Sometimes a game comes along showing off its premise and makes you think ‘ooo, that’s clever’ and wonder why nobody has made anything like it.
Toodee and Topdee is one of those games. Combining an easy to understand premise, charming visuals, and increasingly difficult puzzles, this game really is a treat for those looking for the next unique indie title.
Many thanks to dietzribi for the review code.
TOODEE OR NOT TOODEE
All of the worlds in the universe were created by a godlike entity known as Aleph and, in an effort to stop the worlds colliding, he created the semicolon to help keep everything in perfect harmony. His assistant Toodoo helped him to clear the universe of glitches but worried that he’d end up with nothing left to do once everything was finished. In a bid to grant himself some kind of purpose, Toodoo stole the semi colon, which resulted in all the worlds colliding together.
One side effect of all this was the blending of two distinct realities – Topdee’s isometric world, and the 2D world of… well, Toodee. The advantage of this, as they soon realise, is that their differing perspectives allow them to work together to overcome situations that would otherwise be impossible.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Visually, Toodee and Topdee feels like a blend of the 16 bit and 32 bit eras, with environments being primarily block based, but the backgrounds and characters have a much smoother and vibrant look to them. Of course, the blocky aesthetic of the world is there to help make the shift from 2D to isometric much simpler and easier to understand, but it does look quite nice too. Shifting perspectives, which can be done with the press of the Y button, never stops being impressive – no matter how many times you do it.
It’s good that the visuals are so clear since you’ll need to be able to think in different dimensions during actual gameplay. Toodee moves around like your traditional 2D protagonist: he can move, jump, swim, and little more. Platforming is what he is best at, and he does it well. Topdee, on the other hand, can’t do any of those things. His speciality is block manipulation – if the blocks are light enough, he can pick them up, or he can push them around if they’re slightly too heavy for him. Neither character is able to fight, so they need to rely on their limited skillset in order to pass any obstacle.
It may seem disappointing at first that their skillset is so limited, but you quickly learn that it’s to the game’s advantage. Every world consists of different puzzle elements that gradually get more complicated as things go on. The third world, for example, focuses on the elements and has you navigating fireballs and adjusting water levels, but then introduces storm clouds and the like to make things trickier. Things always start simple, but soon becoming quite mind-bending. It’s one of those games that does a lot with a little and it works very well.
There are five worlds in total (six including the secret world you can unlock – shhhhh!), and each of them typically revolve around a specific theme for the twenty or so stages contained within. Certain things carry over to future levels, for sure, but the worlds all feel very cohesive and thematic – something that really helps keep the formula feeling fresh from start to finish. The final main world is a mixed bag, with half of it being particularly frustrating and the other half being phenomenal, but all the other stages are consistently strong throughout.
Boss fights end each world, and require you to use your skills in order to deal damage. They can feel a little strange at first considering that your characters have no method of attack, but the fights are done rather well and feels more like another puzzle to overcome. The later ones can get pretty tricky, but there’s a checkpoint every time you deal damage to the boss making the encounters pretty forgiving.
TOUGHDEE AND TOOEASEE
The one thing that is likely to put people off a game like this is the difficulty. Mind bending concepts such as this often start simple and then get mindbogglingly complicated fast (like with Baba is You). However, this game has a remarkable number of accessibility options to help all skill levels overcome the game. The options are surprisingly robust and offers a variety of ways to help you get through the game any way you can. Want to give yourself extra hit-points so you can tank damage? Feel free to do so! Want extra strength so you can lift up all blocks? Go right ahead! There’s so much on offer that everyone will be able to reach the end, regardless of skill level – even if if does feel a little like cheating.
One thing the game does lack, however, is some kind of undo function or rewind. It’s very possible on occasion to fall down a pit that’s inescapable or push a block further than you mean to, and the only way around it is to restart the whole level again. It’s frustrating that one mis-step requires you to redo everything. Whilst it may disguise itself as a platformer, the game is a puzzle game first and foremost, so having the ability to rewind a second’s worth of gameplay would have really helped. Considering the vast amount of accessibility options, the absence of some kind of undo functionality is all the more noticeable. The ‘cheats’ feels like they make things a little bit too easy, so an undo button would be a nice way to ease the frustration without giving people the ability to just fly through the levels.
Despite only having five worlds in the main part of the game, there’s a fair amount of content on offer in Toodee and Topdee. Getting through the game will probably take around 5 hours or so, but you’ll probably double that if you want to unlock the final world and get the true ending. Whilst no gimmick ever outstays its welcome, the requirements for both the final world and true ending is so obnoxious that trying to do so will probably end up ruining your experience with the game. Whilst the developers have done a great job with taking a fantastic idea and fleshing it out into a full experience, I think the hassle required for full completion is a little bit too much.
The initial trailer for Toodee and Topdee had me worried at first. It was a fantastic idea, but I feared that it wouldn’t develop the idea enough for it to fulfil its potential. Thankfully, I was wrong. The developers have crafted an experience full of variety that is both challenging and fun. It could do with a rewind function to help ease the frustration of restarting over and over, but this is definitely a must buy for fans of the genre.