ToeJam & Earl seemed to perfectly sum up the feel of the late eighties and early nineties back when it was released back in 1991, defining an era of games and culture. Like the original, this new version provides a graphic overhaul but mostly sticks to what made the first games so great.
I was given the opportunity to check out at a demo of ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! at PAX South, a demo provided to me by the humble lead game artist at Humble Nature Studios, Nathan Shorts. He explained the process of how they designed the game and how desperately they sought to capture the feel of the original games, all while adding some modern looks to it. It honestly feels like you are looking at modeling clay in regards to the landscapes which you traverse with various sticker props and characters looking as though they are sticking out of the ground. So, I think they succeeded wholly.
For those not familiar with the original games, ToeJam & Earl is all about having fun. You basically roam the procedurally-generated floating islands and collect presents, interacting with props and characters. There are also Earthlings who seek to damage or stun you, but beyond that the goal is to find the lost pieces to the ‘Rapmaster Rocket’, level up and proceed to the next elevator.
Other than the graphic overhaul, there is a new dancing mini-game that you can participate in to level up your dancing abilities, and also some new presents to play around with. You can ‘grief’ your partners during play, but you still need them to clear the level, so most of it is good-spirited fun.
I enjoyed jamming out to the new hip-hop tunes and playing around with the crazy presents and props with the three other players I was paired with. Overall it is a fun game, but perhaps those not familiar with the franchise will have a hard time seeing the ‘point’ of it all. Either way, ToeJam & Earl are back!