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Toadomination Review

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I keep staring at that title, trying to work out whether there’s a pun that I’m not seeing. Surely Toadal Domination works better? If you spot the intention, pop it into the comments below. 

While the pun might not work for us, you DO play a toad in Toadomination. Through some miracle of nature you’ve achieved sentience, and you do what most creatures do in that situation: you start killing everything. With your slimy fingers wrapped around a shotgun, you clear the swamp. 

This is a twin-stick roguelike shooter, which we’d put money on being the most common genre on the Xbox Store. We get the feeling that Toadomination toadally knows this, so it keeps trying weird, counter-intuitive stuff to get your intention. 

Toadomination review 1
Toadal Domination

Like hopping. Hopping makes sense, as you’re a frog, but locomotion in the arenas is done via a hop, skip and jump rather than the traditional walking, running or strafing. This introduces some early challenges. Hopping isn’t particularly fast, yet Toadomination finds itself in a genre where speed is pretty much a given. You’re also moving in these looping arcs, which is a problem when a bullet-hell of projectiles is blizzarding towards you. Want to fit through a tiny gap? That’s a problem, soldier, as you’re going to lollop into the bullet you’re trying to avoid. And diagonal movement? Fuhgeddaboutit. The hop can only really move up, down, left and right, with jagged diagonal movement coming from a combination of them. And don’t even attempt to strafe.

Which is to say that Toadomination is not a very enjoyable game to control. Through that one simple choice – to make the main character a toad, and therefore a jumping one – Toadomination manages to lower its shotgun, take aim at its sinewy legs, and pull the trigger. 

Shooting is better, but not by too great a leap. It’s the more expected practice of pointing the right-stick in a particular direction and then pressing right-trigger to fire. Those basic controls are fine, so it’s down to the reloading and gun-choice to ruin things.

Every gun, even the best of them, takes an age to reload. You can spend more time waiting than firing, and – checks notes – that’s absolutely not what we look for from a twin-stick shooter. With so much downtime, a lot of the onus is on movement and dodging, which we’ve already beaten with a stick. Toadomination had something going with its shooting controls, but it fails to get the best out of them.

Toadomination review 2
Various guns, but only a few worth using

And then there are the guns. Something has gone wonky in the balancing of Toadomination, as there are two, perhaps three, worthwhile guns in the roster, and about a dozen that are worthless. That’s none-more-clear than the starting shotgun, which not only has a piddling reload but only travels about a fifth of the length of the screen. Not that some of the better-looking, bigger guns are much better. Huge BFG-bastards can only fire a single bullet in a single direction, and take eons to reload afterwards. We kept an eye out for a couple of beefier shotguns, and discarded the rest. 

We have to take note of another bonkers curiosity in Toadomination. There are plenty of melee weapons, like an orbital sander and a chainsaw, but they’re not actually melee. They get thrown by the toad, as if he has no concept of what they actually do. Now we think of it, maybe that is believable. 

Still, you’re left in an odd situation of being a sitting duck until one of the three decent weapons turn up. You won’t have to wait long, as guns shower down from the very start, but then we reach issue number seventy-three. There’s no progression to the guns or loot in Toadomination. You can get the best gun in the second room and stick with it. So, you’re faced with an endless slog against increasingly difficult perils, without becoming increasingly badass in comparison. Not outside of gaining a few hearts to increase your hitpoints. 

There are some side-rooms, optional little nooks where you can get some added bonuses. Again, a couple don’t make sense: there’s a challenge room, activated via a cauldron, which gives you a more difficult combat encounter for, drum roll, some duff guns you won’t want, and that you can get (more of) in the basic, mandatory rooms. But the crown for unnecessaryness goes to a warp room, which randomly drops you in any room in the entire dungeon. Yep, you can teleport to the very last boss, or you can go straight back to the start. Both are equally likely. Except, neither are enjoyable: going backwards has no real benefit, as you don’t progress much in Toadomination. And going forwards is likely a bad thing too, as you won’t have accumulated enough hearts to withstand the enemies. Outside of mopping up some achievements, we didn’t bother with either of them. 

Toadomination review 3
Just. Keep. Shooting.

There’s a shop which gives you temporary boosts (somewhat useful, but only if you’re not saving your cash for the characters you can buy in the menu’s shop), and a one-armed bandit which gives you more of the guns you don’t need. The result is that we stopped moving into these side-rooms unless we were on the hunt for a decent gun. 

All that’s left to mention is the bosses, which get glazed with weirdness once again. On occasion, the bosses are fine. They’re barely on the screen before you’ve obliterated them with a shotgun. But other times, they’re absolute tanks, taking all sorts of a beating while pumping out enemies for you to simultaneously deal with. Toadomination loves to compound issues: if you don’t deal with enemies then they will multiply, and suddenly you have an exponential issue on your hands. But we couldn’t tell you what triggers the hard or easy version of these bosses. It’s a roll of a dice, and the success of your run is dependent on this randomness. 

Toadomination mostly left us bemused. It’s a perfectly fine twin-stick shooter and roguelike that feels like it’s been sabotaged. Nothing feels right, from the movement to the guns to the bosses. There are umpteen games like this on the market, and we’re willing to bet that most of them have Toadomination licked.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Unlockable toads have some cool, varied effects
  • Some guns feel great to use
Cons:
  • Movement is awful
  • Most guns aren’t worth using
  • Most rooms aren’t worth visiting
  • Difficulty seems to be a roll of a dice
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review)
  • Release date and price -30 June 2023 | £4.19
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Unlockable toads have some cool, varied effects</li> <li>Some guns feel great to use</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Movement is awful</li> <li>Most guns aren’t worth using</li> <li>Most rooms aren’t worth visiting</li> <li>Difficulty seems to be a roll of a dice</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review) <li>Release date and price -30 June 2023 | £4.19</li> </ul>Toadomination Review
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