ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! Review (PC)

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ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove – Gameplay Trailer

Developer: HumaNature Studios
Publisher: HumaNature Studios

Review

Review Context: As a 1990s Sega Genesis owner, I am a bit embarrassed to say that this is my first time playing a ToeJam & Earl game. I was also intrigued to play this because I’m a big fan of rogue-like games.
Date of Playthrough: February 25, 2019

PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Resolution: 1280×800 (Windowed)

Disclosure: This review was based off of a review copy

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove!, developed by HumaNature Studios, is a game part of a franchise that has a lot of nostalgia, but not with me. Being a 90’s gamer, this is quite embarrassing, as the ToeJam & Earl franchise is something I should have dipped my toes in already, given that I owned a Sega Genesis, but I never have until now. After a long drought of no additional games in the franchise, you may be wondering, why now? ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! was developed from a kickstarter campaign by one of the original co-creators, Greg Johnson.

As someone who is new to the franchise, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! does an excellence job introducing the game mechanics in the tutorial mode. The object of the game is to retrieve the lost pieces to the Rapmaster Rocket that has crash-landed on earth. In this rogue-like experience, you will get to select a specific character among nine, including old and new versions of ToeJam and Earl. Given this was more first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was struck by the unique style of gameplay, that in all my years of gaming I had not really experienced before. I played the tutorial run with Earl and a regular fixed world as ToeJam, with two very different experiences. This is due to the fact that each character has different stats and abilities that affect how you play during your run.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove!

In Back in the Groove!, the world layout can either be fixed or randomized, but random has to be unlocked first. This gives plenty replay value to game with so much wackiness. To go a bit more in depth about gameplay, what stood out to me specifically were the presentations and animations of the earthlings, who are the people you either want to interact with or avoid entirely. Although I haven’t played the original, I can say without spoiling that there are definitely some new earthlings added that would not have existed back in the 1990s, due to the advancements of certain technologies. I will leave those earthlings as a surprise. As you travel upwards through elevators to collect the rock parts, you’ll be obtaining presents, which contain both good and bad things that can either help you or make your run difficult. The biggest roll of the dice decision you can make in this rogue-like experience is opening an unidentified present, as the wrong thing within can easily cause you trouble, including even knocking you down another floor. As I played more this became more evident, as the game contains a lot of stealth, but not the kind of stealth you may be used to in most games. With sunflowers acting as a cloak, there is nothing more hectic then being chased by an earthling having to find a sunflower for cover.

A major highlight of the game is the soundtrack, as you’ll be listening to a catchy soundtrack throughout your experience. The soundtrack really kept me going in the slowest of spots I encountered in the game when I wanted to take a break. One very cool part about this game are the mini games, including a rhythm game where you have to either freestyle your own beat or match someone else’. Matching a beat just entails you hitting the right button at the right time, similar to a games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I found the freestyle mechanic to be fun because you can hear the sounds as you press them, making you truly feel like you are creating something. Be careful though, because you will have to match and hit the button to your own beat, so don’t over complicate the beat for yourself. There is also the HyperFunkZone, which is a side area meant to power up your character. I didn’t feel the game introduced the controls or objectives for it that well, but I still enjoyed playing it and figuring it out.

One of the major elements of Back in the Groove! is multiplayer, but I have not tried it…yet. The game does have drop in/drop out online gameplay, as well as local multiplayer split-screen. Even as a new player, I can see this game is clearly a love-letter to the ToeJam & Earl franchise fans, as there are many goodies in this package of a game. The graphics are also well done, giving this game a very colorful cartoon look that fits well with all the crazy earthlings.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! is not a game for everyone, as the gameplay is a rogue-like experience that can’t really be compared to many other games. The earthlings add a special humorous flavor to the experience that meshes well with the characters you can play with. I definitely recommend this game to new players, as I felt the game was easily accessible to learn, but has a decent difficulty curve. Additionally, I feel extra motivated to try and unlock all of the characters due to the randomization of promotion stats coinciding with the randomly generated levels, ToeJam & Earl, you now have a brand new earthling fan.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove!, developed by HumaNature Studios, is a game part of a franchise that has a lot of nostalgia, but not with me. Being a 90’s gamer, this is quite embarrassing, as the ToeJam & Earl franchise is something I should have dipped my toes in already, given that I owned a Sega Genesis, but I never have until now. After a long drought of no additional games in the franchise, you may be wondering, why now? ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove was developed from a kickstarter campaign, by one of the original co-creators, Greg Johnson.

