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Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove Preview: Straight Outta Nostalgia

/ Sep 21st, 2016 No Comments

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove

The word “remake” often leaves a horrid taste in one’s mouth. There have been so many remakes and reboots in recent history that the excitement over them has been replaced with disdain and fear that it will not be as good as the original. However, when I played a preview build of Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove at PAX West 2016, my worries were instantly wiped away.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, developer Humanature Studios is bringing the funky duo back to life, and the return to the franchise is shaping up to be just as bizarre and humorous as the original.

Stranded and Partying

In Back in the Groove, Toejam and Earl have yet again crash landed on our odd little planet and now must go about collecting pieces of their ship.

Along the way, they’ll meet a lot of Earthlings, which offer some scathing parodies of real life in their presentation. Many will help, but more will hinder progress by bumping Toejam and Earl off the map (as happened to me numerous times) or just blocking movement. One such Earthling, an annoying teamster soliciting signatures for some inane cause, would stun me with boredom if I got too close.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove

Segway mall cops of Toejam & Earl aren’t the brightest.

Most everything can be interacted with in one way or another, so I tried touching everything. While some of Back in the Groove’s set pieces and characters are purely for flavor, most of them affect gameplay and provide secrets about the world. A crazy old man in a carrot costume will help you identify important things hidden throughout the game, which include power-ups that Toejam and Earl can use.

Initially, between all of the non-player characters on screen and set pieces, such as houses and trees, I felt a bit overwhelmed. There is no pressure to find the ship parts quickly though, so taking the time to explore the world and enjoy the music helps you avoid sensory overload.

Bring Your Weird Hippie Friends

I played with a developer cooperatively during the demo. Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove supports up to four players locally and online. Toejam and Earl’s new character designs were available to play as, along with their classic looks from the original game.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove

Even Hyperfunk Zones make a return! Groove on, you wacky aliens.

During my demo, I took some time to just enjoy the music, which features remade tracks from the original game as well as new original songs. I cannot stress enough how enjoyable this game’s soundtrack is, as well as the great job it does of setting the tone for the game.

The old and new songs all have the classic synth/jazz vibe fans will remember. The soundtrack provides mellow, upbeat tunes while exploring the world through the eyes of Toejam and Earl.

Each level is procedurally generated, meaning it will be different each time you play the game.

Presents, which are found randomly hidden in bushes or sporadically on the ground, are power-ups that the characters can use.

However, what each present actually does is not known initially. In your inventory, new presents will appear with question marks in the description. By exploring, I was able to find the old carrot man, who told me what these presents could do.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove

If only I could be so lucky to achieve this honor.

The other way to reveal what a present does is just to open it and see what happens, but with some issuing out not-so-groovy effects, it’s best to play it safe. If you do not, you could wind up opening a present that will knock Toejam and Earl off the map or do damage to their health.

Once a present’s use is discovered, it can be shared between players to ensure the player most in need gets the benefit.

Many presents consist of basic stat boosts, such as faster speed or temporary invulnerability, but some more powerful presents offer permanent enhancements that carry across new games.

Permanent speed increases are a particularly nice present, as are ones that reward players with a boost to maximum health.

Another co-op mechanic is a high five. Making your characters high five each other will split the difference between the duo’s health meters. So if your co-op partner is running low on health and your meter is full, a high five will allow you to donate some of your health to your partner.

I Got the Groove

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove is a surreal experience with some very fresh tunes. It is filled with the strange humor and bright artwork that we expect from Toejam & Earl. Back in the Groove captures the spirit of the original games so much that it almost feels like stepping back in time.

If you’re a Toejam & Earl fan, this is the new sequel you’ve been waiting for.


Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson

Associate Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Greg is a Nintendo fanboy who would cry if they ever went third party. He writes news, previews and reviews at Gaming Illustrated.
Greg Johnson

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