You may be wondering, what is a Toto? No, we're not talking about the 1970s American rock band behind hit songs like 'Rockmaker' and 'Hold the Line'; Toto is amazing, but this isn't that Toto, even though this toto is also amazing. A toto is a small sentient tablet which has a strange obsession of having a goat sit on its head, and they come in four colours with different personalities. They also love to soar through the air and hit each other to steal said goats.
You may be wondering "Why goats? And what do they do to these poor creatures? Pet them? Curry Them?" It's all a mystery in the world of Toto Temple Deluxe. The latest game from Canadian developer Juicy Beast is a sleeper hit, as long as you got someone to play with.
Toto Temple Deluxe - the revamped version of the Ouya title first released in 2014 - is a multiplayer only affair, but here's the catch, it only supports local play. Forget about online, leaderboards and, yes, forget about single player mode. There's not much to see here, except the sheer fun of having your friends and relatives scream to each other as they try to get the goat; which honestly should become a trending topic #GetTheGoat.
And while many games would suffer from the lack of variety in gameplay, Toto excels in the quality of the content available. It follows the formula of grabbing an idea and stretching it to its limit, in the same vein of how the Super Mario Bros. series still manages to remain relevant after all these years. The result is a game that at first may give the impression of being another vapid title, but in reality there are layers and layers of hard work in every single aspect of the game. Don't let its cutesy and colourful graphics fool you, Toto Temple Deluxe is deep - from the main menu to the gimmicks of the temples, it is admirable how the game makes the best out of simple ideas and concepts.
The main menu is remarkable in how it teaches the player the dashing mechanic of the game. "We noticed back then (in an early version of the game) is that once in the game, most players had no clue how to navigate using the 'dash' mechanic" said one of the four members of the team behind Toto in a blog entry that documents the development of the game. Their solution was to come up with an interactive UI that let the players explore the controls and the moveset of the totos.
Controls are the foundations of a good game, which is why games like Kid Icarus: Uprising proves more divisive that something like Bayonetta. In Toto Temple Deluxe the controls are simple and responsive; jumps have enough floatiness to them and dashing feels fantastic, specially when hitting another opponent.
There are only three modes to choose from, and with the exception of Target Mode they usually start the same way: there's a goat sitting on a pedestal in the middle of the temple, and four players equidistant from the bleating creature.
In Classic Mode the goal is to gather a set amount of points before anyone else. Players receive points for every second they can hold the goat, but they also become gloated and slower; it's a rubber band system that keeps the game interesting for stragglers and tense for those in pole position. To make matters more interesting every few seconds a box with a power up will spawn to give the players chasing the holder of the goat a chance to overturn the match.
Bomb Mode changes the goal, and the goat. The objective in this mode is to rack up points by blowing away the other players, and in lieu of a skinny white goat a plump and extremely volatile goat sits in the middle of the temple. Funnily enough the goat bleats to the tune of the Ground Theme from Super Mario Bros. as it is about to explode.
Both of these modes can be played with up to four human players and players can even pair up to compete in teams against each other. In the case of not having enough friends or relatives to play with, the team at Juicy Beast managed to implemented bots to keep you company. A word to the wise: humans are always better than bots - bots don't have feelings and cannot scream in joy/exasperation/horror.
As opposed to the previous two modes, Target Mode is exclusive to two human players. Instead of facing players against each other, the mode pairs players up to help each other rack up as many points as they can. The objective might be familiar to fans of the Super Smash Bros. series - break targets and score as many points as possible in set amount of time, the faster the player breaks the targets the more points that can be scored.
As mentioned before Toto Temple Deluxe has a limited array of modes, so the variety of the game presents itself in the form of temples. Each stage has a unique mechanic and look, the Toto Temple stage is the Final Destination of the available options with its basic distribution of the platforms and no apparent gimmick present to disturb the flow of the match. Other stages introduce moving platforms, destroyable walls and underwater exploration.
In addition to the unique look and feel of the temples, each one comes with their corresponding musical theme. The music of Toto Temple Deluxe can be described as organic, as if each of these temples are living ecosystems - pan flutes, slide guitars, marimbas, each theme is as unique as the mechanics that define the stages. The breathing melodies and heart-beating rhythms give a unique feel to the soundtrack amidst the chaos of the bleating goats and flying totos. In what can be the most David Wise-esque performance, the composers of Toto Temple Deluxe went out of their way to create a catchy soundtrack that never feels too intrusive.
Toto Temple Deluxe lifespan is as long as you want it to be, and just like any other party game its enjoyment depends on the party itself. There are unlockable stages and even substitute idols for the goat, including characters from previous Juicy Beast titles and cameos from many other games; the former does extend the game life by giving more options to choose from, while the latter is just a cosmetic change that bears no consequences whatsoever.
While that Toto from the '70s makes you scream your lungs out in a venue, driving to work, or even in the shower... this toto will make you scream your lungs out to your friends and relatives. With its simple game design and incredible attention to detail Toto Temple Deluxe is a goat ride you won't want to miss. Toto Temple Deluxe is an fun game whose biggest strength is also its biggest weakness; the omission of online multiplayer (or a distinct solo mode beyond playing existing modes with bots) is a drawback, and although online is not ideal for party games, it should at least be an option to enable everyone to enjoy this one more.