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.
Sony Has a “Monopoly” on the High-End Japanese Gaming Market, According to a US Senator
The never-ending saga surrounding Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard has a new participant. Today, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from the state of Washington, said some things about the subject that were hard to understand.
The senator, whose remarks were reported on by ResetEra, spoke at a Senate finance committee hearing on “the president’s 2023 Trade Policy Plan,” which we are sure was quite interesting.
Senator Cantwell said that she had been told that Sony “controls a monopoly of 98% of the high-end game market” despite the fact that “Japan’s government has allowed Sony to engage in blatant anti-competitive conduct through exclusive deals and payments to game publishers, establishing games that are among the most popular in Japan.”
This 98% statistic is highly deceptive because it ignores PC, Nintendo, and mobile games and instead refers to Sony’s adoption rate over Microsoft in Sony’s native country of Japan, a fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone who is even somewhat familiar with the video game business.
What can we do to rectify these problems and create a level playing field, she said of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai after charging Japan’s Federal Trade Commission with improperly failing to look into this purported “exclusionary conduct”?
It is absurd to claim that Sony has a monopoly on the Japanese video game market, as Luke Plunkett of Kotaku correctly points out, “because Sony doesn’t even have a 98% share of the market for the God of War series, a title they own, as Steam is getting 30% of every sale on PC.”
It goes without saying that we can’t expect elected officials to be experts in every field, but this is a visible step at a time when the ongoing attempt to buy the company is at a very important point.
Is it significant that Microsoft, along with Nintendo, maintains its headquarters in Redmond, Washington—Senator Cantwell’s district—or that Microsoft has given Cantwell more than $500,000 over the past two decades? Let us leave that up to you.
Eating trash, Pizza Possum destroys the PS5
Pizza Possum is an arcade action game in which you, a possum, attempt to consume as much trash as you can without being discovered. It is a web-based sequel to the anarchy simulator Untitled Goose Game.It will eventually be available on the PS5.
We couldn’t help but notice that the possum in the title doesn’t look like the cute Australian possum that comes out at night to visit people.On the other hand, it looks like the horrible North American opossums are the ones that will attack trash cans and cause general chaos.Even though we think the second choice was better in terms of theme, we prefer the first one and are happy to explain why.
Your thoughts on Pizza Possum? Does it possess the necessary mass appeal to successfully skitter along the back fenceline while setting the dog off in the process?
The Mercenaries, a free piece of DLC for Resident Evil 4 Remake, launches on April 7
Resident Evil 4 is now out, and the excellent remake can be bought right away.Even though you probably plan to play it all this weekend, you can take comfort in the fact that The Mercenaries, Resident Evil’s almost-required challenge mode, will be available as free DLC on April 7.
The mode’s exact details are still unknown, but if it’s anything like previous versions, you can expect some pretty hard tasks to test your skills.
You’re stumped about something? If you are still debating whether to purchase Resident Evil 4 Remake, be sure to look at our exhaustive guide for the answer or our in-depth review. Are you spending this weekend playing Resident Evil 4? Are you anticipating The Mercenaries?
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