Toejam & Earl: Back In The Groove Review
Now that we’re living in the era of crowdfunding, there are several classic game series that are making a comeback that never would have otherwise. We got a spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie in the form of Yooka-Laylee, and later this year we’re finally getting the long-awaited Shenmue III. However, a new game has just hit the market thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, which has brought back the cult classic Toejam & Earl series for a fourth round.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it got its start on Sega Genesis with the roguelike original back in ’91 before giving way to a more traditional platformer in ’93 with Panic on Funkotron. The series was dormant for about a decade until a comeback was attempted in 2002 with Mission to Earth on Xbox, though it was a mess and effectively killed the series. Now here we are nearly two decades since then, and old school fans will be happy to know that Back in the Groove takes things back to its roots.
The concept of the game is simple, as Toejam & Earl are tasked with collecting all of the parts of their Rapmaster ship after Earl crashes it following an unfortunate piloting error on his part. Of course, the ship parts have scattered around numerous levels that are filled with evil Earthlings for you to deal with, and they aren’t at all happy to see you. However, Back in the Groove takes things in a different direction compared to most games by actually having you *avoid* enemy encounters entirely for the most part. You’ll instead spend most of your time sneaking around the randomly-generated levels, shaking bushes and trees for XP and presents to help you out.
Presents serve as the game’s temporary power-ups that can do a variety of things for you, both good and bad. Some presents will allow you to fly around the level easily and bypass any challenge whatsoever, whereas others will sound an alarm and put a massive blinking sign over you that alerts all of the enemies nearby. Most of the presents that you get will also be unidentified, so you’ll typically be opening them at your own risk.
The game’s enemy variety is commendable, and fans will be happy to know that it contains a nice mixture of both old and new. These include the likes of the invisible Boogiemen, Lawnmower Man and the infamous naked man in a cardboard box. The returning Earthlings are hilarious to see in action, but there are also some new additions that are just as good. One standout is an avid alien fan that chases you around while shouting, “Oh my Gosh, sign my game!”
Despite all of the evil Earthlings that you’ll have to deal with, there are some friendly ones that are sprinkled throughout each level. Some will allow you to level up your stats if you’ve gained enough experience from shaking bushes and exploring the map, while others will heal you or keep you safe from enemies. All of these characters ooze with so much personality that it’s hard not to crack a smile while interacting with them. This is coupled with an excellent funk soundtrack that serves as a perfect backdrop to the wackiness happening on-screen. Fans of the original will hear callbacks to tracks in the first game along with brand new tunes, and it all adds up to background music that is very fun and unique in this space.
As far as how a typical session of the game will go, you’ll move through relatively small areas looking for ship parts, experimenting with the various presents and avoiding Earthlings. It’s apparent from the onset that the game isn’t so much focused on being challenging as it is just trying to humor you with its various Earthlings. There’s *some* challenge to be had as you have a health bar and can be knocked off of levels that send you back to the previous one, but in my playtime I never once got a game over. This can definitely cause extended play sessions to become a bit boring, as you never really feel threatened and the gameplay doesn’t shake things up as you progress from level to level.
The lack of challenge is disappointing, especially considering Panic on Funkotron had no shortage of it. In that game you would take on Earthlings head-on by throwing jars at them to capture them, though different Earthlings called for different attack methods. There’s really none of that to be found here, unfortunately, as your main strategy is almost always just “avoid the Earthlings.” Thankfully, the developer didn’t forget about the second game entirely, as that game’s terrific Hyper Funk Zone mini game is back. This mini game transports you to a 2D play style as you last as long as you can avoiding obstacles and collecting presents. It’s a load of fun and is easily the highlight of Back in the Groove in terms of actual gameplay.
Another returning element from Panic on Funkotron are the Jam Out sessions, where you’ll essentially be challenged by someone to play along with a beat that they provide for you by pressing buttons at the correct time. The better you do the higher your score will be, which will typically results in nice rewards like presents or money. There are even some freestyle challenges where you’ll have to make your own beat, and the game will judge you based on how complex of a beat you came up with. These Jam Out sessions are nice diversions and are definitely welcomed.
