Indie games sit in a vast and wide landscape on the Xbox Store. What once was a niche corner of the market, now sees more releases than the AAA sector does. Due to this saturation of the popular gaming sub-genre (if that’s the right term for indie), it becomes rather difficult to discern if a game is going to be worth your time, or whether it is just some trash uploaded to make a quick buck.
So which of these does Toodee and Topdee land upon?
Toodee and Topdee is a unique puzzle platformer that gives you the control of either Toodee, who has a two dimensional view of each stage, or Topdee, running an isometric view. This gameplay style is clever, working to ensure you need to utilise every angle of the level in harmony to get to the end goal. Anyway, that’s getting a bit ahead of things. Let’s take a look at the story.
I’m going to do my best to explain a bit about what exactly is going on in Toodee and Topdee. So, a God named Aleph created worlds out of words, and one day created the semi-colon to sit in the centre of the universe. Aleph then made an assistant named Toodoo whose sole function was to assist Aleph in his galaxy-creating escapades, all while trying to keep the glitches at bay.
Things were going well until Toodoo thinks to himself about his purpose after the galaxy/universe is completed to Aleph’s specifications. To keep himself necessary he takes the semi colon from the centre of the universe, sending things into disarray. The cataclysm caused by the semicolon’s disappearance combines the worlds of Toodee and Toodee into one. This intro felt very much inspired by the one and only Katamari Damacy series, especially in regards Aleph’s assistant, Toodoo
Graphically, the game looks like someone took the classic game of Fez and stuck it in a blender with Adventure Time and a sprinkle of Katamari Damacy during the cutscenes. Each stage has one screen filled with puzzles and you must move both Toodee and Topdee to the finish portal at the same time. This is, however, easier said than done, as many brain teasing challenges are in the way of your objective.
Toodee and Topdee end up existing in the same realm, and this is where the game’s unique twist comes into play – You must swap between Toodee and Topdee to solve puzzles. Toodee can see things from a two-dimensional perspective, while swapping to Topdee allows a look at the level isometrically. Occasionally this can be done accidentally, leading to a puzzle that is half set up on one side being ruined, as swapping viewpoints activates that part. That shouldn’t be seen as a major gripe, but combined with the often fiddly controls when trying to place blocks down as Topdee, it becomes a slight nuisance while playing.
In the second world enemies get introduced (yes, you see a pig in Toodee’s opening section but I mean in actual levels) and neither Topdee or Toodee have any sort of attack or ability to fight the enemies. Instead what you must do is utilise clever swapping of the environment to defeat, trap or make enemies useful. See, when you change the control over to Topdee, the enemies will head directly towards him. Swapping between the viewpoints at the right time can relocate the enemies; on the 2D view, they walk in a route back and forth like standard 2D enemies tend to do.
If things do get too tricky (and they will) you can head into the options and tweak the difficulty. This isn’t a standard easy/normal/hard set of options, and instead things like the game speed, health, air jumps and a few others are amendable. I found this a really novel idea and more appealing than turning things down to easy mode. Worst of all, once I gave myself a couple of health hearts – I completed the level without being killed anyway.
Co-op is available, meaning you can couch play Toodee and Topdee with a friend. Grabbing a pizza and some beers should lead to some great times trying to figure things out together. I would have liked for Toodee and Topdee to feature an online mode for cooperative play, if only as life doesn’t always allow for the peace and quiet to sit down and relax with a friend. Maybe in a sequel we could see some online functionality with multiplayer and maybe even a level designer mode like Super Mario Maker to upload and challenge other players.
Toodee and Topdee is a cleverly thought out game, running nice visuals, a relaxing soundtrack and unique gameplay mechanics. I would have loved to have had more levels to play through and the option of online co-op would also have been good. But these are not deal-breakers and in the mountain of indie games that are available, Toodee and Topdee proves to be a special little title. It is fun, challenging and deserves to have all eyes on it.
One of my favourite indie games this year.