Tagged "ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove"

Mar 07
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Social media would no doubt erupt with confusion and laughter if SEGA ever attempted to resurrect Mega Drive heroes Greendog The Beached Surfer Dude and Kid Chameleon from the 16-bit graveyard. While both games were popular in their heyday, many would consider their quintessentially ‘90s stars positively passé nowadays.

Funk loving aliens ToeJam & Earl are from the same era, yet their return – following a 17-year hiatus – has been a cause for celebration. Reasons for this are numerous. Firstly, they weren’t your typical attitude-filled mascots. The three-legged ToeJam and his portly pal Earl may have sported baggy shorts and wide shades, but their personalities were kept low key. That’s to say, they didn’t rattle off corny catchphrases at every given opportunity. They also had a passion for hip-hop – something still relevant today.

Secondly, the ToeJam & Earl games were ahead of their time, with the original adventure being lightyears ahead. It featured a structure similar to many of today’s popular indie games – including The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, Dead Cells and Spelunky – being a ‘roguelike’ inspired by the genre’s granddaddy at a time when copycats were few.

Not only were stages randomly generated, but also the mystery box power-ups ToeJam & Earl came across, some of which more beneficial than others. This meant each game was slightly different from the last due to varying chances of success, based on level layouts and the usefulness of items found. Throw in a warped sense of humour, a funky soundtrack, and some of the most memorable speech samples of the 16-bit era, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide classic.

If only SEGA knew how to market it, which ultimately lead to the sequel being a more core-audience pleasing side-scrolling platformer. This too wasn’t without its fair share of innovations, however, boasting a bigger focus on exploration than most Mega Drive platformers. The third game, meanwhile, sunk without a trace following a rough development cycle that saw it change from Dreamcast to Xbox, and a second developer (Visual Concepts) brought in to wrap things up.

This long-awaited, Kickstarter funded, fourth entry uses the same set-up as the fan favourite original. Rather than being a mere remake, it’s more of a complete modernisation. Fancy new trimmings include online play, a bevvy of difficulty modes, and permanent perks in the form of unlockable headwear. Both ToeJam and Earl have also received a makeover. Bermuda shorts are out, cargo shorts are in. Word.

Clearly to please retro purists, classic ‘old skool’ ToeJam and Earl are still playable characters, looking a little dorkier than their modern-day counterparts. Joining them are a few new faces – at the end of each game, an additional playable character can be chosen. This helps with replay value, as does the fact there are both fixed and random worlds to complete. The list of achievements/trophies has had some thought put into it too, as many encourage playing a little differently. We absolutely approve of this. The same can be said for TJ&E 2’s auto-running Hyperfunk Zone mini-game making a comeback, which still provides a decent challenge.

later stages are absolutely swarming with enemies

For the uninformed, ToeJam and Earl’s quest entails finding missing parts of their orange-hued space ship so they can return to Funkotron. Each stage also contains an elevator that’ll take our heroes to the next world. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find both the elevator and ship piece pronto, while other instances require most of the map to be uncovered first. The pace is a lot quicker this time around, thankfully, resulting in an average game time of around an hour.

A bigger emphasis on looting is evident, as mystery boxes are now hidden in trees and bushes, and the landscapes also feature houses with doors you can rudely bang on. The world may seem abstract in design, but it’s actually Earth viewed through alien eyes. Biomes include grass, desert, and slippery snow worlds, along with new night-time stages with limited vision. A few other ideas will catch veterans off-guard, which we won’t spoil.

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Feb 26
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

With over twenty new releases on PlayStation 4 alone, it’s one of those weeks where there’s something to cater for all tastes. Even a few genres not usually associated with consoles are covered, with Stellaris: Console Edition bringing deep intergalactic strategy, and 8-Bit Invaders offering accessible RTS battles.

There are a few hard to define titles too; stuff tricky to pigeonhole.

Trials Rising is one such example, returning with its creative mixture of physics-based racing and party game shenanigans. Despite the introduction of loot boxes, critics claim it’s the best Trials has ever been, providing a wealth of content. Switch owners may want to invest in a GameCube controller though – this is apparently the best way to play, as the JoyCons aren’t best suited for the precision Trials calls for.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove sees the 16-bit heroes return to their Roguelike roots meanwhile, due out on PS4, Xbox One and Switch this Friday. Even though it’s officially the fourth entry in the series, early word has it that it feels like a remake of the original. That’s no bad thing.

Beat’em up fans have Dead or Alive 6 to mull over – which gained favourable impressions from those who played the recent demo – while Codemaster’s DiRT Rally 2.0 is off to a flying start, gaining a mixture of 8s and 9s. The best rally sim around? It’s certainly looking that way.

Then we have The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame, which according to Eurogamer is a cut above previous LEGO movie tie-ins. Hurrah for that. Many online retailers have dropped the price to below £30 so if you’re after a copy it’s a good idea to shop around.

