun ride through space when they happen upon Earth and through "circumstances," the planet is disoriented and the crew crashes. Their ship is broken and pieces are scattered all over this newly designed Earth. It is also filled with many Earthlings who want to cause harm to the team while they try to figure out a way to get off the planet and back to their own home planet of Funkotron. It should be easy enough with all the "gifts" left around. As long as they can make it through each different floating island of Earth to find everything.
One of the glaring issues I came across in my time with ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove had to be how the local co-op was managed. It is a hard task to do given the limited screen space that forces and the need to be able to see much of the landscape to be able to navigate and survive through. It was by no means done poorly here, but it had to be one of the more lackluster parts of the game as it was easy to fall off the edges or be attacked from seemingly nowhere by enemies. While it did offer up a bit of fun in general, it was seen by myself and my co-pilot as easier to play ToeJam & Earl all by our lonesome. Not the most game-breaking, but it was something that kind of irked me and felt needed to be mentioned. I never played the online co-op, so take that into account here too.
The next and only other real issue I had with this ToeJam & Earl title was that it felt short and more repetitive than most other rogue-like games out there. There is a whole lot of replay to the game due to this nature, but I was able to get through most of the meat of the game much faster than I expected. Or at least as I remember from the first time I played this title back in 1991. Maybe we are spoiled by a bit of the current state of gaming here, but I felt like there should have been a bit more to it all. Even if it was changing up the minigame that showed up a bit more but this never felt like it happened so I usually moved on to the core part to just get the team back home.
If you are one for the nostalgia of ToeJam & Earl, then you are going to love this game. Even if you are not, it hits all the right notes of it but also fills in more with the modern times with the classic feel. There are new bits mixed into the game here and then feel like only minor things until you catch them and then it makes ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove feel like it is a modern game. More or less, the nostalgia with get you in the door but all of the new changes to enemies and minigames will keep you from just leaving. Even if some of them are just repetitive in the long run. It is just nice to see that the developers did not want to rely on just the nostalgia factor to keep players in and truly added in new touches, like rhythm games, when they most likely did not have to.
While the screen may have been an issue with the co-op of this ToeJam & Earl title, there is no doubt that this was more about playing together instead of on the same map. This was part of the game I was worried would have been sacrificed given the push to go online with multiplayer, but the design of it all enforces players to want to play with each other for the greater good here. At least on the local side of it all. Although I do not see how the online version of the same game would not have players doing the same thing. The main point is that when all is said and done, the co-op feels just as right as it always should and enforces players to be as cool and helpful as the nine different characters they can play are. At least if they can dig it.
Lastly, while the minigames added into ToeJam & Earl can get on the repetitive or basic nature of it all, they are a welcome break from needing to scavenge the world for your parts and gifts while dodging pissed off Earthlings. Particularly the "endless" runner game and then a dance of game. Sometimes I would find myself going out of the way to play these to break things up and earn more XP along the way. Something that is definitely needed to fill out all of the states for each of the characters. It could just be me though, but it adds even more to the fun of ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove and that is what the group of aliens and gamers should all be about. Unless you are a true stickler for keeping the full past preserved…
The easiest way to know if ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove is going to be a game for you is based on the fact of if you played and enjoyed the very first one from so long ago. This is going to be a game for you, even with its changes, without any question. If you never had the pleasure of playing ToeJam & Earl, do not write it off as a cash grab for nostalgia sake. It is a fun and humorous rogue-like game that can bring you the fun of it all as well. Just keep note of the type of game you are getting into and the fact that it will not be as long as many of the other games you are used to in these modern days. I say give it all a chance and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
I give ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove an 11 Missing Ship Parts on the Missing Ship Part scale.
ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove — Gameplay Trailer
ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove was developed and published by HumaNature Studios for the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on March 1st, 2019. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes.