As part of a fantastic #IndieSelect event, I was ready to run the risk of ruining my childhood by playing a free copy of ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove! (BitG), the kickstarter-funded soft reboot of the Mega Drive game ToeJam and Earl.
Much like the Mega Drive original, the game follows ToeJam and Earl, two aliens who’ve crashed their friend’s spaceship and need to reassemble it so they can get back to their home planet of Funkotron.
Despite being a huge fan of the 1991 original, I’d been very tentative about getting a copy and paying for it because when games get remade, reimagined, or rebooted, they run the risk of being a pointless or disappointing endeavour.
So are our funky heroes really back in the groove or were they just cool in the 90s?
- Awesome 90s visuals
- Faithful gameplay
- Funky soundtrack
- Dated mechanics
The gameplay is almost a carbon-copy of the original. You walk around avoiding earthlings, finding and opening presents, and searching for pieces of a broken ship. The game includes the rogue-like elements of the original including the procedurally-generated levels. Of course, a few features have been added such as character stats, bonuses for finding ship pieces, and minigames such as the jams and Hyper Funk Zone from the series’ second game Panic on Funkotron.
I wasn’t initially sure whether or not the visuals worked for me. The original had some bizarre pixel art and a vibrant colour palette and it was awesome. However, the creators of BitG opted to capture the nostalgia from the 90s by lifting the aesthetic from the cartoons of the time rather than the games. While initially jarring, especially with the ground being rendered in 3d, the game’s aesthetics will grow on you and you’ll forget all about the pixel art from the original.
BitG’s biggest problem the dated mechanics that have been lifted straight from the original. If you loved the original, you won’t mind falling down to the previous level, opening presents that kill you, or picking up food that makes you sick rather than healing you. However, a lot has changed since the 90s and I don’t think those new to the series will be as fond of these elements as die-hards.
BitG is a fantastic update to the series after such a long hiatus. It perfectly captures what I loved about the original. It adds to the original rather than trying to reinvent any of it. Unfortunately, if you weren’t a fan of this cult classic or too young to have ever played it, you might struggle to see the appeal or get any enjoyment out of it.
I’d recommend that you play cooperatively with a fan of the series if you’ve never played before. Just watch their eyes light up as they open a present containing a pair of massively unhelpful rocket stakes!
ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove, is available on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.