Toejam and Earl is an old roguelike series from back in the Sega Megadrive days. Back in the Groove is basically a remake of the original, the aim of which is to help Toejam, Earl and the crew get back to their home planet by collecting parts of their ship as you progress through levels and explore.
Despite there only being one objective in Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove; there is a lot of replay value thanks to the different modes and characters you can get as you play through the game. Each character has different starting stats and unique abilities that make them play different. For example: Earl is the only character that can eat bad food, not even his ‘Old Skool’ variant can do it. The way the game plays can also be affected by the mode since you may want to enter a fixed world or maybe a random one which can also have a difficulty increase option.
When you start a playthrough you will begin on a starting island where you can gather a few presents to use on the following floors which will actually have hazards on. Presents can be found in various ways, the most common of which is searching things in the environment like houses and bushes. Some might be found through trading and other means but usually any other way comes at a cost. The effect of each present is random unless you identify them via an identify present or a friendly NPC. Since these presents aren’t all the same effects each game, you need to be more careful about using presents that aren’t identified since they can have many negative effects as well a good ones.
As you wander around each level looking for presents and parts you’ll run into Earthlings. Most of them you’ll come across will be enemies that try to damage you by direct contact or projectiles. Some enemies have unique effects such as switching around your movement controls. Most of them will just simply rush at you, deal damage and knock you back. If an enemy knocks you off the edge of a level you will be sent back to the previous one so exploring edges can be dangerous but also lead to discoveries like hidden paths. In the event you do get hit, eating food allows you to regain health.
Exploring is the key to progress though since even after finding the part for your ship on a level there will be plenty of changes to gain exp and level up, gaining a stat boost. Even though each boost is random is can really make the difference. Having a better search skill so you can see if running near those three enemies to check that bush will actually get you a present or even just getting an inventory space boost. Levelling up is done by talking to the Wise-man, one of the friendly NPCs that can actually help you. Some may trade with you, others may want a dance competition or you might even have Ghandi come and protect you from damage if he’s near you.
Really there’s not much else that goes on. There’s a couple mini games that you can discover and play for bonuses and unlockables such as new characters to use but really Back in the Groove doesn’t focus on having a lot of depth but rather replay value. On top of the already plentiful replay value there is also the option for co-op which makes it a great game to hop on with your friends either online or a couch co-op game with family. I’m sure there are plenty of little details I probably missed that reference the original games or things that are specific to this new kickstarter ‘reboot’ of sorts. Regardless, it shows it’s a very accessible game even if you didn’t play it back in the day.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher