Co-op party games have always been a thing, but it feels like there’s a new sub-genre of party games that is starting to develop where players simply do tasks that are part and parcel with everyday human life, albeit in a more comical and fun way. Overcooked is the pioneer of this new sub-genre, taking the heat in the kitchen and turning it into laughs (and often frustration) on the couch. Tools Up is an up to four-player game that attempts to replicate the fun formula of Overcooked, but instead of being in the kitchen we’re doing home renovations. It’s a concept that could definitely provide copious amounts of fun, but Tools Up’s slower design means it largely fails to orchestrate the same levels of chaotic enjoyment as Overcooked.
Pick up the biggest tool you can find…
Each level plays out in a house inside an apartment complex that needs a bit of a DIY TLC – whether it’s new carpet, fresh wallpaper or tiles outside in the patio. To ensure your skills are put to the test, not only is each level is timed but you’ll have to navigate icy paths and lava pools to complete your job. Completing the renovations is only half the battle though, with the other half requiring you to clear any tools or rubbish left in the house during the allotted time. Given the character’s general clumsiness, it’s easy to knock over a tin of paint and then slip on it, knocking over the rubbish bin in the process. Failing to clean everything up in time will result in a lower star rating, which will come back to bite you as each renovation requires a star level to unlock.
One main difference between Tools Up and traditional party games is that in order to see your objectives you must pick up and view the level’s blueprint, which will show you what needs to change around the premise, as well as change camera angles which allows you to check if you’ve missed a spot somewhere.
The other element to Tools Up is that you don’t start with all the equipment you need to get the job done. For example, one room may require new carpet, but you have to wait for the carpet to get delivered, and failing to get to the door in time will see the delivery man walk away and return later, which will cost you precious seconds.
Talk about your fixer-upper
While this all sounds dandy on paper, the execution doesn’t quite deliver the fun it promises. Unlike Overcooked, Tools Up doesn’t generate the level of enjoyable chaos that often has players at each other’s throats as well in fits of laughter. Instead, Tools Up is a far slower and accessible game that the whole family could play. While it’s not inherently a bad thing, it means that those looking for another Overcooked-style challenge aren’t likely to find it here.
Things like rubbish removal become more of a pain in the arse than a fun time management challenge (like washing plates in Overcooked). While renovating you need to clean up after yourself and any waste or rubbish needs to be disposed of. Each level has a dedicated bin at the front door where all rubbish must go, however in some levels there’s also a portable bin that also acts as a bowl if you need to mix resources. Sure it’s all part of the resource management puzzle, but often it can lead to one player just standing around waiting for the item to free up. Put simply: It ain’t fun.
Furthermore, the game is further hindered by just how slow your character moves – there is no run option here, so whether you’re a tubby plumber lookalike or a seal, your character will move at the same pace. This isn’t helped by some truly clunky controls that require precision when picking up or laying down an item.
WellPlayed’s winter wonderland
The problem with Tools Up is that it lacks the staying power of the more popular titles. Instead of finding ourselves hungry for more after a few games, the repetitive nature of the levels means that Tools Up is best played in short bursts (which will draw out the game’s shortish length). For those looking for a bit of a challenge it’s probably a safer bet to play Overcooked or wait for Moving Out (launching April 28, 2020).
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher