Toodee And Topdee
There’s nothing quite like a good gimmick – and the one at the heart of Toodee And Topdee is great. As the title suggests, you’re controlling two characters. There’s Topdee, who sees the world from above, the ground divided into square tiles and littered with blocks that can be pushed around, Sokoban style. And Toodee, for whom the world is more akin to Mario Bros, each level a single screen of platforms and threats to navigate. Puzzle, meet platformer.
You can switch between the two at any time, leaving your previous character in position (even if that’s midjump) as the perspective shifts: what was previously a platform to jump on becomes a crate waiting to be nudged into position. Switch back, and that platform is in a different spot. This idea proves stretchy enough to populate the first of five worlds – but, like any good puzzle game, Toodee And Topdee takes its core concept and kneads it, rolling it out into fresh shapes.
The second world introduces enemies (pigs and bats), which can follow you across the perspective switch, adding a pinch of urgency to proceedings. The third is themed around elemental forces: thunderstorms and water, which both act according to the current direction of gravity, and traps that spit fire. The fourth adds portals and a third character that mimics the actions of both Toodee and Topdee. The fifth changes the format of the game entirely, going from Mario Bros to Super Mario Bros as the screen starts to scroll, an ever-advancing fog meaning you need to keep both characters in motion. A grand finale twists the gimmick in a whole new direction.
These elements aren’t especially novel, but Toodee And Topdee’s dimension switching is catalyst enough to produce a fresh compound. The problem, as the game layers on complications, is that some puzzles have too many moving parts. The mix of leaping and pushing blocks forces you to exercise thumbs and prefrontal cortex alike, but jumping between the two can jar.
Challenge is part of the sales pitch here – the game consciously models itself on Celeste, right down to the granular accessibility settings. Being able to slow time or ignore damage is welcome, but the absence of a Baba Is You-style undo button feels like an oversight, especially in later multi-part puzzles. Repeating the execution when you cracked the solution long before is tedious; failing due to split-second timing is not only frustrating, it can cause you to doubt a solution that later turns out to be sound. In combining two genres, Toodee And Topdee can tap into the best of both worlds, but it inherits their respective vulnerabilities, too, and at times they make for an ugly pairing.