Toodee and Topdee PC Review
Oh, geez, how do I even start explaining this one. Everyone knows what a 2D platformer is – side-on view, left and right movement, the ability to jump in order to cross deadly gaps. And most people know what to expect from a top-down puzzle game – a low-angled birds-eye-view perspective looking down on the character you control, the power of moving up and down as well as left and right, and usually involving the movement of boxes via sliding and/or carrying/dropping. Well, the devs of this one took it a step farther, answering the question that nobody asked: what happens if these two styles are merged into some kind of hybrid super-game? Well, it turns out what you get is a wonderful original experience that tests both your mind and reflexes in equal measure. Or maybe what you get by default is a total mess and it’s simply a testament to the fantastic game-design efforts of the team that something as fun, fresh, and challenging as Toodee and Topdee is born. I feel like it’s probably the latter, nobody said creating a new genre would be easy!
Switching between Toodee and Topdee, our 2D and top-down characters, respectively, allows for some serious shenanigans. Whilst controlling one, the other gets frozen in place and cannot be collided with, meaning you can swap out to escape being hit or have Topdee move boxes around for Toodee to use as platforms mid-jump. That’s a pretty common theme throughout but make no mistake, you’ll never be doing exactly the same thing twice. Just as you start to get comfortable with the movement, something else is introduced. At first it’s enemies. These are terrifyingly powerful entities that can exist in both worlds, often in the form of mean-looking pigs that relentlessly chase down whichever character is active at the time. It’s up to the player to learn how to avoid them, eventually needing to manipulate their movements in order to hit an out of reach switch or the likes. Whilst not all the mechanics are created equally, there’s a good amount of variety. With fireballs, lightning clouds, blocks that are affected by gravity, keys and locks, lasers, and even portal blocks for controlling teleportation, to name a few. They always start with a stage of their own, for teaching purposes, such as showing how pools of water can be drained away in one perspective and then redirected by blocking off openings in the wall/floor. But very quickly they start to stack, each time pushing the player to work a little harder.
With four main worlds, each comprised of nineteen levels and a boss, as well as a shorter final fifth world, and a few extra-difficult challenges to unlock, Toodee and Topdee not only delivers on its original concept but continues to innovate throughout the unexpectedly packed campaign. This absolutely took me by surprise, as I’d been following the development of the game on Reddit’s indie gaming board for quite some time. I had no doubt the project would be incredibly interesting but I admit to doubting how much could be done with it. I personally expected it to be a lot shorter and simpler, relying on the perspective-swapping gimmick to carry it. But here I am, eating my words. Surprisingly still is that there’s even an enjoyable narrative, frequently amusing dialogue (especially from the perfectly sassy Toodee), and a twist that shocked me in a similar fashion to how Celeste did: building on a big character development moment by having it directly impact the gameplay via a shocking change for the blow-out finale.
Whilst some of the puzzles can feel jankier than others (pulling enemy aggro and a terribly irritating level about blocking lightning come to mind), the others range from simple fun execution to excellent headscratchers. Though this might stop some people from finishing the game, those that manage to solve their way through are filled with a great sense of accomplishment. This is especially true for those that decide to go back and collect ladybirds by speedrunning, saving enemy creatures from death, and finishing stages with as few character changes as possible. Not only extending the playtime offered with even tougher trials, but also unlocking the bonus chapter, which is a must-play for anyone pulled in by the story, and more. Perhaps locking these significant interactions behind some of the crazier levels, including a full boss rush (made difficult by the fact everything in this game is a one-hit kill), is a little mean, but it certainly did encourage me to try and try again in order to unlock the final mysteries of the world and see what becomes of everyone.
I would never have thought I’d actually end up caring for our two little heroes, or even the glitch character they often run into. Although the universe outlined is pretty simple – there’s a God who created the different worlds, each with a unique perspective, that start to crash and consolidate due to the theft of a powerful artifact – it’s still somehow written well enough to tug at one’s heartstrings. What happens when the daring duo put the world back to normal? The glitches will cease to exist and they’ll never see each other again! Somehow managing to be lighthearted, comical, and dramatic throughout. Not a simple feat. I have no doubt that Toodee and Topdee will become one of those indie classics that is constantly referred back to or recommended, if only for its novel hook. For those that play it, however, it will be remembered for its charm, surprises, and lovingly-crafted yet demanding gameplay.