ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove – PS4 Review

28 Years Later…

Cult favourites ToeJam and Earl are back (in the groove) after a long hiatus and successful Kickstarter campaign that saw $500,000 raised for development but a few setbacks from the original planned release date.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Steam, Xbox One
Release Date: 1/3/2019 Everywhere (13/3/2019 EU PS4)
Players: 1-2
Age Rating: 7+
Genres: Action, Adventure
Developer: HumanNature
Price: Varies from £15 to £19 dependant on console shop (will have a limited physical run too)

A step back in time as we reminisce the simpler times of popping a cartridge into a console and having the game load almost instantaneously. We were living our best lives. Cult favourites ToeJam & Earl released in 1991 back on the SEGA Megadrive and became a sleeper hit. Eventually the popularity of the duo would result in SEGA using them as additional mascots throughout the years.

So what do you do?

Confession time, despite starting my journey into video-games with a SEGA Master System, I would never actually own a Megadrive and still don’t to this day despite owning every single other home console from the NES / Master System to today’s current generation consoles (Xbox One being the only other exclusion). So with that said I never did get captivated with the original ToeJam and Earl titles from the early 90’s.

But as has been evident with the latest generation of consoles, nostalgia sells. Crash, Spyro, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII & Busby are all selling gangbusters with hugely positive reviews or in the case of FFVII Remake, are so revered that it’s announcement shook the gaming industry. Okay Busby doesn’t fall into that category, but the point stands, old gaming mascots and franchises of yesteryear are thriving again and at this point almost any property is up for discussion for a remaster, remake or sequel.

With my confession out of the way, back to the original question, what do you do?

Well in this iteration of the series ToeJam and Earl are out cruising in their spacecraft, trying to impress some ladies that they’ve brought along for the journey. During their cruise they stumble across the quiet planet of Earth. ToeJam decides that Earth could use some funky beats broadcast down from the ship so instructs Earl to press the blue auxiliary sub woofer button from the ships control panel. Earl happily obliges but slightly confused between previously mentioned blue button and large red button titled “Black Hole Generator” opts for the latter and sends Earth and their ship through the black hole created from the button press.

Upon exiting the black hole, Earth is some what recreated in flat levels stacked upon one another, and conveniently, parts of the space ship are on each level, your task now is to collect the piece from each level to reassemble the ship to get back home to Funkotron.

Sounds simple enough?

And you know what, it really is that simple. On each of the stacked levels of Earth you’ll encounter a variety of comedic enemies with different ways of inflicting damage to you. The most part of the enemies are earthlings that are after you for various reasons. Be it the guy dressed in a black suit with what looks like the neuroliser from Men in Black, Some guy mowing his lawn who just decides he wants to mow you down to fans of the super natural chasing you to try and get your autograph. Each level is littered with this vast array of comical enemies with the ship part hidden on one of the panels somewhere with an elevator also somewhere on the level to take you to the next area once you’ve found the piece.

There are prank elevators that take you back to the previous level, but thankfully you don’t require having to rediscover the hidden piece but can simply make your way back to the lift to return to the level above you.

It’s simple, but stupid as it sounds, challenging too. The levels become more populated with earthlings and enemies and more obstacles to navigate like sand storms or shark infested waters. Each level gets trickier and requires you to think a bit. Unless you of course have helpful presents that you also collect on each level to aid you. One in particular gives you the power to just transport straight to the ship part which can be so handy on some levels. Of course that doesn’t aid you getting to the elevator to progress, and you might end up in the prank lift sending you back a level.

Look and feel

As far as looks go, this is perfect. The game looks similar to the originals (after doing research to see what they used to look like) and even the objective of the game is the same as predecessors with regards to collecting ship parts. Obviously though with the current hardware available the visuals are more crisp cartoony rather than the grainy Saturday morning 90s cartoons that the originals took inspiration from.

The controls are occasionally a little unresponsive or err janky I guess. Some levels have incredibly slim passages to walk over and I’ve come close to falling off them a few times due to being unable to get ToeJam to walk a straight enough line down them. But this isn’t an issue that takes away any fun from the game.

The sound track is as expected, a nice throwback to the 90’s with some funky beats to it. It just all blends in to be a really fun and enjoyable experience.

Pros and Cons

+ Nostalgia overload with the quips and quotes
+ 25 randomly generated levels to mix up replays

+Visually its like playing a 90s era cartoon
+Foot tappingly good soundtrack

– A tad buggy when loading
– Controls occasionally a tad janky

The Verdict

With so many games today being either long story driven epics or online shooter looters, it was nice to just kick back and spend some hours playing a bright, colourful, humorous and simple-ish game. The collection of enemies per level with their differing environments from snow to sand provided plenty of entertainment. That’s without even touching into the fact that this game is a multiplayer game too. While I only experienced completing the game on single player I’d have no objections playing it again with friends.

It features split screen multiplayer as well as online, so plenty of options available. It could make for a fun afternoon sat on the couch playing with a friend.

I thoroughly enjoyed my play through as a single player. It was just long enough to feel satisfying to complete but not overly long as to feel like a chore. 10 randomly generated levels from 25 means there’s a mixture of levels for each new play through.

To give a statement of approval for this game, While this review was compiled from a “retail” key for PS4 provided from StidePR on behalf of HumanNature, I’ll be pre-ordering the physical version of the game that’s being supplied from Limited Run Games.


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