Toodee and Topdee
August 20th 2021
Toodee and Topdee - Steam Version - v 220.127.116.11.
The metagame is a boom of creativity and knowing on algorithmic thinking. In contrast it is an aesthetic promise above gameplay. The "cutscenes" are more the game than the player's experience.
Is this an indie game for sure? In fact it is a game made by only two brothers from Palestine. Despite of this the final game was in partnership with Super Rare Games publisher (based in London) mainly for marketing. In the press kit website content we can get: "The jam version received great feedback, and so Gonen and Ori decided to make it their first commercial project". I suspected that it was a game jam game, it has many compact features typical of a game jam game. You can search for the original Ludum Dare 41 entry - https://ldjam.com/events/ludum-dare/41/toodee-and-topdee and play the pre-alpha/alpha version - http://www.gpstudios.com/games/view/toodee-and-topdee .
References/Legacy - Maybe FEZ by Polytron could be a strong reference in genre mechanics and small gimmicks. Also the integration of the ludic, the narrative and the music in Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP by Superbrothers and Capybara Games, with music by Jim Guthrie. The deus ex machina use is very frequent. We could see the similar plattform/puzzle level design in Master Spy by TURBOGUN too. But without a doubt the game is more based on other designs that appear a lot in game jam games.
Characters - Personality traits - Toodee is rude in speech; Topdee is polited. Todee is cool, awesome, Sonic-like. Topdee is not too charismatic, indeed is very no guts. However we will see at the end of the game a very interesting change in the characters, like a monumental plot twist.
The character design of the protagonists is cliché due to the fact of the cute/kawaii and super deformed form is in check nowadays. In the present we have other potentials in a impressionist way to explore pixel art without cute/kawaii/SD appeal - in other words we do not need forced face expressions and big heads to mark humanism in the small frame of pixels, it is not a technical problem today and we could explore other aesthetic markers (including doing it in tribute to retro games).
The side characters are sort OK sort a little bland. The glitches and guardians could have more design in it. We feel a promise of lore and metagame network by the characters however it not happens. Need more ludo-engagement through the plot.
Visuals - that kind of pixel art emulated in low poly 3D is a really solid tendency nowadays in indie development, see the searching for the tools picoCAD and SpriteStack in the present year that can "convert" 2d pixel art in a so-so-3D art (not voxel).
In the game there is a magic feature with solidness - it is very impressive the change between the 2D (Toodee) perspective and 3D (Topdee) perspective and vice-versa in the dialogues scenes. It dinamizes the game!
The game physics is a great topic! The cloud physics and art are very simple and fun.
Thinking on the playability and the ludo-moto - the puzzles and the design of platform jumps is well-constructed in a hard way. "Hard" here means a rather orthodox logic - straight. However the pig mechanics in not "hard", being an epicentre of playful creativity. The boss/guardian fights are well constructed in a cubic/kaleidoscopic point, very unique indeed - reminds me of some boss battles in Contra: Hard Corps (Konami, Mega Drive) that are very strong in singular gimmicks.
Original Sound Track quick analysis in spontaneous notes:
1 - Home - it is an normal almost chiptune dub lo-fi, just OK. A mix of idling OK with a very OK;
2 - Hello World - relaxaway - better than OK, but OK instead. More or less similar to the FTL soundtrack;
3 - Jungle Kingdom - same of the 2 vibe;
4 - Elementemple - Ok to good, but very 2010s in a bad way;
5 - Exceptions - deep and frail in feelings, so so like FTL OST too. Very bad with drums (However in the game does not match!);
6 - Error - sad, down, OK;
7 - Return - not good. Tetrisistic but not well executed;
8 - Ordalook - not good. Too fake desert soundtrack;
9 - Yumbrozi - confusion, bad drums;
10 - Korimlio - interesting - very good - eletric guitars!;
11 - Ozraeen - more guitars! Nice! Drumba!;
12 - Toodoo - very fast - not good - arrogant - horrible!;
13 - Incompatible - good relaxaway track indeed. The best lo-fiist track;
14 - Corruption - weak - fast and OK;
15 - Ladybugs - the better OK track.
The general feeling is that the music would be more interesting in another game and in another decade, maybe in the year of 2012 when the FEZ game was published. The same compelling and compulsory visual aesthetic of the game jams can be felt in the musical aesthetic. We can feel great aesthetic vices present in the inner culture of Ludum Dare jamers. On the other hand - we can feel de efforts of the integration between game design and musical composition near to the work of Jim Guthrie in Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP in some aspects, but far from something koshiroist.
Localization - The short dialogues are well translated and the options of languages (10) are embracing considering the indie audience and the indie project. (it is worth remembering again that the game puts itself as indie and is made indie but has a connection with Super Rare Games).
Optimization - No problems with standard emerging hardware. The minimum requirements stipulated is i3, 4 GB RAM - which is somewhat alarming considering the game is low poly and even the last few levels do not seem to weigh as much.
Accessibility - The easy difficulty change in options menu makes it possible for people with motor restrictions or even people with little manual skills to play and enjoy the game until the end. The same goes for those who are not cognitively well-skilled at handling puzzles or those who do not like puzzles.
Using a steam controller and testing the haptics feedback it is possible to say that the game is rotten in haptic design, there is only one form of vibration. There could be vibrations due to falls and other impacts for example as in Hollow Knight by Team Cherry - and that would not be that difficult to implement even for a small group of developers.
Finally, the game is too short and the cost-benefit is not interesting when we balance the aesthetic promises against what the game actually is in praxis experience. Maybe the game needed another 1 or 2 years of development. It was not enough to transform the submitted game jam build for Ludum Dare. Could have explored more the metaworld with more lore and satyric and pythonesque plot and being more careful with mechanics and music.
The balance points out that the Toodee and Topdee is not recommended since the negative topics outweigh the positive topics looking from the point of view of a player from an emerging country who will buy the game on Steam. Although there is no desire to ask for a refund - possibly a good update could come or a free DLC. If a free DLC comes up, I can NOT switch to recommended - Why? - The developers do not make it explicit that they are from Israel. As I am a signatory of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) mouvement - I do not recommend the game in any way in solidarity with the Palestinian people who have their freedom limited by the State of Israel and its companies. This is not a prejudice against the origin of the developers. I also have a Jewish ancestry. It is a way to be able to make some economic impact on the Israeli system and its war crimes. In short - if I knew this was a game made in Israel, I would never have bought it.