Toejam & Earl have been gone from the gaming world for a few years now, so the name Back in The Groove is pretty fitting. I mean it would sound a little arrogant for them to call it ‘Haven’t Skipped a Beat’ or ‘Never Lost a Step’. Fans of the original games are sure to feel right at home when booting up the newest installment, but how does it fair for newer players to the series such as myself?

Groovy Co-op

Toejam & Earl: Back in The Groove continues the almost perfect co-op feel of the original. In fact, there was only one really nagging aspect of the co-op that was a little disheartening. The screen splits when players get too far away from each other.

Ok, granted this did happen in the original game but this time around its a little more – confusing. While it is great that the game does that automatically, it would be nice if it was always in the same order. It should be first player top left, second player top right, the third bottom left, and the fourth bottom right. That doesn’t happen. It frequently puts it in a random order, which leaves players confused for a few moments and is a little off-putting. Thankfully that is really the only negative detraction from the game.

If you don’t know much about Toejam & Earl, these fresh-to-death aliens crash land on earth and need to find all the parts to their ship before they can head on home to Planet Funkatron, ya dig? So, by yourself or with a partner you search far and wide on Earth while trying to avoid any and most earthlings you come across. Except for Santa, of course.

The thing about earth is, well, it has levels that change with every elevator trip. No, I know that doesn’t make sense. Not until you play the game. Just go with it!

Navigating the levels is a fun mystery every time. Players search for the missing space ship parts. There is even a fun little nod at the older games with Old School Toejam and Old School Earl as playable characters. As a nod to the backers of the game from Kickstarter, there are a bunch of them in the game to find hidden on different levels. Figuring out how to get there though is completely in the hands of the players.

Simple Fun

The goal of each level is simple. Number one, find the ship part that is on the level. Number two, get to the elevator that is somewhere else on the map so you can leave. That is a very simple formula that brings endless opportunity when the rest of the game elements are brought in. The exploration behind the levels, avoiding enemies, leveling up your skill tree it all adds into a well-rounded adventure that does not have very many missteps.

As someone who is kind of new to the series, it was a little difficult to grasp what was an enemy and what was a potential ally in the game. The game does a little bit to help guide the players if they are paying attention to what the characters are saying. Gandhi is a peaceful character that can sort of keep players out of harm’s way, wizards heal you, the kids playing Dungeons and Dragons are a sort of gambling aspect that could net the player more money. So feel free to experiment with talking to characters and trying things out. Just a tip though, when a guy in all red comes up shouting stuff and holding a book, just get out of there, he will demote you a level.

Present Time

Like in the original games, Power-ups in Toejam & Earl: Back in The Groove are given to players through a present system. Broken presents have a chance to blow up and damage the player. Bad presents can be used to mess with other players. There are a few that can boost movement such as rocket shoes, however, try and be careful with that one, it is really easy to fall off the map that way. Spring shoes can help you clear gaps and move out of harm’s way. There are some other ones that can help expose the part on the map or the elevator. Teleporting the team back together is a good move if someone falls off the map and needs help getting back to the rest of the group.

When you aren’t sure what is in a mystery present consider trying to boost your luck perk before opening to make things more favorable for you. Every time you level up or find a piece to the ship there is a chance your luck perk will increase. So if you get that feeling the game is about to give you something negative as a gift, try boosting your luck to avoid it.

Presents are really easy to obtain by the way. Use the player’s search pulse ability and if something in the environment shakes then odds are it has a present or needed food item. There is also a specific character in the game that can be paid to follow you around for a bit and point out presents. So if you are low on presents but have the spare cash feel free to pay up.

Achievements Worth Grinding

The achievement list in Toejam & Earl: Back In The Groove is surprisingly well constructed. There is an emphasis on co-op as well as achievements easy enough to get on your own. Co-op ones can be as simple as sending a bad present to another player or beating the game in local co-op.

Ones that can be obtained alone are as simple as using the boom box four times or even getting hit by Cupid’s Arrow five times in one game. If you don’t have locals to play with and don’t feel like setting up a dummy controller the game does feature online co-op which is actually pretty well done.

Overall

There is so much in this rogue light/like game. That’s how it was worded when I played the game with devs at Pax South and I feel like that is pretty fitting. It does have some random elements that keep players on their toes and make the game feel different each time it is run through. Which can vary between an hour and a half and around four hours depending on difficulty and player skill.


Toejam & Earl: Back In The Groove is extremely well done and has almost no problems with it. It brings together elements of past games and newer mechanics at an outstanding level and is worth your time. Also, the artwork is fun, colorful, and gorgeous. You can grab Toejam & Earl: Back In The Groove on Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One right now for $20 and it is completely worth your time.

Toejam & Earl: Back in The Groove Review
The Good
  • Classic Feel
  • High Replay Value
  • Great Achievements
The Bad
  • Weird Screen Split
  • Can Be Hard to Tell What Is An Enemy
8Overall Score
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About The Author

Allen S
Editorial/Reviews Team, Manager

I started gaming when I was seven years old. I started my own game studio when I was twelve, went to school for game design. Now I work here and also on my own YouTube channel