The plot of many games is inconsequential, and often just an identikit mash-up of cliches, such as defending the planet against marauding aliens. The game we’re reviewing this week, Toast Time, has a plot which sticks to the usual rules, but is so wonderfully insane, it’s worth repeating.
Here goes: “Inter-dimensional time blob beasties have sailed the cosmos in pursuit of spare time, and now they’ve found it, tasted it, on a Monday morning.” You play Terry the Toaster, and must, “Do everything it takes to defend toast time – you are Monday morning’s final hope.”
Why are we reiterating this? Because it sets up the tone of Toast Time perfectly. It’s deliciously ridiculous, and reminds us of so many of our favourite 8-bit games from the 80s, such as Chuckie Egg and Dizzy. The game’s graphics are also influenced by that pixelated era.
Solid background colours differentiate the levels, and almost everything else on screen is just a white shape. Despite this simplicity, it looks great, and the baddies are all suitably individual. Terry is a classic 8-bit hero, with a smiley face and insane special ability.
To defend the breakfast table, Terry shoots toast and other bread-related products to destroy them. Terry’s not stationary though, and he can use his toast-firing ability to bounce around the screen. This is both a blessing and a curse, as you have almost no control over Terry’s movement at all. Once Terry’s in the air, he’s pushed around each time you fire, and drops slowly down when you stop.
Terry’s goal is to defend an alarm clock. Its presence works to provide a strict time limit for each stage, and to introduce an almost tower-defense element to the game. The inter-dimensional time blob beasties are going all out to capture the alarm clock, and the game is over when one of the reaches it. All you have to do is shoot them before they get there.
Levels vary from clear screens, to those with platforms, and on to ones with enclosures, walls and even fans to give you an extra shove. Due to Terry’s uncontrollability, it’s essential to work the later levels strategically. Otherwise, Terry gets stuck behind a platform and unable to shoot the nasties as they close in on the alarm clock. However, while it’s tempting to camp out next to the clock, this can stop you from shooting the all-important falling crates.
The crates contain new weapons, and are essential if you want to advance to new levels. You start off with a basic toast gun, but soon upgrade to baguettes, crumpets, multi-shot bagels, and rapid fire bread crumbs. Each shot you take needs to count. Spend too long taking out a baddy or grabbing a crate, and the clock is soon overrun while you try to get back into position to take them out.
There are 45 levels in total, and the first 20 ramp up the difficulty nicely, and then it goes crazy. There’s just so much going on, keeping the clock in sight becomes almost impossible. It’s here Toast Time’s previously addictive gameplay slips over into frustration, and it’ll take a very dedicated (and talented) player to push past the really tough stages. The first half of the game is genius though, and a huge amount of fun to play.
Leaving aside the later frustrations, Toast Time is very silly, occasionally addictive, and superbly designed. Players can even customize Terry with different hats and a few accessories. All for free too. The game has a slightly higher than expected £1.99 price tag, but it is compatible with the iPhone and the iPad. We loved it, and if you don’t mind a truly retro gaming experience – it’s hard as nails later on, don’t forget – you will too.