New game ToeJam & Earl, the 8Bitdo controller gives Genesis reason with nostalgia


The 8Bitdo M30, posed next to a pair of Toejam and Earl figurines that have been delivered to some Kickstarter backers.
Enlarge / The 8Bitdo M30, posed next to a pair of Toejam and Earl figurines that have been delivered to some Kickstarter backers.

Sam Machkovech

About a week ago, two letters in my inbox were sent by companies eager to capitalize on the nostalgia of Sega Genesis. I almost dismissed them because none of them came from Sega. But their accidental appearance, almost simultaneous, triggered a wave of nostalgia of the 90s that made me bite.

The result was solid a few days ago in my childhood of the early '90s, as if I were firmly implanted in front of a huge CRT television with some of my favorite games of the era. (If you're wondering: this childhood author of the 80's had absolutely a long phase "Genesis does what Nintendon is not"). small console mania. Less is said about AtGames Genesis Flashback – an atrocious cashing that followed the NES Classic – better this is.

But this week's knockout was exactly what I needed to get rid of my mouth of a bad taste of lost nostalgia: the 8Bitdo M30 gamepad and the new game. Toejam & Earl: Back in the throat. Both are very similar to 1992: hardly revolutionary at the modern level, but nevertheless imbued with this singular feeling of the early 90s new refreshing ideas at every turn.

So, please, humor this Sega fan with a trip to two magazines in Genesis.

It's not old, it's great

For reasons that will become clear in a moment, any conversation about the new entry of the ToeJam & Earl franchise is incomplete without a glimpse into the story. ToeJam & Earl is a fun note in the history of Sega Genesis, precisely because the original 1991 game – with its rap-loving extraterrestrials who spoke great – could very well have been the mascot game full of attitude to face Nintendo directly . Of course, someone else at Sega took this job and had it brilliantly.

Despite his hip-hop style and his cartoony characters, TJ & E would never blow up the gaming world as effectively as SonicThe massive sprites, the various worlds and the high speed scrolling. Instead, the series completed Genesis' first library by combining the concept of computer gaming with adventures as a thug in a child-friendly quest. Two main aspects of each game were always chosen at random: the level designs and the type of elements that your heroes could pick up and use to survive their slow and funky walks in front of the dangerous inhabitants of the Earth.

And that's about all you have done. Neither ToeJam nor Earl blew the ray guns nor stomped on the wicked heads. Adventuring has focused on finding randomly generated terrain for each level to find the 10 pieces of rockets needed for victory. The trap, of course, was supporting co-ops, which meant that two friends could walk around and even go in different directions to explore different parts of each world. At this point, the screen will automatically be split in half. The result was quite simple to offer anyone who knew about console games: a system as complex as a flight simulator, but as simple as the board game. Candy Land.

The targeted formula of the original 1991 game has never been repeated in any of its sequels. TJ & E2 opted for a more traditional, side-scrolling platform game, while the exclusive Xbox OG TJ & E3 was a confused mess, collection-a-thon. In both cases, interviews revealed that the games had suffered from interference from producers or other outside forces not caring about the design of OG Genesis.

The freedom to intervene on the floor was one of the selling points when the creators of the series announced a restart in 2015. At the time, they had promised to make the first "real suite" of the series.

Four years later, we are here with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the throat. Very good news, all this time spent in the oven has nothing to prevent from complicating the satisfactory basic thrust of the original game. Instead of, Back in the throat is stimulated by even more weird strangeness and multiplayer support.

Back in the throat: Exactly what Dr. Genesis prescribed

As shown above, Back in the throat looks remarkably similar to the original game, at least in terms of basic framing. A camera hovers over the world in a three-quarter perspective, and players roam randomly generated levels to find different parts of their rocket. Collect 10 of them to win and pick up random items all along the way to help you, as various earthly landlords start to get up in your alien grill.

The original game shined as a two player adventure, and this quality has been enhanced by the modern age. First, if you have four controllers to distribute, the game's automatic screen-sharing feature will allow you and three friends to walk around random worlds on the same couch. It's pretty smooth in action. You can choose to divide the screen depending on who is walking in which direction, or you can focus on screen sharing so that, for example, the first player always separates from the top left corner . Whatever the case may be, this automatic process only very rarely makes it possible to specify where each player is.

In addition, this split-screen shared screen is transferred to an online mode that supports the creation of random matches in the strictest sense. However, we were unable to fully test this mode during Back in the throatThe preview period of Windows PC, so nothing to know if your online funk-venturing will work without problem via the peer-to-peer matching system of the game. In both cases, you can choose d & To enable or disable split screen mode while playing online, which is nice.

If you played the original TJ & E recently and then a lot of Back in the throatThe content will be familiar. Almost all the bonuses of the original game are back, including rockets, flying wings and throwing tomatoes. The original armies of useful and harmful Earthlings are also back, including a mischievous Cupid whose arrows temporarily rotate your d-pad 45 or 90 degrees and a hula girl who temporarily halts your character and dances ( which can prepare you for being hit by another harmful human).

The good news is that the series of objects and villains is increasing to cope with increased difficulties, including some more sophisticated object options (some of which must be unlocked by beating the game a few times).

The biggest hit I can offer comes from relatively inexpensive aesthetics. Although I like the art direction in terms of hand drawn characters, Back in the throatThe animated style of the carved characters does not flatter these designs. The wavy characters in action look less like Paper Mario and more like a cheap flash game. There is also the question of the lack of dubbing. Much of the dialogue is relegated to the text, which certainly gives pleasure, but an optional tutorial of the first levels of the game is completed with voice instructions. Listening to them again as I checked two aspects of the game reminded me of how calm the game was.

But idiotic texting is not lacking, if it suits you retro way, and the hand-drawn characters are accompanied by a delicious craziness of the 90-Nicktoon, which seems quite appropriate. I would say that this is enough to meet the sales pitch: a low-stake cooperative adventure game that you can laugh with friends. You will not survive insane battles or enigmatic puzzles; Instead, you'll turn around, weave through a world of wacky cartoon faces and extravagant bits of cartoons, in which you'll have to navigate like extraterrestrials by equipping spring-loaded shoes and offering your partners of coop to keep their health bar to snuff in a pinch.

The original formula of the series fits well to random levels and to the acquisition of objects. Back in the throat certainly lacks the depth of the one-way solo adventure game The Isaac Binding, and his pleasure expires more quickly when played solo. But the possibility of returning to his colorful and accessible worlds in duo, trio and quartet makes me want to dive for a few more complete rounds (that I would say about two hours, at least in "normal" difficulty).

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