Toodee and Topdee
Developer: Dietz Ribi
Publisher: Dietz Ribi
Genre(s): Puzzle Platformer
Platform: PC (Other platformers TBD)
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 4/8/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Toodee or Not Toodee?
The 2D Platformer genre is not a newcomer to the gaming scene, of course our Italian plumber friend is a prime example of that. Neither is the Top-Down Puzzler genre, though perhaps not as widespread as the former. So, what can be done to make these genres new and exciting? Merge them together of course!
Interestingly, Toodee and Topdee was birthed from the game jam prompt ‘Combine two incompatible genres’. Though Gonen and Ori, the brothers behind Diet Zribi, had published many game jams before, the prototype for Toodee and Topdee received great feedback. This lead them to pursue the concept and make it their first commercial project. So, did they manage to make these incompatible genres a match made in heaven? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
A Universe in Peril
When Aleph, the creator of this universe leaves their assistant Toodoo in charge just for 10 minutes, chaos ensues. In fear of not being needed anymore due to the universe being complete, Toodoo steals the Semi-Colon, the force holding all these planets together. In doing this, the planets collide, and so do the worlds of Toodee and Topdee.
With the help of misunderstood Glitch, our characters learn they must work together to reach the Semi-Colon and restore it to its natural place in the centre of the universe. This mission creates a special bond between the two heroes, taking them to jungles filled with bats and pigs, and an elemental temple featuring water and fireballs.
The way the two genres have been combined in Toodee and Topdee is the use of being able to switch between the pair of them with a single tap of the ‘X’ key. This then completely changes the angle of the level. As a result, Toodee has different abilities to Topdee and vice versa. The aim is to reach the pink portal located somewhere in the stage, often locked off and requiring a key for both characters to reach.
Topdee walks along the grid rather than on top of the blocks like Toodee does, and can also push blocks. However, Topdee can’t jump and won’t be able to pass the black spaces without there being a block pushed into it to cross. On the other hand, Toodee can jump but is at the hands of gravity, being able to plummet into spikes and some boxes which hover in the air. There is an exception of a down arrow block, which stays wherever Topdee puts it yet falls when switching back to Toodee’s world.
This combination of genres and angles works extremely well and offers a unique experience that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a game. It requires you to work out puzzles from two points of view, experimenting between both Toodee and Topdee. Sometimes you will be primarily playing as one character to free the other, and even switching quickly between the two to time falling blocks or save Toodee from falling into danger in midair. However, I’d be lying if I said this was an easy task.
The Steam description of Toodee and Topdee labels the game as having ‘mind-melting puzzles’ and ‘hard-as-nails challenges’, which I can confirm is accurate! Well, as someone who played the game alone it was (okay, I had my partner help me when I was very stuck!) It requires a lot of logical ability and brainpower, having to control both characters and get them in position.
There are five worlds in total, each introducing a slightly new mechanic. For example, Jungle Kingdom has you sacrificing pigs to reach keys or pressure plates, and Exceptions has strange shadowy birds who follow your every move. Again, these birds can be used to reach other places your character can’t. The first few levels of each world ease you into the new mechanics, before getting a lot more difficult. Then, a boss fight lies for you at the end. Like classic game bosses, once you’ve worked out the approach you have to repeat it three times to defeat them.
Gimme a Hint!
Toodee and Topdee does offer a variety of difficulty options. You start off with just one life, but you can increase this up to five or even infinite. Other options include adding air jump, super strength or telekinesis. Though if you were stuck these could help, but reaching a platform you couldn’t before or allowing you to take a hit, it felt like cheating. I would have liked an option to be given a hint so you could solve the puzzle, rather than bypass it completely.
I also feel the game must be easier in co-op mode. Though it may create some arguments or be frustrating to direct your friend on what to do, teamwork must be very useful! The fifth world I could not do without turning on infinite lives; a corruption moves fairly quickly from the left side of the screen in this side scroller planet. This meant having to move both characters individually while also solving puzzles to progress. I felt this was impossible to do solo, particularly with a single heart too! However, maybe my puzzle skills just weren’t cut out for this challenging title.
Puzzles, Platforming AND Pixels
The pixel art in Toodee and Topdee looks incredible and highly detailed. I loved the shadows behind the characters and environment, adding some depth to the world. Each world was completely different, not only in its colour palettes but in its design. The Elemental Temple had Toodee swimming through water that Topdee controlled by blocking plug holes, and Exceptions had me jumping into blue portals. As well as side-scrolling, the final stage also takes you Threedee – uh, 3D. There certainly wasn’t any repetition this way.
Each world had its very own track, every one different but often reminiscent of old school 8-bit soundtracks with relaxing beats. However, the music did change to fit the situation, with thrilling individual tracks for bosses too. The sound effects were just as good, from the footsteps to the jumping to the dialogue text. My personal favourite is the music becoming muffled when you go underwater, adding a layer of immersion.
There’s also wonderfully witty humour within the dialogue which made me chuckle. Surprisingly, there are some heartfelt emotions to the strange characters too. It made me want to watch the cut scenes as they offered more to the narrative and overall experience.
Follow the Ladybirds
On completing the game, you are hinted at to find all the ladybirds throughout. I found some along the way but I’m still not quite sure how to collect them. It is perhaps by solving the puzzles in certain ways until you see both the red and blue ladybird fly off the screen. Either way, I found this in the photo above, which offers steps to get up to the end portal. So, it seems like collecting the ladybirds may even help you in certain stages. But again, I’m not too sure.
Hardcore puzzlers could replay the game lowering their difficulty settings this time round, maybe aiming for finishing the game on one life. For me, this and the ladybirds isn’t much of an incentive to replay. However, I think avid puzzlers or completionists will enjoy this challenge.
Top-of-dee Puzzle Genre?
Toodee and Topdee is a very impressive example that no ideas are off-limits, and no two genres incompatible. Everything about it merged just as well as the planet collisions, the gameplay style, art and audio all complementing each other to complete the experience. I personally found it too difficult alone, and the slightly cheating difficulty abilities rather than hints do affect my score. So, if you’re like me who can struggle with harder puzzles, I recommend grabbing a friend to play with. But for those brainboxes who aren’t looking for tame puzzles, you’re in for a treat with a title I can guarantee you’ve never played before!
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
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