As someone who is new to the franchise, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! does an excellence job introducing the game mechanics in the tutorial mode. The object of the game is to retrieve the lost pieces to the Rapmaster Rocket that has crash-landed on earth. In this rogue-like experience, you will get to select a specific character among nine, including old and new versions of ToeJam and Earl. Given this was more first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was struck by the unique style of gameplay, that in all my years of gaming I had not really experienced before. I played the tutorial run with Earl and a regular fixed world as ToeJam, with two very different experiences. This is due to the fact that each character has different stats and abilities that affect how you play during your run.

In Back in the Groove!, the world layout can either be fixed or randomized, but random has to be unlocked first. This gives plenty replay value to game with so much wackiness. To go a bit more in depth about gameplay, what stood out to me specifically were the presentations and animations of the earthlings, who are the people you either want to interact with or avoid entirely. Although I haven’t played the original, I can say without spoiling that there are definitely some new earthlings added that would not have existed back in the 1990s, due to the advancements of certain technologies. I will leave those earthlings as a surprise. As you travel upwards through elevators to collect the rock parts, you’ll be obtaining presents, which contain both good and bad things that can either help you or make your run difficult. The biggest roll of the dice decision you can make in this rogue-like experience is opening an unidentified present, as the wrong thing within can easily cause you trouble, including even knocking you down another floor. As I played more of Back in the Groove!, this became more evident, as the game contains a lot of stealth, but not the kind of stealth you may be used to in most stealth games. With sunflowers acting as a cloak, there is nothing more hectic then being chased by an earthling having to find a sunflower for cover.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove!

A major highlight of the game is the soundtrack, as you’ll be listening to a catchy soundtrack throughout your experience. The soundtrack really kept me going in the slowest of spots I encountered in the game when I wanted to take a break. One very cool part about this game are the mini games, including a rhythm game where you have to either freestyle your own beat or match someone else’. Matching a beat just entails you hitting the right button at the right time, similar to a games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I found the freestyle mechanic to be fun because you can hear the sounds as you press them, making you truly feel like you are creating something. Be careful though, because you will have to match and hit the button to your own beat, so don’t over complicate the beat for yourself. There is also the HyperFunkZone, which is a side area meant to power up your character. I didn’t feel the game introduced the controls or objectives for it that well, but I still enjoyed playing it and figuring it out.

One of the major elements of Back in the Groove! is multiplayer, but I have not tried it…yet. The game does have drop in/drop out online gameplay, as well as local multiplayer split-screen. Even as a new player, I can see this game is clearly a love-letter to the ToeJam & Earl franchise fans, as there are many goodies in this package of a game. The graphics are also well done, giving this game a very colorful cartoon look that fits well with all the crazy earthlings.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! is not a game for everyone, as the gameplay is a rogue-like experience that can’t really be compared to many other games. The earthlings add a special humorous flavor to the experience that meshes well with the characters you can play with. I definitely recommend this game to new players, as I felt the game was easily accessible to learn, but has a decent difficulty curve. Additionally, I feel extra motivated to try and unlock all of the characters due to the randomization of promotion stats coinciding with the randomly generated levels, ToeJam & Earl, you now have a brand new earthling fan.

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Don’t Starve (PC)

[Editor’s Note: An addendum may be added later to discuss the multiplayer experience.]

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