Redbrick Gaming call in writer Sam Arrowsmith for an appraisal of Tools Up! A new party game from The Knights of Unity
There has been a trend in gaming recently, for creating party games centred around activities largely considered to be chores and making them fun. Overcooked, as well as its follow up, are probably the most well-known examples, alongside games like Good Job and Moving Out, providing manic multiplayer fun out of seemingly humdrum events. Tools Up represents another such idea, this time delving into the high-octane thrills of apartment renovation (I know). You and your soon-to-be-ex friends play an endearingly quirky team of workers who rock up to an apartment building and are tasked with renovating it, floor by floor.
From there, as you’d expect with a game like this, all hell breaks loose. The obstacles you face down, as you paint and wallpaper everything in sight, range from the mundane (slippery piles of rubbish) to the ridiculous (lava pits). However, as is often the case in a co-op party game, your main obstacle is each other. Only one of you can hold the blueprints and operate the camera at a time, so it is all too easy to turn the camera just as your teammate is about to do something important. This makes it a game where communication can be the key to victory.
There’s a couple of ways you can play Tools Up! There’s a campaign mode, where you steadily work your way up a mysterious skyscraper, hired to deal with a large variety of strange apartment layouts (hilarity ensues, obviously), and then a party mode, where you can play any of the rooms from the campaign, and let the chaos unfold. You start out with four standard, yet charming characters, but, as you progress through the levels, you can expand the roster to include a myriad of quirky individuals, with a recent update even bringing in medieval skins for the characters. The aesthetics of the game, particularly your avatars, are very cutesy, which puts you in mind of Fall Guys, watching your rotund characters waddle around the different apartments.
Tools Up‘s biggest strength is its flexibility. For example, if you need to get something, or indeed, someone, to a different room in the apartment quickly, you can have the option to push your willing suspension of disbelief to its limit by simply throwing them over the walls. Also, because pretty much anything can be dropped anywhere, you can indulge your devious streak by moving piles of rubbish into the path of couriers delivering supplies or annoying teammates for them to trip over. All of this adds to the cartoonish hilarity of the game, making the action frantic and fun.
There’s a lot to like with this game, but there are problems. I tried to play a few levels on my own when I first got the game, and it was there I began to realise that the controls were a bit fiddly. I often found myself dropping something I wanted to pick up or throwing something that I really had no business throwing. Now this isn’t so much of an issue in party mode, in fact it could actually contribute to the challenge, but in single player mode, it becomes tedious quickly. To be honest, single player mode generally feels a bit bare.
The nature of this game means it’s not at its best unless you have people to play it with. They do make an effort to make a challenge that single players can enjoy, though, offering you the chance to, once you’ve completed the game, replay it in “Time Attack” mode, for an additional challenge, but this too would be more engaging with friends. Arguably, though, this is a quirk of the genre, generally. Party games need more than one person to work, and Tools Up is no exception. Overall, though, this is still a charming, earnest, if idiosyncratic effort that makes a worthy contribution to an expanding subgenre of party games.
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