Originally released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis, ToeJam & Earl brought to life one of gaming's most beloved - albeit niche - duos. The game followed two alien rappers whose spaceship crash lands on Earth. Intent on returning to their home planet of Funkotron, they embark on an adventure to collect the scattered pieces of their spaceship. Close to 14 years later, the duo are preparing to make their triumphant return with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove.
While subsequent titles in the series drew upon different styles of gameplay, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove harkens back to its roots by placing a focus on isometric camera angles and rogue-like gameplay mechanics. Announced just over a week ago on Kickstarter, the project has been quick to attract both new and old fans alike. It may still be in a very early working state, but it's hard to deny the excitement of seeing these two gaming icons back in the spotlight.
In an effort to give fans a look at how the game is developing and what can be expected from it in the future, developer Humanature Studios has released an early gameplay trailer. The isometric camera and 2D sprites that gamers have grown to love are present in spades, but this time around they are contrasted against a world rendered in 3D. Despite the fact that the graphics have been vastly improved from the series' 1991 inception, the trailer still manages to evokes an instant sense of nostalgia.
Right down to the comic book quality of the visuals that are vaguely reminiscent of 2013's popular survival-oriented rogue-like Don't Starve, the game oozes with the sense of style that put ToeJam & Earl on the map in the first place. Even though it's evident that the game is still in an early state, everything on-screen has a distinctly crisp quality that helps it to pop out of the screen. Couple this with the depth of having game levels stack upon each other and the sense of respect for ToeJam & Earl's roots as well as the drive to help the series evolve is incredibly clear.
It will be interesting to see how the game develops and grows as time goes on. In its current state, there seems to be little more than simple traversal of the world, collection of presents and a hint of procedural generation. With 4-player co-op promised and features being drawn upon from the series' first and second iterations, Back in the Groove seems to be a love-letter to fans and a project that could easily draw the interest of new fans as more information is released.
Considering the recent success of Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty! and the return of Battletoads, classic gaming franchises are making a return in a very big way. Whether it's niche titles or those that inspire endless amounts of love and nostalgia, it's exciting to see new life being breathed into the classics that many gamers grew up with. It may not be the first and it won't be the last, but ToeJam & Earl and Humanature Studios represent another example of the passion that the video game industry continues to inspire.
How does this early look at ToeJam & Earl's gameplay stack up to your expectations of the project? What elements of the series' various games would you like to see worked into this title?
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove currently has no release date but is expected to release on PC, Mac and Linux.