Toodee And Topdee


Traditionally, whenever I write, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen this game mechanic,” there’s inevitably a reply saying, “Well actually Zybertron 3 on the Amiga 1300 did the same thing.” So let’s cover bases, and say, aside from Zybertron 3 on the Amiga 1300, Toodee And Topdee is the first time I’ve ever seen a game mechanic based on switching from 2D platformer to isometric puzzle game. (No, it’s nothing like Fez.) And certainly not the two co-existing, a character trapped in either reality. (Do you get the game’s name now? Do you? Do you?)

Rather beautifully, T&T begins with a creation myth that justifies absolutely all of it. Aleph was a god-like chap about at the beginning of time. He created nine worlds, but to keep them in balance he also created a holy semicolon, that existed at the centre of this miniature universe. One planet was given 2D life, with cute little guys who ran and jumped and avoided pigs. On another, there was a top-down isometric reality, where blocks could be pushed and picked up to fill holes, and make pathways.

However, as Aleph continued adding life on these planets, glitches started to appear, so he also created Toodoo, an officious sentient piece of paper (look, go read any other creation myth, they make about as much sense), to organise things. But when all the planets were nearly finished, Toodoo realised he’d no longer have a purpose, so in a fit of malicious self-preservation, he stole the semicolon, causing the worlds to spin out of control and collide. The result? Overlapping dimensional realities. Yes. YES.

To make this work, each character exists on what’s perceived by the other to be the wall. The backdrop to the 2D world is the floor of the isometric world. The goal in each screen is to have both Topdee and Toodee reach a portal, with all the cooperation you might expect given the conceit.

You switch between the two realities with a button press, and then move the characters around their accessible regions of the level. This starts off simply enough, Topdee pushing boxes along the floor such that they become floating platforms for Toodee to jump across. Toodee lands on disappearing blocks, so they clear a path for Topdee. But soon things get much more elaborate, as you’re leaping Toodee into the air, then mid-jump switching to isometric so Topdee can put a block underneath where he’s about to land.

Obviously the puzzles get more complicated as you progress, but it introduces new ideas carefully, with super-simple puzzles to give you the idea, before ramping things up once you’ve got the hang of them. Oh my goodness, the delight when 2D platform enemies turn into roaming beasts in 3D is gorgeous.

It’s all so delightful! The only real issue with the game was that it had its restart button in the menu, rather than assigned to a controller button – then I realised that was an option, and was immediately happy. (It’d make much more sense for this to be the default for the gamepad, or at least mentioned.)

Also, this is the first game I’ve ever seen do a joke where a character misunderstands what a video game boss is, and asks it for a job. Come on. And oh my goodness, the boss fight that follows is so clever.

This is a real treat, and such a brilliant, original idea. The only catch is the price. $20 was once the fair, standard price for a big, superbly well-made indie game like this. Cruelly, that fairness has been eroded away, until twenty bucks is a steep ask for any unknown game from an unknown developer. I suspect they’d easily sell twice as many if they charged half as much, although right now you can grab the game for 25% off.

It’s worth that price! There’s a huge amount of game here, and it has some joyful accessibility options. Rather than simply having set difficulty levels, you can assign yourself as many lives per level as you want (after 5, it jumps to infinite), with the default being one. Beyond that, you can then give yourself extra powers! Like a double-jump, telekenesis, or super-strength. Then if the game’s going to fast for you, you can slow it down to 75%, 50%, or 25%. This is a brilliant approach to difficulty, making it almost feel cooler to make it simpler, but defaulting to its hardest settings.

Just for the difficulty options alone, I’m sold on this. That it’s such a cute, well-designed, carefully thought-through, and unique idea, is rather a lot of bonus.

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1 Comment

  1. Its a lovely game, but the boss fights are infuriating given they’re 1 mistake and you’re out. They feel like a lot of trial and error, especially the rote memorisation of the second boss.

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