Everyone has that one movie or game from their early childhood that seems like a fever dream. A memory so weird and out of place that you just assume you made it up or are remembering something that actually made sense. For me that memory is Toejam and Earl.
When I was a young kid I spent my summers at the local YMCA day camp, we’d do usual outdoors stuff but if the weather wasn’t good we’d get to play inside where they had some TV’s set up with SNES and Sega Genesis. I got to experience a lot of games this way, seeing as I didn’t have to buy them or didn’t have to wait for my birthday to get something new. I remember being exposed to Vectorman, Kid Chameleon, Comix Zone and even the Aladdin game (Genesis version, of course).
Then, there was Toejam & Earl. I watched the older kids play it, it was a popular choice. I played it a bunch of times in small bursts (we had to take turns per life, lotta kids to take turns with.) It was a deceptively simple game, you walked around Earth, fought off enemies with random (really random) power ups and tried to get up to the next level, literally up, taking an elevator every time. I don’t remember it in too much detail, but it was goofy, fun and had great music. I found a loop of the music from the original game on YouTube a while ago and I listen to it all the time believe it or not.
So now 20 something years later we have a new honest to goodness Toejam and Earl game gracing our screens once again, and boy is it as weird and fever-dreamish as ever. In Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove, you still have the simple goal of rebuilding your ship to get off of Earth. You can play as several different characters, obviously funky fresh best buds Toejam & Earl, but also their girlfriends and a few other unlockable costumes and characters. Along the way you’ll find some helpful earthlings, like a wizard, a Valkyrie, a man in a carrot suit (whom you use for leveling up for some reason) and even Gandhi himself. You also have to escape evil earthlings like a jack hammering construction guy, an alien loving super fan who chases you down for an autograph, a big tourist lady who reverses your controls thanks to the flash of her camera and even weirder things like a flock of cannon wielding army chickens. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the weird and random shit you’ll come across in the game but I feel like half the fun is seeing this stuff for the first time.
Another big part of the game are the power ups, called presents, you unwrap them not initially knowing what you’re going to get. These presents can make or break you, sometimes being actual handy power ups and sometimes really screwing you over. One present might be a handful of tomatoes so you can attack enemies, yet another one could give you hard to control rocket skates that make you fall off the map and go down a level. It’s all luck of the draw and all part of the fun.
Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove is simple but strangely addicting, and it’s been great for short bursts of weirdness in between some other games I’ve been playing lately. In this world of endless AAA action games about the end of the world and people killing each other and stuff, sometimes exactly what you need is a weird ass game where you meditate with Gandhi and have dance contests with aliens. I’m also happy to say music is as funky and fun as ever. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to track down the soundtrack on YouTube and add it to my playlist.
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