Steam sees thousands upon thousands of game releases each year, but few are as creative and mind-twisting as Diet Zribi’s upcoming puzzle-platformer Toodee and Topdee. This offbeat and thoroughly charming game gives players the ability to switch between 2D and 3D perspectives as they navigate the two titular characters across levels filled with variety of traps, enemies, and more. There’s even a local co-op mode that allows two friends the ability to tackle this engaging title together, promising plenty of hilarious trial and error and “aha!” moments along the way.
You can add Toodee and Topdee to your Steam wishlist right now in preparation for it August 4 release, and you can follow Diet Zribi on Twitter to keep up with the newest announcements and updates regarding the game and what these two talented developers have in store for the future. Additionally, you can keep an eye out here for our upcoming review of the game.
In the meantime, we had a chance to sit down with Gonen, one of the two developers that comprise Diet Zribi, and ask him some questions about the studio’s first commercial release ahead of its August 4th release date.
Retroware: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today, Gonen.
Gonen: It’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
RW: Diet Zribi is a two-person studio run entirely by you and your brother, Ori. Can you fill us in on your history as sibling game developers, your respective roles, and how the studio came to be?
G: I’ve been interested in games and game development from a very early age, and started playing around with Game Maker as a teen. It got me interested in programming in general, and years later I went to study Computer Science and Mathematics in the university.
When I finished my degree, I went to work as a software engineer. However, during all that time I was still interested in game development, specifically indie, and I came across the Ludum Dare game jam – where you make a game in less than 72 hours (or less than 48, depending on the category). Since I can make art and code, I asked Ori to join as a composer and sound designer. That’s how we made our first jam game together. We really liked it so we kept doing them over the years!
RW: For those uninitiated with the dimension-shifting world of Toodee and Topdee, share with us a quick pitch about the game and its intriguingly unconventional puzzle mechanics.
G: Toodee is a character in a 2D side-view world, and Topdee is a character in a top-down world. Hence their names… Get it? Without getting too much into the story, their worlds merged with each other, and now we’ve got a 2D platformer and top-down puzzler hybrid. The hook is that you can switch between Toodee and Topdee at any time, and the perspective switches to that genre. With that shift, all the other creatures and objects in the game change the way they work, and bend to the rules of the current genre. It’s easier to explain when you just see it in motion though.
RW: What specifically gave you the idea for the game’s unique design?
G: So in 2018, we participated again in the 41th Ludum Dare, and the theme was “combine two incompatible genres.” We brainstormed some ideas until we landed on using the same level geometry for a 2D platformer and a top-down game. We thought it would be more fun if it had two characters for each perspective, instead of one that switches between them. As usual, when we come up with names for jam games we try to think of something really funny (for us at least) so we just came up with Toodee and Topdee.
We finished the jam version in 3 days! We received great feedback, and we loved it so much that we knew we were going to expand on it one day. We could’ve never imagined it would get this far!
RW: Would you consider the design philosophy behind Toodee and Topdee to be focused more on approachability or challenge?
G: It’s a little bit of both. In jam games, we always try to keep things as approachable as possible, so (besides movement) there are only two buttons. We decided to keep that limitation for the full game as well. It starts pretty easy but slowly becomes more and more challenging, both in the puzzle aspect and in the platforming aspect.
We really love Celeste and are very inspired by it, so we have a difficulty menu, inspired by that game’s Assist Mode, where you can tweak some of the game rules to make it easier. We have a niece and a nephew that are 6 years old, and we let them play the game co-op, and once it got a little tough for them, I used the difficulty menu to give them infinite health and other modifications that make their life easier. They had great fun! It was very cool to see.
If difficulty modifiers aren’t your thing, there are still a lot of challenges and secrets you can just ignore in a regular playthrough. The hardcore audience that is interested in getting that 100% will have to face some very hard challenges.
RW: It sounds like there are plenty of difficulty and accessibility options available for less experienced gamers, then.
G: We don’t call it “accessibility” in the game, but you can configure all the controls, disable screen shaking, make the outlines black or thicker, disable the background, disable foreground effects, disable the 3D tilt effect, and slow the game down. Death happens in one hit, but as I mentioned, you can modify your health from 1-5 or infinite. You can also allow Toodee to jump in the air, and you can allow Topdee to pick up far away boxes (we call this Telekinesis) or pick up metal boxes (which usually are only pushable).
RW: There are bosses to overcome throughout the adventure. Does the game feature any combat, or are these encounters solved strictly through puzzle-platforming mechanics?
G: We didn’t want Toodee or Topdee to have offensive abilities, so they have to find creative ways to beat these bosses. For example, there is a box with a “down” arrow painted on it. For Topdee, it’s just a regular box, but when you switch to Toodee, it’s affected by gravity and falls down. So while fighting the first boss, you have to take the box with Topdee and position it high in the level, then you have to switch to Toodee at the right time when the boss is below it so that it hits its head. You’ll need to do other things for other bosses, but I’ll leave that for the game!
RW: How long have you two been working on this project, and what would you consider the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the journey to its imminent release?
G: We’ve been working on it for a little bit over two years now. I’d say the biggest challenge is to keep working on it even when that’s the only thing you’ve seen in front of you for months and months. When you are just starting to make a game, everything is fun, you discover a lot of things, implement movement, and figure out what’s working and what’s not. You’re deciding what are the possibilities and how things are going to feel. Every line of code or sprite makes something new and exciting happen.
The end of the development is also very exciting and emotional, as you start to see everything connect, you have a playable build that feels like a “real game”, and you let people play it from start to finish. It’s magical.
The middle part is the hardest part. You already know what the game is about, but you need to generate content. You have no idea when you’re going to finish. But you can’t give up and you have to keep working! I found that splitting that massive “middle” development phase into smaller things works for me because each smaller thing has its own beginning and end part – if that makes any sense.
RW: Do you have any post-launch DLC plans for Toodee and Topdee?
G: Not at the moment.
RW: Are there any plans to port the game to consoles eventually?
G: Yes. We can’t confirm anything yet, but we really want to see Toodee and Topdee on the Nintendo Switch, and we’re working on making that happen! After that, we’d love to see it also on Xbox and PlayStation. It depends on a lot of things, though, so we’ll see!
RW: The Diet Zribi Twitter account currently mentions “other things” that are being worked on alongside Toodee and Topdee. Can you share any hints at all about what other projects you’re cooking up for the future?
G: Before Toodee and Topdee, we had another mind-melting puzzle platformer in the works that we have since shelved, but we might pursue it again in the future. We have a lot of ideas for our next project, but first we want to focus on the release of Toodee and Topdee and then porting it to consoles.
“Other things” are usually free web games that we make for game jams. We made several during the development of Toodee and Topdee. If you look at our jam games, you’ll see that we like to try a lot of different things. Some days we want to do an action game, other days horror games, and sometimes we think it would be cool to make a game heavily story-based, with a lot of characters and dialogue. Maybe we’ll just participate in those game jams until something cool pops up the way that Toodee and Topdee did!