Review: Toast Time

By Sean Clancy 14 Feb 2014 0
"The Persistence of Margarine," --Salivate Daíly "The Persistence of Margarine," --Salivate Daíly

Some—and this could depend on the day of the week—consider the sight and sound of two fresh slices of bread popping golden-brown out of the toaster one of the sweetest things one can wake-up to. To others, those carb wedges might as well be two grainy tombstones ready to accept the lukewarm butter-substitute slabs presaging a day's inevitable failures. Mornings suck sometimes, is the thing here.

Toast Time feels like a game by and for that former sort of person. To the grumblers and serial breakfast-skippers of the world, it says “Hey, what if we were to shoot that piping hot bread-product right at the extra-dimensional goblinses trying to spoil your day?” And “Hey, what if that toaster had a big ol' smirk on his face, and could fly around your kitchen. And maybe he should wear a Santa hat.” Also: “Hey, are baguettes explo- WOAH.”

Toast Time, if I'm honest, may have had a bit too much coffee.

The gist of the thing is that you're Terry, a widdle toaster charged to protect an old-school alarm clock from various blobs looking to march in and break said timepiece, a task presumably given by whatever grab-bag minor deity has “breakfast” among its spheres of influence (Poseidon?). Put simply, baddies stream in, you-as-Terry (as one) plink toast at 'em, they explode, and if you stop the tide long enough for the clock to count all the way down, you win. Easy.

Thing is, with each shot Terry gets blasted in the opposite direction like Calista Flockhart wielding the Noisy Cricket from Men In Black. (That one's for you, Gen X-ers.) No shot is simple, barring the first, and blasting a foe never feels rote because attacking quite literally launches you into a new situation which you need to assess, again, literally on the fly. Smacking into things or colliding with enemies doesn't kill you (nothing can kill Terry...), but it also doesn't make it any easier to protect the clock. “That blob needs to die or I lose... but that will launch me up there... but maybe I need to be up there...” It's the angles of pool with the traction of air hockey, manic and loose and sort of a perpetual wake-up call, fittingly enough. Staying focused and intensely engaged is key.

Queen Boola actually takes little part in governing the Majestic Palace, instead delegating to a parliament of eggs and bacon. Queen Boola actually takes little part in governing the Majestic Palace, instead delegating to a parliament of eggs and bacon.

Levels emphasize this core mechanic of toasty aeronautics. Early stages are open, with simple gimmicks as to how the devious blobbies march in, and you'll be able to fire-at-will without worrying too hard about where the eternally chipper Terry zooms off to. Later on, though, the layout of a stage could include a nasty wall or platform which blocks line-of-sight to the clock, or an entire side-room meant to trap over-zealous toasters, or any of a number of architectural quirks designed to make life (un-life? “life?”) harder for the intrepid Terry as he flits around. (Sometimes you only get so many shots—the worst.) Enemies, too, will start teleporting in from odd locations, in greater numbers, and start using jump-pads and fans scattered throughout stages to assault the clock from unexpected directions.

Terry isn't a one-trick toaster, though (as if firing lethal bread and being a living toaster weren't good tricks enough); our hero can gear-up with several different brands of crunchy death-dealing, acquired by blasting crates, with new and better weapons unlocked as you clear stages and snag more and more power-ups in the process. It's all fun, cheekily-named stuff. “Toasties” are a double-shot which compensates somewhat for poor aim, while the bagels are a true kill-em-all shotgun blast; the baguette sticks wherever it lands and shoots out mini-slices for area-denial;“farmhouse slices” are your machine-gun, plastering Terry to whichever wall is opposite your target; and the bread pudding is a goddamn bomb. Delightful. Necessary, too, especially later on when Toast Time starts throwing serious legions of blob-bads at you and the default “plain white slices” won't cut it.

Those stuck-up ducks at Miller's Pond won't know what hit 'em... Those stuck-up ducks at Miller's Pond won't know what hit 'em...

It's difficult to fault Toast Time for its devotion to a single, simple mechanic. It takes a core idea, tweaks it and iterates on it several times, and lets you have bite-sized bits of fun with its collection of roughly half-a-minute stages. Great. Good. Still... it doesn't always feel the best. Which is a bit of a problem for a game that's trading so heavily on short bursts of tactile challenge.

Naturally, the whole point is that it's hard to aim, and only gets harder the more your freaky little appliance scoots around. But when your own understandable foibles are mixed in with the occasional touch-control “eccentricity” (like trying to hit a foe flush on the horizon, next to you, but actually hitting the ground and launching Terry into the air), it's annoying. Toast Time is a tough one later on, make no mistake, and you'll be looking for and occasionally finding good excuses for that umpteenth cock-up in the last level of “Fizzy Spittle's Desert Dunes.”

It doesn't help that Toast Time doesn't have a rapid enough restart to match its try-and-try-again difficulty; something akin to the speed of Super Meat Boy's do-overs would have been welcome. And, as much as I love the assortment of wheat-based weaponry, the random nature of pickups combined with the sometimes harsh demands of later levels mean you could be looking at do-over after do-over not because you didn't get a power-up, but because you did. God bless you, little MG42 farmhouse slices, but Terry needs to focus right now.

Thing is, these are the kind of complaints you can always levy against intense, intentionally fleeting action-arcade games like Toast Time. And when you factor in the charm (there's lots) the music (it's like an 8-bit saloon) the survival mode (it exists) and the fact that for every moment Toast Time makes you want to toss your chosen gaming device to the floor, there are two where it makes you laugh in spite of your loss (“Breakfast is canceled!” ), you get... well, a lot of things to factor. Toast Time isn't one to skip, much like... well, yeah, you know.

Toast Time was played on a 3rd-gen iPad for this review.

Review: Toast Time

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