[Review] Toe Jam and Earl Back In The Groove, Go back to where it all began with these two destructive misfits

[Review] ToeJam and Earl: Back In The Groove – Nintendo Switch

Written by ellevalh
  • Developer: HumaNature Studios
  • Publisher: HumaNature Studios
  • Release Date: 01/03/2019
  • Price: £15.79 / $19.99
  • Review code provided by HumaNature Studios

If you are reading this and are too young to know about the escapades of these two aliens the first time around, I am jealous. Then again you missed a good game the first time around.

After a couple of sequels released, there was radio silence from 2002. This new instalment started off on Kickstarter and raised over $500,000. With Greg Johnson the original co-creator of ToeJam and Earl at the helm along with constant fan requests, it is no wonder it destroyed the pledge of $400,000.

Story

Our two music-loving aliens are off in a stolen ship to impress their dates by taking them to see Earth, just like they did all those years ago. Once at Earth Earl wants to press the blue button to get the sub woofer going to get the Earth jumping. Instead Earl hits the red do not press button that opens up a black hole and the Earth and the ship gets sucked in.

On the other side, the ship is broken into ten parts and it is up to the titular aliens to collect all the parts and get back home.

Aliens Are Real

ToeJam-and-Earl-sandAfter starting the game you get to decide who you are going to be. There is ToeJam, Earl, Lewanda and Latisha, as well as the original versions of TomJam and Earl, and two locked characters.

Each character has their own base statistics, as well as skills, making each play though slightly different. For example, Earl can eat anything. These skills will improve throughout the playthrough and each skill is randomly allocated by the joys of RNG. With each level up the rank will change with some interesting titles.

The Same Old Game, Shiny New Look

ToeJam-and-Earl-1991shipToejam and Earl: Back In The Groove is the same game from back in 1991. The game plays practically the same with you starting at level 1 and keep climbing levels until you get all ten ship parts. That, in short, is the game. Saying that the game its self is really fun (if you like slow-paced rouge-likes).

As one of the aliens, it will be up to you to find the parts to the ship, to do so you will need to walk, A LOT! There are secret paths to uncover, food to eat (or throw up) and presents to collect. The pace of the game is very slow, this for myself was a good change of pace and somewhat relaxing.

ToeJam-and-Earl-Back-in-the-Groovedance

Upon entering a level you pick a direction and walk uncovering more of the minimap displayed in the bottom right as you go. While walking around you will come across humans, nasty bad(ish) humans, who want to get rid of you or in the least hinder the progress in some way. These are the main enemy within the game.
Well I would be mad too they were responsible for me being sucked through a black hole!!
The humans are easily thwarted in their revenge – just hide in sunflowers or jump in some water and they stop chasing. This goes back to the more simple AI of the ’90s. Humans are not the only thing to watch out for, other aliens, fans, inquisition are to name, but a few to be aware of.

Each of the aliens has a search button that sends out a search signal and anything within the radius of the signal will ripple if it needs shaking. There will be a lot of shaking, of the trees, houses and bushes. By walking up to what just moved and shaking it, you will be rewarded with either money, a human, a bowling ball or a present. You, of course, do not need to search. If you enjoy a good shake it is possible to shake everything.

It’s CHRISTMAS!!

Well not really, but Santa and Elves are in there somewhere. It will, however, feel like Christmas with all the presents to find. Presents are useable items and if it is the first time opening the present the name will be a question mark until used or identified by an identifying present. Some presents will heal, or boost movement speed and so on, while some are not too helpful; spawning in a human, or exploding as they are broken. I loved the fact it was a lotto as to what the present could be. Presents also come with a rarity or amped status white, blue, purple. Amped makes that effect more powerful or last longer.

Toejam-and-Earl-Back-in-the-Groove-shieldSome of the enemies have the ability to make some presents fall out of the ‘bag’ (it is, in fact, a brown sack). These just need to be picked up again. There is limited space depending on the alien depends on the inventory space. Presents also grant EXP, so use lots of them.

Doors To Somewhere.

Within the game world, doors will appear. There are two types

Type 1 – 
A normal looking door that will drop you off somewhere else within the level.

Type 2 –
A funky door. This door activates a mini-game within a 2D chalk drawn world where the objective is to collect as much EXP, money and food as possible before being transported back. Pressing A will morph the alien into a ball allowing  themto pass through walls and keep the speed up. If you go too slow, you will be transported back to the level.

Out Of This World Multiplayer

ToeJam and Earl: Back In The Groove supports both local and online multiplayer, with online allowing up to four players at a time. This is where the game shines. Drop in and out of co-op, joining someone’s game, randomly helping them or hindering them is loads of fun especially the latter – dropping a present that’s going to make life difficult for your companion and hoping they do not have its name unlocked. I honestly did not do this…much.

This was the highlight of the game for me. It was loads of fun even just having someone else to dance with and high five.

tojae coop

A Little Bit Of Everything Else

If I am honest I could go on for the next five hundred plus words about everything else that can and will happen in ToeJam and Earl: Back In The Groove, but where would the fun be in that? I do not want to spoil everything. So instead I will make a list of some more things that will happen (it is not everything);

  • Lots of food
  • Dolphins
  • Sharks
  • Rubber rings
  • Tomato
  • King Tut
  • Gandhi
  • Falling
  • Cupid

Lastly

TJAE fart

Unfortunately, for ToeJam and Earl: Back In The Groove, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness – “Nostalgia”.
To start with I was instantly transported back to that young boy playing the original in 1991 in my room with my cousins. Then after a few runs, the rose-tinted glasses came off and I realised it was just the nostalgia that kept me coming back to it. It had all the charm of the orignal but not really anything new to add. It had really not progressed in the last 28 years. It is a shame as I know it was taking back to the roots, but at least mix the plants a little and make something new.

Verdict

A definite return to form for our music-loving aliens, but lacks nothing new to add to the formula.

3/5

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