Week in Mobile: Toast Time is delicious British humor in a breakfast game

Take old-school homebrew and mix in British humor. Add a dash of shoot-em-up and a sprinkling of tower defense. Drizzle with syrup for good measure.

Toast Time is a breakfast game — or at least it’s themed like one. So it’s fitting that Nick Dymond, one half of Bristol, U.K.-based indie developer Force of Habit, first talked with co-founder Ashley Gwinnell about it in a coffee shop.

“TERRY was in it, though unnamed,” Dymond told GameZone, referring to the playable toaster character, “and there were only a couple of weapons and a single level without any geometry. However, the game felt amazing: smooth, juicy, vibrant, and there was something fundamentally interesting and rewarding about the core mechanic.”

Toast Time is a single-screen shooter consisting of TERRY and a bunch of enemies going after a clock. It launched last year for Android and just came to iOS this week.

“You, TERRY, have to stop [the enemies] by firing different types of breakfast paraphernalia at them,” said Dymond. “If you manage to protect the clock until it runs down to zero, congratulations, you’ve completed the level.

“Wherever you tap on the screen, TERRY shoots. However, because firing is your only input, TERRY also rebounds in the opposite direction. So movement has a super-arcadey rocket jump feel to it. Weapon crates drop from the ceiling, switching you to a random weapon each time.”

Those are the basics. Get further, and you’ll grapple with 16 weapons, an Iron Man survival mode and bonus Coffee Time mode, and a wealth of customizations to dress up your toaster.

Toast Time borrows its humor from the weird, surrealist British comedy of the ’80s, said Dymond. “It was one generation past The Goon Show, Monty Python, and the like, and you had alternative comedy coming to the fore. This happened alongside the boom of the home computer and with it, the bedroom programmer, who in many cases seemed to fuse this irreverent comedy into their games.”

As a kid, Dymond did a lot of experimenting on ZX Spectrum, MSX, TRS-80, and whatever other old machines his older brothers were programming on. “I’d go back and mess about with the old tape games on there. In a lot of titles from that era, nothing made sense, and that was OK so long as the mechanics were sound.”

Toast TimeThe semi-retro style of Toast Time is all Gwinnell’s style. “It’s definitely programmer art, we won’t pretend otherwise,” said Dymond, “but at the same time it’s hyper-stylized and quite strict. Again, looking back to early game development, programmers often had to multitask and take on art duties, so I guess there’s that.”

Toast Time is a throwback to that golden age — and that weird humor. “There are around 85 Trello tickets that never made it into the game, quite a few of which we don’t remember writing,” said Dymond. “One of them, titled 'Morning glory,' apparently involves a giant sad phallus smashing on to the screen that smiles when you touch it with bread. It was probably funny at the time of writing.”

Dymond said he wasn’t sure what their studio’s style was, exactly, but their other games are just as quirky and unusual — like Timmy Bibble's Friendship Club, a bullet-hell arena shooter set in a kid’s imagination, and Dysbiosis, an “intestinal-tract-based shoot-em-up.”

“A lot of the games on our site were made at jams, so there are certain restrictions there in terms of ambition,” said Dymond. “Our particular sense of humor is leaking out through our games at the moment, that’s for sure.

“I think there’s also an argument to made that we were shut in a room together for so long that it was inevitable that we would make something weird.”