Let me take you all on a journey to a whimsical time known as the noughties. This was the decade where gaming would morph from the nefarious fad blamed for school shootings and kids’ low attention spans to a financially successful global behemoth, which is still blamed for school shootings and kids’ low attention spans. I guess some things never change.
However, one thing that has changed in gaming since the 2000s is the definition of a co-op game. I am old enough to remember the golden era of couch co-op, where a group of pals would huddle around a PS2 Multitap and squint to see their tiny tile on a four-way split screen on an 11-inch CRT TV. Those were the days.
However, couch co-op, as we once knew it, is all but a relic of the past, with only a handful of credible games opting to include local co-op year after year. Games like Unravel 2, It Takes Two, Stardew Valley, and Overcooked are exceptions to the rule, but in general, the industry just doesn’t want the added responsibility of implementing local co-op.
It’s something I have reluctantly had to come to accept, but every now and again, something stokes the fire, making me believe that there could be some sort of local-co-op revival, and on this occasion, the game rekindling the flame is Toodee and Topdee.
This is a platform puzzler that sees one or two players take control of two lovable characters with very different but complementary skills, allowing players to solve puzzles on a 2D and 3D plane, work together in harmony and, as tends to be a given in platformer titles, save the world.
It’s a little gem of a puzzle platformer that you should absolutely try, but if you want to know why, then stick around. This is in Indie Game Culture’s Toodee & Topdee Review, conducted on PS5.
A Pixel Assets Jumble Sale
Let’s begin with the visuals for Toodee and Topdee, which is firmly in the category of cozy pixel vibes. It’s an approach that I am always on board with, but as it has become a staple of Indie gaming, it has become a design choice that ensures that the developer will need to do a lot with it to blow my socks off. That’s not an accolade that Toodee and Topdee ever achieves throughout its run.
It provides cheerful pixel visuals, a cohesive art style throughout, and each biome is distinct to suit the particular puzzle mechanic focus implemented. However, it never does anything to really push the envelope and offer a treat for the eyes.
At times it feels like the game’s visuals are a product of what asset packs were available to the developer, causing them to work backward from there and give each chosen enemy, location, or boss context. In fact, it’s even something that the game pokes fun at itself for, with dialogue between the player characters and a boss who take turns to ask what the hell they even are.
One is some sort of bunny with three ears, and the other is a poor interpretation of the Chesire Cat labeled as king of the jungle biome. So it’s fair to say that each has a valid point.
While the visuals are merely serviceable and cute, I will say that the score for the game has a little more to offer. I won’t go as far as to say that the tracks are standout bops.
However, I appreciated that each world seemed to make a new set of chiptune assortments, which isn’t always the case in games like this. It kept proceedings from going stale, and gave me something to bob my head to while my brain buffered for the solution to each puzzle.
All in all, it’s cute and cozy, albeit pretty unremarkable in the looks department.
Self Aware Chaos
We then move on swiftly to the narrative for this title. Now before I get into it, just know, for indie platformers such as this, I don’t put a lot of stock into the storyline provided.
In fact, if there is one of substance at all, I merely see it as a welcome bonus. All there needs to be is a little premise that gives the player a reason to enjoy the gameplay on offer. Save the princess, collect the dragon eggs, get to the top of the mountain. That sort of thing works a treat.
Well, in Toodee and Topdee the motivation to get your puzzle on is based on a story of creation, but it’s not about to get all biblical on you, I promise. In this title, the story goes that when the world was being created, the ruler of the realm created an assistant, and together they created all the pillars of the world.
Which included 2D planes where Toodee’s people reside, and Topdee’s 3D world. Then the ruler of the world created a giant Semicolon, which would bring structure to a chaotic world. Which is something I can really get behind as a writer who is partial to a long sentence.
However, as the creation of the world drew near, the assistant realized when all was said and done, there would be no need for him anymore. So naturally, he stole the Semicolon, threw the world into a state of confusion and chaos, and only with the cooperation of Toodee and Topdee can the world be restored.
It’s a fun premise that gives the player a nudge off the starting block, and from there, the devs use interactions between Toodee/Topdee and the bosses they encounter to inject a signature blend of self-aware silliness which keeps these encounters light and breezy.
It’s the kind of writing that informs the player that Gen-Z has well and truly entered the workforce, which can go either way with me. But in this case, it’s charming, fun, and overall, it’s a fitting narrative for this quaint pixel puzzler.
A Matter of Perspective
We then move on to the gameplay for this title, which is the real star of the show here. The format of the game is pretty simple.
The player has the ability to swap between two characters who live on separate planes of reality. One is on a 2D plane, and the other 3D. It’s something we have seen before in games such as Fez or Super Paper Mario, and this game handles this mechanic just as competently as those mentioned.
