Only recently we learned that the successor to the Castlevania legacy, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, will now also be coming to Switch. Well now we have another well known retro name to add to that list, although it’s one that’ll be far more familiar to all those Sega fans out there. Yep it’s ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove, the long awaited fourth instalment in the ToeJam & Earl series.
Released back in the early 90s, ToeJam & Earl is based around the misadventures of two Alien rappers who have crash landed on the planet Earth. Yes you really did read that right, as if there was a sentence that couldn’t be more 90s. It’s a game that takes a look at the Planet Earth from a satirical viewpoint, with the two aliens clearly seeing thing quite differently to us Humans.
All in all, ToeJam & Earl’s satirical humour, co-op gameplay, soundtrack and overall uniqueness, all combined to make the game a critical hit on release. In fact, whilst ToeJam & Earl did not see success to the level that Sonic the Hedgehog saw, it was still considered more than good enough, and sequel soon followed for the Mega Drive / Genesis. What’s more, Sega even went on to use the two marooned Aliens as mascots going forward.
However, despite a third entry in the series for the Xbox in 2002, following the end of the 16-bit era, ToeJam & Earl largely disappeared. This is possibly due to the reception of its sequels, and also because it was a series squarely centred around early 90s pop culture. Regardless of this though, it now seems ToeJam & Earl are ready to make their comeback, and it’s a comeback that the series’ creator is also on board for.
You see, whilst on face value it would seem that ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is being developed by a different studio, this doesn’t quite tell the full tale. Yes the original series was developed by Johnson Voorsanger Productions, and this new title by HumaNature Studios, however HumaNature Studios was actually founded by the series’ creator Greg Johnson. A fact that should certainly get any fan of the original games excited.
What should also get fans of the original excited, is how Back in the Groove looks set to return to its roots through an experience very similar to the original entry. Unlike the 3D days of the Xbox, or the platformer-esque approach that Panic On Funkotron took, in Back in the Groove, ToeJam & Earl are once again hopping from one floating island to the next searching for the lost wreckage of their spacecraft. Current footage even features a remixed and updated version of the original game’s soundtrack.
HumaNature Studios aren’t forgetting the sequels though, and have promised to take some inspiration from these titles. Whether that be story related, or through the use of mini games, such as Panic On Funkotron’s rhythm based mini game “Jam Out”. Finally, Back in the Groove is also confirmed to feature nine playable characters, alongside both local and online four player co-op, something the Nintendo Switch is perfectly placed to take advantage of.
Despite being recently announced for Switch though, the existence of ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove has been common knowledge for a few years now. In fact, it was originally announced way back in 2015, and scheduled for a 2016 release following its successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign, before being sadly faced with a number of delays. These were of course unfortunate, especially given the crowdfunded nature of the project, however in many respects it seems like these delays have now ended up being good for the consumer.
You see, unfortunately the Kickstarter campaign originally missed out on its stretch goal for console support, and as such it was announced that ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove would only be released solely on PC platforms. However in 2016, Adult Swim Games came in as a publisher and not only gave additional funding, but also made it possible for ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove to be released on the Nintendo Switch, a console not even announced when the game was funded. What’s more, Adult Swim Games have also announced that more platforms will be confirmed soon as we build up to the game’s release later in the year.
This is all really good news, although it’s a shame that on this occasion there isn’t Sega console for the series to return to. Nevertheless, if there was ever a fitting home for a 16-bit series, then it’s seemingly with the retro embracing Nintendo Switch, especially given the intuitive and simple co-op gameplay offered by the Joy-Con controllers. What’s more, based on recently gameplay footage, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove looks set to be a triumphant return to the gameplay of the 16-bit era, whether you grab it on Switch, PC, or any other console yet to be announced.