With Toast Time: Smash Up! you are not only getting a fun little retro arcade shooter but also the opportunity to take a slice at some really loaf out loud bread puns – but I must resist otherwise this review might end up a little stale. Toast Time: Smash Up! is the vision of UK indie developer Force of Habit who love all things unusual and take pride in experimenting with game mechanics. The game originally released as a mobile title simply known as Toast Time way back in 2014, at the time it received generally positive feedback and became somewhat of a cult smash. Four years later and we see its release on everyone’s favourite portable home console the Nintendo Switch, so we ask – is it still worth a look?
From the initial boot up you are presented with a stylised presentation, characters and backgrounds are sprite-based giving the game a super retro vibe. Everything, especially in handheld mode, is clean looking and the use of a simple colour pallet takes me back to the ZX Spectrum era of my gaming youth. It is clear that the development team have put in a considerable amount of time and love in making Toast Time. It is also abundantly clear that they have had a blast in baking the game a reality, from the off they seem comfortably happy to look on the lighter side of things. The menus, the main game, everything in this fun little package is littered with bread references and jokes which I’m my best to emulate – so hopefully, you’ll get a rise out of it.
Onto the game itself, there are a number of different modes available. Some are unlocked as progress is made through the story missions such as Survival while others, like multiplayer, are making their debut for this release. You assume the role of protagonist Toast-Ejecting Recoil & Reload System or TERRY for short who is, obviously, a super cute pixelated toaster. The very first mission acts as a tutorial and introduction to the core gameplay mechanics. TERRY’s goal is to survive and destroy the incoming onslaught of enemies hell-bent on capturing an alarm clock and timer for each level. Known as time blob beasties they are an evil race who have ventured far across the cosmos in pursuit of spare time after mastering inter-dimensional travel. Luckily being a toaster TERRY has the ability to shoot a whole bakery’s worth of floury treats and other breakfast-related paraphernalia at the evil little beasties using a combination of the left stick to aim and the action button to fire. Every shot fired causes a recoil leaving TERRY bouncing around the screen and this is the only method of movement, so every shot counts especially if you need to access a certain area. The trigger button can be used to temporarily freeze your position but it soon runs out leaving you free to bounce around again.
From my playthrough of the game I found myself switching between two methods of tactical play. Simple levels I would just blast away adjusting my aim in time with my perpetual movement but for the more demanding, I found myself anchoring TERRY to a spot before perfectly timing my attack. This was extremely useful on levels where you are given a limited amount of ammo. It’s probably not in the spirit of the game but I did often release my anchor moments before it would run out and lock for a few seconds just to jam the button down instantly and thus starting the cycle again. Toast Time is very reminiscent of Capcoms 80’s game Pang which is also known under a number of guises, namely Bubble Buster harking back to my ZX Spectrum days.
The game is played on a static screen that is presented in a square format meaning there are boarders either side to fill the rest of the screen, while not a deal breaker it does decrease available area making things small. I think there’s a missed opportunity here seeing the set up of the Switch it would have been nice to be able to play Toast Time from a vertical orientation mimicking its mobile roots. With accessories such as the Flip Grip it makes this trail of thought a valid proposal.
Toast Time: Smash Up! gives you a more than reasonable 54 action-packed mission levels to master and upon completion, you are awarded a score/ time-based rating of up to three stars. Eliminating enemies in a set time frame keeps your score boost going which is welcomed as this all counts towards getting crate unlocks. Crates host a whole heap of customisation options and more, I mean who wouldn’t want to dress up their little toaster a pirate? In later missions, you encounter different enemy types each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It helps to keep things fresh and mixes up the gameplay style so you are always thinking. Toast Time additionally offers 16 differing bread-based weapons to combat the complete range of enemies with varying degrees of success. You can also use various environmental items to your advantage while drinking a coffee makes everything go a little crazy.
The addition of a multiplayer mode makes this a great party game that works well when docked. You can customise and configure gameplay to suit. Other options include a view on the in-game trophies which are always a fun distraction and a stats analysis that tracks everything from the number of shots fired to percentage completion.
Toast Time: Smash Up! is a really fun game, it can be fast and frantic at times. There is enough content to keep you coming back for more and the main character alone is a good USP. The Switch version runs perfectly, as expected, and retails at a similar price point to its mobile parent. The inclusion of some suitably British humour was enough to keep the game interesting, Toast Time: Smash Up! is definitely worth a look.
Beard Score: 7/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 16/11/18 (Switch)
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Shooter, Action, Arcade
Publisher: Force of Habit