It wasn’t all that long ago that if you mentioned ToeJam and Earl to most people they would look at you like you were some kind of oddball with a toe fetish. But for many of us cool kids who grew up in the height of the console wars, ToeJam and Earl were as integral to our formative gaming years as Mario and Sonic and offered a welcomed distraction from our secret love of feet.
Well, like that horrible smell our parents used to complain about that emanated from our bedrooms around the same time as these two heroes heyday, ToeJam and Earl are back and stronger than ever thanks to a brand new adventure from our dear friends over at HumanNature Studios.
The original ToeJam & Earl video game crash-landed on Earth 28 years ago and was an instant hit. Several sequels followed but all failed to live up to the originals quirky greatness. Now, thanks to a hugely successful $500,000 Kickstarter, the team behind the 1991 classic have been able to bring us the sequel we’ve all been waiting for with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove.
After joyriding through space with a couple of alien babes, the titular heroes find themselves once again stranded on our planet (or a weird version of it), searching for the missing pieces of their spaceship which was destroyed as a result of their intergalactic shenanigans.
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! is pure joy to behold. Aesthetically it’s as if someone took the original Genesis cartridge, squeezed it down into micro sim size and inserted it directly into the Nintendo Switch. It is a rainbow assault on the senses, with colours we haven’t seen in a game since the last time we all dropped a shit load of acid and tried to play Doom. There are also hilarious cut scenes, which act as random exposition, and it has a soundtrack more fitting of the 1990s than any of these neo-retro indie games that are flooding the market in 2019. I guess what we’re trying to say is Back in the Groove is authentic. It may have been made nearly 3 decades after the original release but the team behind it know their shit, and having Greg Johnson on board must have helped.
Although the game has a PEGI rating of 7+, there is nothing simple about Back in the Groove. Yes you could give it to your little darlings and they’d probably be able to play it, but we’d like to see them tackle the neverending fresh hell that is the human enemies. Alone they are a sight to behold, but as the game progresses so do their powers and they become a mass of brain-frazzling annoyance that will make your hair fall out – if it hasn’t done so already, we are all old by now damnit. I guess what we’re trying to say is, don’t be fooled by the demographic it’s aimed at. It’s as frustrating and challenging as it was 28 years ago and will keep you awake at night. This isn’t a game you’ll be polishing off in a day – unless you have 3 friends on hand to join in the co-op action.
In 2019 it isn’t easy to find authentic retro experiences in your games. A lot of the time it feels like you’re playing a game that is a representation of how someone thinks things used to be, and how video games used to look. That’s so not the case with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. This is why we still talk about great games from that fabled bygone era because they really were this fun and this good. If we were wearing a hat it would be taken off as a sign of respect, and we just hope that this is a sign of things to come for anyone looking to reboot a classic franchise in this modern world of gaming without substance.
You can’t hear us but we’re applauding. Congratulations to the team behind ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! because you have made an almost perfect retro gaming experience. Back in the Groove! is as authentic a game as you’ll find on the marketplace, and at £15.99 it’s a complete steal.