On the digital services you’ll find Toby Fox’s Undertale follow-up DELTARUNE Chapter 1 – available for free on PS4 and Switch – the relaxed Animal Crossing/Harvest Moon hybrid Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Xbox One, the multi-format pixel art Game Boy-style platformer Awesome Pea, and the 2D run and gunner Creepy Road.

The Switch bounces back with six new retail releases too. We really enjoyed Rad Rogers on Xbox One, and it’s hard to imagine it losing its sheen on Switch. Crash Dummy is another blast for the past. In fact, it could even be considered retro – this 2.5D platformer first launched on PS2. Incredible!

New release showcase:

Trials Rising

Reviews:
9/10 – GameSpew: “Ultimately, Trials Rising offers phenomenal value for money. The tried and tested gameplay has been refined to perfection, there are more than 100 events on offer, and its multiplayer modes are a blast”

4/5 – US Gamer: “The tracks are all a joy to race through as you chase landing on the leaderboard or overcoming tough Contracts. With its international approach and attention to detail, each level’s design—from an art and gameplay perspective—feels like the best Trials has ever been”

4/5 – GamesRadar: “Even with a clumsy progression system, Trials Rising’s vibrant tracks, tight controls, and excellent tutorials are some of the best in the series”

8/10 – Destructoid: “Some of the out-of-level elements could use another pass, but progression pacing issues, loot-box bloat, and technical hiccups weren’t enough to put me off what is ultimately another great Trials game”

7/10 – Push Square: The physics are still phenomenal, and the series has retained its addictive quality, but it can occasionally feel like a game looking for answers to questions that didn’t necessarily exist to begin with.

DiRT Rally 2.0

Reviews:
9/10 – Push Square: “Even if the sim label puts you off, we’d encourage you to take this for a test drive; it’s easily one of the most thrilling racing games in recent years”

87% – PC Gamer: “Simply the best rally sim around, building on its predecessor’s already fine foundations”

4/5 – Screen Rant: “Rewarding racers who stick with the difficulty, it’s a title that gives players back as much as they put in – and the end result is a stunning rallying sim at best and a more than solid racer at worst. Casual gamers might find it too extreme to be really enjoyable, but hardcore motorsport fans should definitely check it out”

Stellaris: Console Edition

Reviews:
9/10 – PSU: “The only offering of its ilk on PS4, Stellaris: Console Edition squeezes a galaxy of emergent strategy, discovery and story onto Sony’s home console with very little compromise. Stellaris is certainly the biggest, if not one of the best pure strategy titles you can get on PS4 right now”

8.5 – God is a Geek: “Stellaris is a beautiful, busy space adventure that rewards you as much for careful, considered strategy as it does for building a 40-ship fleet as early as possible and going ham on anything with more than one pair of eyes”

8/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Stellaris: Console Edition is a solid port of what is easily Paradox Interactive’s most accessible grand strategy game. While Stellaris has evolved and grown over the past three years on PC, the base game is still a good solid grand strategy title with some intriguing ideas for storytelling and managing an endgame, though without some of the depth of their other titles. More importantly, wrapped a controller and TV friendly interface around the game that puts control over even the grandest of empires well within your grasp”

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Reviews:
8/10 – Destructoid: “Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is undoubtedly one of the cutest and most welcoming games that I’ve played in a long while. Sure, the experience may be slightly marred by a handful of minor faults, but Yonder more than compensates for these issues with its beautifully realised world and its enjoyably lighthearted tone”

7.5 – Xbox Tavern: “Yonder’s world is as endearing as it is captivating, but the Animal Crossing/Harvest Moon-esque content that fills it, although accessible and plentiful, isn’t quite as robust as it appears to be. Whilst most of the game’s fun quests and opportunities have meaning and depth, a large portion of them feel needless and tacked on, merely to bolster longevity. Still, overall, it’s hard not to be allured by the game’s diverse and truly relaxing foundation”

3.5/5 – True Achievements: “Yonder is the type of game I wish we had a lot more of on Xbox. Its quaint and relaxed nature is a breath of fresh air and an easy recommendation for families playing together. While its more structured story leaves less post-game life to live compared to its genre counterparts, it also manages to find a comfy middle ground between simplicity and depth. It’s approachable, adorable, and sows the seeds of happiness in its characters and players alike”

8-Bit Invaders

Reviews:
4/5 – VideoChums: “8-Bit Invaders is a solid finale to a fantastic trilogy of accessible RTS games. It doesn’t deviate much from the other 2 games but when the core gameplay is as fun and intuitive as it is, simply having more stages to master within a new theme is enough”

3.5/5 – TheXboxHub: “Petroglyph Games have managed to pack a ton of content into what could be considered by some to be nothing less than an expansion pack, however there have had to be some concessions made in making this console RTS experience, as well as attempting to make it accessible to beginners; not all make for a better experience”

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