There are 9 characters to choose from in total, each with their own stats that make them better or worse in certain situations. While this is a nice way to spice things up and add some variety, considering the game’s low-difficulty you really won’t find yourself wondering which character is best for your play style or a particular situation. Sure, Earl is slower than Toejam, but this is a moot point when avoiding Earthlings is pretty easy if you’re paying close attention to your surroundings. Of course, if you bring a friend along then that will alleviate some of the monotony. You have numerous ways to call out to your friends if you need help, and can give them a high five if their health is running low give them a boost at the expense of your own. The game even features online multiplayer, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding someone to team up with.
Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove truly feels like something from a bygone era, which works both for and against it. Developer HumaNature studios did a fantastic job of bringing this world and its zany characters to life, but the gameplay itself is so offbeat that it definitely won’t be for everyone. Still, if you’re into roguelikes and are at all intrigued by the game’s ’90s DNA, then you’ll likely have a good time here.
Dead Cells is assisting Konami with the PS5 release of Castlevania
Dead Cells’ Return to Castlevania expansion, which came out a few weeks ago and is really good, is a great way to relive your childhood and enjoy a nostalgic distraction. A native PS5 physical release of the game is in the works, and it looks like we’ll be getting a bundle with both versions of the game.
Gematsu found a listing for “Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania Edition” on the ESRB website. It was rated T for Teen, which suggests that an announcement is coming soon.
Looks like Dead Cells is getting a native PS5 release / physical bundle for its DLC "Return to Castlevania"
"Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania Edition" rated for PS5 by ESRB: https://t.co/sBluaxiBJZ
Gematsu page: https://t.co/v6vBBbz1X9 pic.twitter.com/NGsHlmmJ8W
— Gematsu (@gematsu) March 26, 2023
After its initial 2018 release on PS4 to widespread acclaim, Dead Cells has received a steady stream of updates, and we think a bundled SKU including DualSense support and all the other PS5 bells and whistles would be awesome. What do you think of Return to Castlevania if you’ve been playing it?
Update to Dying Light 2’s Combat System and Transmogrification Features Set for April 20
The next update for Dying Light 2 will release on April 20 for PS5 and PS4, and it will include improvements to the game’s brutal combat system, among other things.
Techland, the company that made the game, says that the changes coming to the combat system will be “significant” and will make the already “brutal” combat even worse.A transmogrification system is also being added, which will give players more control over how their avatars look without sacrificing gameplay depth, which is always important.
How do you feel about these unexpected improvements for Dying Light 2?
Due to the disruption, the PS5 free trial for Marvel’s Midnight Suns has been extended
Is Marvel’s Midnight Suns on the PlayStation 5 your curios? Over the weekend, anyone who wanted to could try out the tactical superhero game for free. Unfortunately, due to a few mistakes, it hasn’t been helping everyone. The good news is that this hiccup has been fixed, and the trial has been extended to make up for lost time:
📣 The PS5 All-Access trial should now be working for all players. We’ve extended the PS5 trial until Thursday, March 30 at 12AM PT / 7AM UTC. Thanks for your patience! https://t.co/guP2OopAf6
— Marvel's Midnight Suns (@midnightsuns) March 26, 2023
As a result, until Thursday, March 30th, all PS5 owners can enjoy the game at no cost. You’ll have plenty of time to check it out after that.
Firaxis’ Marvel’s Midnight Suns gives familiar heroes and villains a fresh spin through the use of turn-based strategy and role-playing game elements. You’ll be able to hang out with Marvel’s Blade, Captain Marvel, and Wolverine when you’re not engaged in tactical battles. The game has its own style and is fun to play.
It’s also important to note that PS Plus Premium members can play the game for two hours for free. That’s why it’s not the end of the world if you can’t take advantage of this protracted trial period.
Will you be using this demo to check out Marvel’s Midnight Suns on the PS5?
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