ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove has been officially announced, and along with the announcement came a Kickstarter campaign and a press packet. I’ve combed through these things extensively, and I’ve compiled a list of features from the original ToeJam & Earl that will be making a return in Back in the Groove.
The Isometric Viewpoint (Source: Kickstarter, Press Material, and Screenshots)
One of the hallmarks of the original ToeJam & Earl (which never saw a return in later games in the series) was its isometric viewpoint. Greg Johnson has sent out conceptual screenshots that show how this old school approach looks on modern technology.
Stacked Levels (Source: Kickstarter, Press Material, and Screenshots)
In ToeJam & Earl, levels were stacked. As in, falling from the third level would find you landing on the second. This created a very thought-out sense of space, and of how these 2D maps were connected to one another in a 3D space. This approach was abandoned with Panic on Funkotron and has not been a part of the series ever since.
Until now. According to a press packet sent out by series creator Greg Johnson, “overall we’re keep[ing] it old school, with stacked random levels, simple controls, 2D sprites in a retro art style, and a largely-fixed isometric camera.” The fans asked for it; the fans shall receive it.
Elevators (Kickstarter and Screenshots)
In the original game, upward travel was accomplished via elevators that players would find littered about this randomly generated landscape. It looks like this will once again be the main method of ascension. Cool beans.
The Righteous Rapmaster Rocketship (Source: Kickstarter)
The entire first game was about putting this funky piece of machinery back together, and the Righteous Rapmaster Rocketship is making a return in Back in the Groove. In fact, according to the game’s Kickstarter page, it sounds like you’ll even be able to fly it around this time.
Ship Pieces (Source: Kickstarter)
With the Righteous Rapmaster Rocketship returning, the act of collecting ship parts to rebuild it will be returning as well. However, this time the award for completing it sounds way cooler than just completing the game. (As I mentioned earlier, you can fly this thing around once you assemble it.)
Roads (Source: Kickstarter and Screenshots)
Roads provided a faster means of travel in the original game, as walking on them increased the player’s speed. There have been plenty of roads spotted in the Kickstarter video and various screenshots, so it looks like ToeJam and Earl will be roadrunner-ing their way around the planet once again.
Co-op Gameplay (Source: Kickstarter, Press Materials, and Screenshots)
Co-op has always been a fundamental part of the ToeJam & Earl experience, and that’s not disappearing with Back in the Groove. From the early-stage screenshots and videos I’ve seen, it looks like this will function similar to how it did in the original the Genesis game — a single screen that splits whenever the players get too far apart.
Invisible Ground That Appears as You Walk Toward It (Source: Kickstarter)
In the original game, there were often areas of the map that seemed inaccessible until you walked toward them and fresh ground would appear in front of you. In the Kickstarter video, there is a quick shot of ground appearing in front of ToeJam, so it looks like that feature is back.
Funky Music (Source: Kickstarter)
Presents (Source: Kickstarter and Press Materials)
Image Source: Retro Games Wiki
Power-ups in ToeJam & Earl came to players in the form of wrapped presents. In the press packet I received, Johnson spends a little bit of time explaining how those will work this time around, which confirms their presence in the upcoming sequel. Expect more presents, as well as some new present-based mechanics.
Icarus Wings (Source: Kickstarter and Screenshots)
Perhaps my favorite power-up item from the original game, Icarus wings let players soar about like some sort of glued together alien eagle thing. I’m pleased to have spotted them in both the screenshots I’ve seen and the Kickstarter video.
Rocket Skates (Source: Kickstarter)
Image Source: TheDailyPOS.org
According to the game’s Kickstarter page, “2 words… ROOOCKET SKAAAAATES!!.”
Pizza (Source: Screenshot)
ToeJam and Earl are fond of junk food and pizza, which served as healing items in the original game. Looking at the screenshot above carefully shows a slice lying on the ground, which I assume is serving its original purpose as a greasy, sort-of-nutritious healing item.
Birthday Cake (Source: Kickstarter)
In the Kickstarter video, there’s a quick scene where a birthday cake can be spotted. Since this was a healing item in the original game, I think it’s safe to assume it will be exactly that once again.
Ice Cream (Source: Kickstarter)
I seem to have spotted some ice cream. Of course, in the original game, this would have been a fudge sundae and not an ice cream cone, but I think it’s close enough, right?
ToeJam and Earl (Source: Common Sense, Kickstarter, Press Materials, and Screenshots)
Okay, so this is obvious. A game called ToeJam & Earl will feature both ToeJam and Earl as characters. However, those aren’t the only two familiar characters we’ll see. There’s a whole slew of enemies making a grand return, so keep reading!
Boogiemen (Source: Concept Art)
These stealthy little bastards have been a staple of the ToeJam & Earl series since its inception, and, according to the concept art I’ve seen (as well as the Kickstarter video), they’ll be making an appearance in Back in the Groove.
Crazy Dentists (Source: Screenshot, Kickstarter)
The crazy dentists perhaps failed dentist school, but they passed “drilling people in the butt” school with flying colors, and their maniacal laughter still haunts my darkest dreams. According to an early concept screenshot (as well as the Kickstarter video), the crazy dentists are back with a vengeance.
Hula Girls (Source: Concept Art)
These Hawaiian hotties would hypnotize our alien friends with the seductive motion of their hips and their flowing grass skirts. We’ve got concept art that shows their new design, suggesting strongly that we’ll be seeing them again. (Fun fact: In the original ToeJam & Earl, the hula girl’s name was Wahina, according to Skutter.net.)
Wizards (Source: Concept Art)
Wizards would offer you their magical healing powers for a small fee — just give them a buck and they’ll refill your health to its max. I’m not sure if these guys will function the exact same way they did back in the 90s, but I have concept art that makes me pretty confident they’ll at least make a return appearance.
Devils (Source: Concept Art)
These guys are red, they have pitchforks, and they tend to be a general nuisance. There’s concept art showing a new design, so they’re probably coming back.
Wiseman in a Carrot Suit (Source: Kickstarter)
According to the Kickstarter page, “Or how about if the Wiseman in the Carrot suit let you apply your experience points to different attributes, so you could customize your character? Guess what! We plan to do all that and lots more.”
Those are all the things I’ve discovered so far, but let me know if I missed something.