One Hot Slice – A Kickstarter Quick-look at Top This!
Convincing some gamers to try games with certain mechanics is often like convincing a kid to try a slice of pizza with anchovies or pineapple with ham. Dexterity is one such mechanic of which more than a few turn their noses up. I’ll admit, until a little over a year ago, I was just as likely to turn away from a dexterity game as I was when finding raw tomatoes on my pizza pies. However, just like those little fish and that hawaiian flair, dexterity – once you’ve acquired the taste – is often hard to resist. And, so, it was with great relish that I dug into the latest serving from Uniforge Games – a delightful pizza flicking game called Top This!
In Top This! each player plays a particular pie pusher trying their best to complete certain orders – indicated on cards next to the game board – before the other chefs. In order to do this, the chefs will have to place, flip and flick toppings onto the pizza-shaped board divided into 8 equal slices. It all sounds pretty simple, but knowing what to place, when to flip and how best to flick can prove a mighty tall order.
At the beginning of the game, each player is given four random, double-sided topping discs with representations of the five topping types in the game – mushrooms, onions, black olives, peppers and that timeless classic, pepperoni. Five order cards are turned face up, and these indicate what particular toppings need to be on a slice of the pizza during the active player’s turn in order to score. The pizza is then seeded with four random toppings.
In order to complete orders and score, a player takes two actions on their turn, chosen from two available actions: Add a topping from their personal stash, or flip all toppings of the same type on the pizza. Flipping is the easiest of the two – a player simply names a topping type and then all topping discs on the board showing that type are flipped to their opposite sides. In the beginning of the game, flipping can create some humorous havoc since no player really knows what toppings are on the backs of other toppings. As time goes on, however, the game develops a nice, subtle memory mechanic that can provide a good mental challenge. This is really the only part of the game that didn’t fully appeal to me as I have the memory of a goldfish; however, gamers like Monkey238 with minds like a supercomputer will absolutely love it.
The heart of the game, though – and, really, with all dexterity games – lies in the flicking. This second action entails a player taking one topping from their personal stash, placing it anywhere along the exposed crust on the edge of the gameboard and then flicking it into the pie, pushing other toppings out of the way and, with a bit of luck and a smattering of skill, depositing it exactly where it was intended. Of course, half the fun happens when this goes terribly, horribly wrong and toppings go flying all over the place. But, as many homespun chefs have often contended, if it isn’t messy, it isn’t good.
And speaking of something good, Top This! is most definitely that. The gameplay is easy and intuitive, reminding me a bit of one of the first “tabletop” dexterity games, a stalwart bout of Marbles. Although the game does require a good bit of finger flexing and flicking, most gamers won’t feel the pressure to perform quite in the same way as with more hardcore dexterity games like Crokinole since the atmosphere is light and breezy. However, dexterity fans will still be pleased since they can increase the difficulty and essentially “call their shot” by declaring that they will complete an order with particular panache. If the player can place, flick and complete an order after shouting “Top This!” that player takes a tip, which adds to his score.
Gameplay is great, but the graphic design of the game is fantastic, as well, adding a rich depth and atmosphere to all the controlled chaos of toppings flying to and fro. And if the prototype copy I received is any indication of the final production values of the game, this will be one beautiful addition to your gaming collection. If the guys at Uniforge had the wherewithal and time, these prototypes could easily be sold as the final product, even if the discs sometimes don’t slide as smoothly as they could because of the matte stickers. Luckily, all that will be cleared up when everything passes through the printer.
Admittedly, a select few gamers looking for an extra deep dish gaming experience might not find enough flavor in Top This! but casual gamers, families, and especially children will find this delicious serving a filling treat.
For more information on Top This! check out the official Kickstarter campaign. As of this review there are still three days left to get in on the action if this seems like something that would make a refreshing addition to your gaming menu.
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