The USP within this niche 2D/3D swapper genre the game finds itself in is that it’s a traditional puzzler and platformer in equal measure.
On the 2D plane, the character (Toodee) will play the role of the Mario-esque platformer, while the 3D character (Topdee) is in charge of moving platforms and other assets to clear a path to the end goal. A perfect blend of precision platforming, and logistical planning.
This is the base format, but the game takes this and runs with it at a full sprint, offering 100+ puzzles that all hit that sweet spot between satisfying to solve, but not so hard you’ll rage quit.
The initial puzzles are straightforward and show you the ropes, but as you explore each world, the new biome will take a new puzzle mechanic as its core theme and then provide a flurry of great puzzles that get the most out of each idea.
Whether it be the Jungle Biomes’ use of animals, or the Fire and Ice biome’s use of water drains are flamethrowers, there is always an accessible but challenging hurdle for you to clear.
You’ll aim to master each core puzzle mechanic before taking on the final boss of the realm, which is essentially the final exam, and usually a pretty tough one at that. The bosses are a showcase for how strong the puzzle designs and concepts are within this game, offering a fitting test to close each chapter.
However, above all, I have to heap praise on this game for creating a format that includes platforming and puzzling, where one does not impede the other.
I recently covered the excellent VR puzzler Humanity, and one minor issue I pointed out was that while the inclusion of platforming was novel and fun, it often made solving puzzles in real-time harder than it need be. However, in TD & TD, they blend seamlessly to create a very satisfying dual-focus.
My only criticism from a gameplay perspective is that there is no integrated hint system, which is something I see as a must-do for puzzle games as an accessibility feature, even if that turns out to be a nudge in the right direction rather than a full-blown solution. However, aside from that, it’s very hard to pick holes in the gameplay design of this airtight puzzler.
Better with a Buddy
As you might have guessed by the premise of the dynamic duo in effect that this game presents, this title is fully couch-co-op. However, what I found most impressive about this implementation is that it’s not a one-or-the-other sort of experience. The game doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the single-player experience to be a co-op title.
Nor does it tack on co-op functionality just for the sake of it. Whether you choose to play this one as a solo venture, or play with a pal, you’ll have a swell time. This is due to the design choice of effectively having an active character while the other is frozen in time.
This means that in single-player, you can hop between the two characters on the fly with ease. Then in multiplayer, you can make your move, and then pass the baton to your partner. If you are looking for an easier time, the single-player option is the best choice because there is no need for clear communication as you go.
However, if I can give my two cents, this game is best played in multiplayer as it allows each player to focus on their specific role fully, not to mention, an extra set of eyes provides a new perspective, meaning you won’t get stuck half as often.
Before we wrap things up, here are a few other puzzlers and co-op titles you need to try if you liked what Toodee and Topdee had to offer:
- Unravel 2
- Bread and Fred
- It Takes Two
- Ibb and Obb
Overall, I have to say that I am impressed with the level of polish presented in Toodee and Topdee. It’s not easy to put together a game that seamlessly melds 2D and 3D perspectives, and even harder still to make a cavalcade of varied puzzles to bring out the best of that format.
Yet despite these difficulties, TD & TD is a really well-put-together co-op puzzler platformer, with satisfying and appropriately challenging puzzles and boss battles. Not to mention a fun premise, and decent soundtrack.
It’s rather hard to pick holes in the game, in all honesty, but what stops this game from being an elite puzzler is the rather average presentation, the lack of hints to keep proceedings moving if someone were to get stuck, and while it’s not the fault of the developer, when compared to the masses of puzzlers out there, this one doesn’t take enough big swings to sit at the table with the big boys.
That being said, it’s a game that’s destined to pop up on countless indie hidden gem lists, and if you are looking for a tag-team indie to play with a pal, this is one you have to try!
- A simple but fun premise, and a decent soundtrack
- Very clever puzzle and boss battle design
- Plenty of puzzles to keep you busy
- Just as fun in both solo and co-op
- The visuals are cute, albeit unremarkable
- No hint system to keep the ball rolling
- Doesn’t take a lot of big swings
Toodee & Topdee Review: FAQs
Question: Is Toodee and Topdee Co-op?
Answer: Yes, this game can be played in solo, where the player can swap between the two main characters. Or you can each take control of you character of choice in co-op
Question: How Long is Toodee and Topdee?
Answer: If you are solving puzzles at a reasonable pace, I would estimate that the average player would be able to complete all the stages in about 5-6 hours.
Question: Where Can I Play Toodee and Topdee?
Answer: This title will be available on all major modern platforms. These include Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/Series X/S, PS4/5 and PC.
Callum played this game for a total of four hours and reached the fourth of five worlds. He would have seen the game off completely, but seeing as he has played the entire game to this point with his wife, he knows he would be in a world of trouble if he kept going without her.
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