There’s nothing like games to bring people together. In this review lifelong enemies, Nil and Kae put their differences aside just long enough to patch up a few houses in Tools Up! and experiment with a new review format.
Passionate about plastering? Curious about carpet? Well, gather an absolute bare minimum of three friends and get ready to have a moderately good time. You could almost be forgiven for assuming this is an Overcooked spin-off at first glance, and, well, it pretty much is, hoping to put a unique spin on the runaway cookery chaos that preceded it.
You can technically play Tools Up! by yourself but it’s really built around the multiplayer experience – the timer feels a bit too harsh even with two people bumbling about completing objectives – so we figured what better way to review a game that demands social interaction than with social interaction? Can Tools Up! build something great? Is this conversational format effective in providing entertaining, constructive criticism? Is it possible for anyone in their late twenties to regularly have three other people available and willing to play a game about painting? Let’s find out.
N: I really, really wanted to like Tools Up. I think on the surface it definitely has a lot of that party game energy, even if quite a lot of it is shamelessly borrowed from Overcooked. The first few levels ease you in with basic tasks and ample time, but once multiple rooms, material deliveries and plastering get involved it starts to feel a bit too much like real work. Granted, there were only two of us, but if the game isn’t optimised or scaled in any way for a lower player count it probably shouldn’t be an option in the first place, right?
K: Right. Although I don’t think Overcooked particularly scaled depending on player count either, it was certainly doable with only two players up until the final stages. The difficulty curve in Tools Up even within the first five levels just seems too much, or at least difficult for only two players to manage all the tasks of removing flooring, wallpaper, emptying the bin, repainting and relaying the flooring. Made harder still by kicking the paint bucket over resulting in extra spillages to clean or karate chopping the door off its’ hinges – although it did make for a few laughs!
N: Yeah, there were definitely some hectic, comedic moments. There’s a lot of getting in each other’s way, a lot of real communication needed to get anywhere in the first place. I think that’s probably one of the stronger elements – if you’re not talking and splitting up your tasks efficiently you just won’t get anywhere. That’s why it can feel frustrating, five levels in, doing your best to get your bit done, only to look at the timer and realise that there’s just no way in hell you’re going scrape the lowest possible rating. There are steep difficulty curves, and there are unreasonable plummets off the difficulty cliff. I feel like there’s a lot of potential, but as the mechanics become more involved, there’s just not enough time to get everything done.
K: The potential is there for sure. As a big fan of house building or time management games this game speaks to me, and that’s why I’m a little disappointed that it falls short of my expectations. The idea is fun but the controls feel slow and what should be a fast-paced game soon feels tedious and irritating.
N: It certainly doesn’t feel as polished or snappy as it could. For a game all about getting things done quickly, your character trundles about like a pensioner in a supermarket, and that just makes what should be a quickfire rush of an experience a grinding dawdle. I do like the art style – it’s simple but appealing and makes bringing houses alive with coloured walls and floors quite satisfying. I like the blueprint idea, too – the player holding it is in charge of rotating the camera angles and can temporarily highlight the tasks each room requires. Of course, they can only do that whilst physically holding the blueprint, which takes precious time away from other tasks. So anyone with the aspiration of playing foreman better put down that cuppa and get their hands dirty.
K: I feel that a few minor tweaks would improve this game dramatically. Dash functionality is an absolute necessity in a game of this type. Not only would it help to complete tasks faster but it adds to the carnage when playing with multiple people. The controls need to be more refined when attempting to highlight objects in order to make the game feel a little smoother.
N: It would be interesting to see an update that addressed some of these issues but I wonder how likely that is. At this moment in time that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon and that leaves Tools Up in a bit of a weird place. I would say it’s certainly one to try with three other people to maximise your effectiveness, but any less and it’s a little hard to recommend, especially when there are so many party game alternatives that do cater for 2-3 players out there.
The Tools Up! TL;DR:
- An imaginative spin on the Overcooked formula that doesn’t quite hit the mark.
- Clunky characters and controls slow down the momentum and just make the time limit stressful.
- Lots of actual communication necessary to succeed, especially when one player at a time controls the camera angle.
- With a few small tweaks Tools Up! would be excellent, but the collection of minor problems it has seriously undermines the experience.
Tools Up! is developed by Knights of Unity and published by All in! Games. It is available now for Nintendo Switch from the Nintendo eShop, currently retailing at £17.99 (price correct as of 31/12/2019). The game is also available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Catch more of our reviews right HERE.