This first entry into the marketed world of indie games for brotherly jam team dietzribi comes our way expressly as part of a challenge the duo faced at one of the man game jams they’ve taken part in: ‘Combine two incompatible genres.’
Their answer is a game that’s both a 2D (Toodee) side-scroller and a top-down (Topdee) platform game.
It’s genius, great-looking and also somewhat infuriating, but it’s also really special.
On top-down of the to-do list: stop Toodoo
As is often emblematic of jam games, there’s enough of a classic arcade story present to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something. A giant space deity named Aleph creates worlds. But as he tasks himself with creating life for these worlds, he creates another form of life that has a penchant for causing mischief. They are known as the Glitches, and they put the balance of worlds into flux.
Committed to restoring order, Aleph places a powerful semicolon into the centre of the worlds and creates an assistant named Toodoo to keep track of all the Glitches. The two work in harmony, creating life to populate the many worlds until they come to the very last one. Topdee has a premonition that with life on all planets, Aleph will no longer require an assistant. Fear causes Toodo to steal the semicolon, bringing all of the worlds crashing into one another and causing the Glitches to go wild.
Toodee and Topdee find themselves together in a world reminiscent of both their homes, but vastly different. A Glitch comes to the two and states that if they want to see home again, they will have to work together to master the riff-raff and traverse through rifts that have opened up.
That’s the largest extent of the story, and it plays out in the first few minutes. It’s just enough to go off to keep you motivated, and that’s totally fine!
Plains of perfection
The equation you get is a lot easier than it seems. There’s a short one-stage tutorial for both of the playable characters that introduce you to Toodee’s ability to jump and jump higher as well as Topdee’s ability to lift and push boxes. Aside from that, you are on your own to navigate the four worlds of 19 puzzles and a boss battle, and the final world quite drastically changes things up should you get there.
The goal of the puzzles is to traverse obstacles and grab keys to unlock the plains both characters navigate. More often than not, you’ll find Topdee locked away from Toodee and that solving a puzzle consists of having Toodee grabbing a key and being paused while Topdee comes to his rescue or aid.
Toodee is the one who faces most of the danger in the platforming elements of not falling into a pit of spikes and later dodging lasers and electrical storms. Topdee can travel anywhere on his plain so long as there’s a floor — and there often isn’t until you fill it in!
Some puzzles will solve themselves after a single move while others will seemingly have no solution at all. It can be quite infuriating to solve the tougher ones because there aren’t any hints. You’ll often find after minutes of thinking things through that you’ve made a mistake you can’t get yourself out of. This is a puzzle platformer where the restart button gets a fair bit of use.
If you become too stuck then there’s an option to turn on air jumps in the air for Toodee that will help traverse most distances and walls. Topdee also has the ability to gain super-strength to push blocks faster as well as telekinetic abilities that let him pull blocks towards him that haven’t been slotted into the floor yet.
dietzribi intends for players to take on these puzzles in couch co-op, but there is also a one-player mode that sees you use a second button input to switch between characters.
Playing in one-player mode can become quite taxing as you add in things like pigs that you have to first distract with Topdee by running to one side so that Toodee can get by without trouble or during boss battles where you need to set Topdee up quickly without taking a single hit.
As you move on the game will begin to demand perfection from you in so many ways across both characters and skillsets.
Why so bossy?
There’s also a boss battle at the end of each world that will force you to take the skill you’ve learned through that world and multiply how you use it greatly. The challenge right out of the gate is incredible as you are only able to endure a single hit before you must restart the entire battle. This can of course be changed to between one hit and five hits in the menu, but even five hits likely won’t be enough at times.
The bosses will take you some time and likely multiple times to complete as you’ve really got to solve for how you damage them. But how many times can you say that a boss battle in a platformer is something thrilling that tested your skills on two separate plains of existence?
Toodee and Topdee Comes with speedruns!
The worlds that Aleph has created are bright and vibrant all things considered. It’s full of goofy creatures and lighthearted humour that make this more than just a platformer created with a gimmick meant to address a challenge in a game jam.
The music is always chill and there to keep you focused while you solve the puzzles. I enjoyed how it never felt like it was rushing me or trying to instill some sort of fear or anger in me — even though a few puzzles did that for me! I’ve never been into participating but watching people complete a game with events like Summer Games Done Quick is always a fun way to engage the community.
For those looking for bragging rights, Toodee and Topdee come with a built-in stopwatch and a death counter so that you can show off your flawless puzzle solving. That’s no for me, but all the power to you if it’s for you.
Toodee and Topdee is an overwhelming experience that adequately faces the challenge posed by that initial game jam. A 2D platformer has no business being mixed with a top-down puzzle game, but it works. It can be overwhelming as a single-player experience when it comes to balancing the tasks of both Toodee and Topee. It’s for this reason I recommend going through this adventure with a friend or a loved one. The controls are simple enough that anyone could pick it up right away, but the challenge requires a team effort!
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]