After cutting their teeth in a dozen game jams, dietzribi make their first commercial release with Toodee and Topdee. Having originally been a product of a game jam with the theme ‘Combine two incompatible genres’, Gonen and Ori decided to expand on the project and formally release it. Every once in a while a game comes out that does something new and you instantly think, ‘How has no one tried this before?’. This is certainly one of those occasions.
The story starts by explaining the creation of the universe. In the beginning, there was only Aleph. Aleph was a master of a special language that can turn words into worlds. He creates 8 worlds, balanced and kept safe by the mystical semi-colon. As he is filling the worlds with life, Glitches begin to appear. Toodoo, Alpeh’s assistant, is created to keep track of the Glitches. When Aleph is nearing the end of his work, Toodoo realises that without new glitches being created, there is no reason for Toodoo to exist, so he steals the semi-colon. This causes the worlds to collide and combine in unexpected ways. Thus our titular heroes find themselves together and embark on a mission to find the semi-colon and return balance to the universe.
Toodee and Topdee – Get Yourself A New Perspective
If you had been involved with the aforementioned game jam, what genres would you mix? Let me know in the comments and, if indie games are your jam, check out my coverage of the Annapurna Interactive Showcase here.
With the worlds combined, we’re introduced to the main mechanic of the game, switching perspectives. Swapping between side-scrolling and top-down views is essential to puzzle-solving and it works beautifully. Toodee will freeze in position as you swap to Topdee, meaning you can then manoeuvre boxes under Toodee to land on, or eliminate a dangerous threat before switching back and continuing the momentum of Toodee’s jump. The swap can also be used to lure enemies, press switches, change the direction of falling items, and a whole range of other useful purposes. You’ll often need to collect keys, dotted around the levels, to open locked sections and advance to the portals.
Each world brings new dangers. You start with pits, spikes and crumbling platforms. As you advance from world to world, enemies are added, along with elemental dangers such as fireballs and lightning storms. I won’t tell you what a Tookee is, beyond it being another element added to puzzle solving, but the way it is foreshadowed in the opening to its chapter is brilliantly well done.
The level design is also fantastic, teaching each new puzzle mechanic intuitively before incorporating them into more difficult scenarios. Bosses were a little more tricky to figure out. With only 1 hit point, I found myself dying repeatedly to them, even after working out their gimmick. Those deaths will send you right back to the start of the fight. This, of course, increases the pressure on you once you reach the third phase of a battle.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics in Toodee and Topdee are what you expect from a pixel art indie title, but they are consistent and cartoonishly cute. The character designs are probably where the game excels most in this area. I was particularly impressed by the boss designs which I felt were creative and unique. Even though the main characters and small, there’s a lot of expressions conveyed in their animations. There is a lot of love put into the environments too, and it’s no small feat that they work equally well in both perspectives.
The backing music in the game is also enjoyable. A personal favourite track of mine is the theme of World 3 which somehow reminds me of Desert Wasteland from FFVII. The voices of the characters are generated in much the same way as other indie games like Celeste and Donut County. This fits really well with the overall feel of the game.
Toodee and Topdee consists of 5 stages. The first 4 contain 19 levels and a boss fight. In world 5 the formula is switched up a bit. Instead of seeing the entire puzzle at once, the levels are now horizontal, side-scrolling gauntlets. There are 4 of these stages, followed by 3 stages for the final boss. For those 3, the mechanics have altered again in a magnificent new way, which I don’t want to spoil.
If you are playing through the game with a single hit point, it can be Super Meat Boy tough at times. You’re going to have to put in many hours to get all the way through to the end. Even then, there’s a hint at a secret ending just before the credits roll. To unlock this you must earn all 111 ladybirds throughout the game. These are earned by completing levels quickly, with minimal switching and/or by keeping enemies alive. If you want to, you can blitz through the entire game in less than an hour with all the difficulty settings reduced or find a middle ground and tweak your options to get past a particularly troublesome section.
In terms of the adjustable difficulty settings, you can increase your lives from 1 to 5, or even set it to infinite. Toodee can be given unlimited midair jumps and Topdee can get super strength and/or telekinesis. Finally, the game speed can be altered. For speedrunners, there is an in-game timer that can be turned on in the options menu, adding further replayability.
Toodee and Topdee is a must-play puzzle game for fans of the genre. The puzzles are clever and rewarding and the boss battles ramp up the challenge considerably. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the game from the programming humour to the presentation, even after the frustration of the crushing bosses. The characters were loveable from the start, with Toodee’s frustrated looks being a highlight. Without giving too much away, the ending was really heartfelt and wholesome and I hope we get to see more of these characters again in the future. With that being said, Toodee and Topdee receives a Thumb Culture Platinum Award.
P.S. I would say I had an overwhelmingly positive experience and recommend it to a friend!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.