One for the collection, or tell it to Funk Off.
Title: ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC, Switch
Developer: HumaNature Studios
Publisher: HumaNature Studios
Price: £16/$20 (across all platforms)
Release date: Out now
TL;DR: A retro flashback to the Sega Megadrive days
Family Focus?: Click here for more information
Welcome to the review for HumaNature Studios Kickstarter backed rejuvenation of the ToeJam & Earl Franchise. Adding to my list of games that like to make me reflect upon how old I’m getting, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is the fourth game in the IP’s history, with the original ToeJam & Earl appearing on the Sega Megadrive back in 1991. I can still visualise playing the original, and it was unique and fun enough to remain in my fondest memories for all this time.
With that in mind, and likewise for many others with fond memories of their original experiences with ToeJam & Earl, developers HumaNature Studios have had a task on their hands: to be able to keep that nostalgic feel to the new game, also modernise it enough for it to appeal to an older and more developed audience, as well as catering for newcomers to the funky hip hop party.
Booting up the game, you’re instantly introduced to a funky beat incorporating a drumbeat and some slappy basslines getting you right into the groove. The colour schemes and graphics felt familiar and fun, and I was all set to try out a new adventure. Starting a new game gave me the option to select either ToeJam, Earl, Latisha, Lewanda, or the “old skool,” ToeJam & Earl skins from the original game, with extra characters to unlock as you progress through the game.
I went for old skool Earl as he was always my fave. Each character has a different starting setup of attributes and special abilities, so choose what suits your playstyle more, whether it be speed, increased inventory space, or searching skills. Once you’ve chosen your game mode and difficulty, you are plopped into the world.
No more pixelated graphics; this new take is looking funky fresh. The graphics and animation are smooth, fluid, and look cartoony, yet very crisp on a nice display. Even with all the enhanced looks, I am still getting that nostalgia
Gameplay is very simple and relaxing, with the bulk of the adventure involving you wandering around the different world levels and opening the presents that you have collected to see what special buffs or items they reward you with. These present rewards can offer you abilities that differ from decoys (allowing you to distract enemies) to wings (allowing the traversal of gaps to otherwise inaccessible islands). Some presents come broken and unless you have an item to repair them; you have to be quick on the buttons to complete a mini game before they blow up in your face.
As the exploring progresses and you take the elevator to new worlds, you encounter more and varied NPCs and enemies. Some enemies flat out chase you to damage you, others will stun you by mesmerising you with their funky hula abilities, or they may subject you to the Spanish Inquisition and send you tumbling down to previous levels, where you then have to find your way back.
The objective in Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove is to find all the hidden spaceship parts and reassemble your broken ride before you get in trouble for wrecking the borrowed vehicle. The parts are hidden on different levels and as you dance and funk your way around the worlds you gain experience for uncovering the map and opening presents. You can then level up your characters attributes to help with the search.
It’s fun and family friendly, with my young kid enjoying it as much as I did, and a good game to have for some family time. You can play on your own or in co-op mode offline and online.
Overall I feel Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove did exactly what it set out to do. It’s a faithful nostalgic nod to the original, with everything modernised for today’s gaming tastes, and a great way for me to introduce some 90’s gaming history to my offspring without them complaining about how bad retro games look on new TVs. Apart from loading screens between levels I have nothing to complain about; I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove and 100% will be playing more of it.
- Nostalgia overload.
- A faithful recreation on modern platforms.
- Family friendly
- Many loading screens.
- Can get repetitive on long sessions.
- Simplistic gameplay novelty wears out quickly.
ESRB: E for Everyone. PEGI: 7 and up.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by PR for the purposes of this review.