Title: Tools Up!
Developer: The Knights of Unity
Publisher: All In! Games
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 3rd December 2019
Price: £17.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Back in August 2016, publisher Team 17 released the multi-platform smash Overcooked, which reestablished and some may say reinvented the casual sofa multiplayer game in a world filled with online-only multiplayer. Fast forward to 2019 and All In! Games have joined the craze making a game based on everyone’s favourite hobby; decorating houses!!
The basic game is a team of 1-4 players have to decorate a house in a set time limit using the tools and materials that the game leaves for you in a single-story level. Everything you can ever dream of in your decorating fantasies is here; paint, wallpaper, carpet, wooden floor, tiling, grouting, plastering, cementing and of course the big white bucket.
Now if I was here selling you this game as a decorating sim you might find the idea of spending your hours decorating virtual houses a tad boring unless you’re a massive Homes Under the Hammer fan, then this is the game for you (well not this game I’m reviewing, the one I described above). Of course, this is not a decorating sim, it’s a multiplayer, same sofa, same screen game aimed at getting everyone from your 6-year-old niece to your 75-year-old nan involved in a party game which rewards teamwork and planning just as much as it does communication.
Let me set the scene. You can play as one of a number of slightly exaggerated and what I would describe as wobbly characters from a huge dog to a mole to a regular builder, and are then asked to make your way up a block of flats tackling levels as you go hidden behind numbered doors.
You enter the level which is viewed top-down and your first job is finding the blueprint. Once you find this and pick it up, you can view it to see what you’re expected to be doing to the house in front of you. Is it paint the bathroom blue and lay some orange carpet or strip the hallway and lay some luxury yellow flooring? As a team, you need to remember this as it costs vital time to pick up the blueprint and view it again if you’re in the middle of a full house refurbishment.
Usually, in the house, you will also see some items laid in various rooms, normally an empty bucket which you use to stick rubbish in, mix cement, mix plaster etc. then some paint, and occasionally some carpet will be laid about, rolled up ready for you to take to the relevant room. Now it also should be said that you can only rotate the camera angle of the top-down building while holding the blueprint so again this is something to consider.
Now comes my first problem with the game and that is the level clearing system which is also seen in other games of this type. You play out the levels behind the doors and are awarded a rating from one to three stars for clearing the level, but to move up the block of flats you need a certain amount of stars to progress. I understand the fact this system is meant to encourage you to replay levels and get the perfect three-star rating but these games are aimed at everyone, and trying to explain to your 75-year-old nan we have to play this same level for the 20th time until we get the three-star rating, for me is a disadvantage to the selling point.
I would have liked to see a party mode where you can play any level in any order with no need to get that perfect score, maybe just a score based system you could then compare with other teams of family members or try and beat your last attempt. This on top of the normal story progression would have elevated this game to a true family multiplayer game, while on that subject maybe also add a challenge mode to decorate a room fastest or clean up the house quickest etc.
The game itself has quite simple control buttons; you have one that picks up/drops, you have one that uses, one that throws (NEVER USE THIS!) and then the shoulder buttons rotate the map (while holding the blueprint). This means that even the most novice gamer shouldn’t get too stuck on learning the buttons. Although as you expect this is also an issue sometimes as you accidentally pick up your teammate instead of the paint or you drop the paint instead of using it, causing a puddle in the level which rather annoyingly your builder will slip over at any opportunity unless one of the team mops it up and takes the waste outside the house to the bins. Later levels also see a delivery man bringing paint or carpet to the house and personally the grab function sometimes wouldn’t work, meaning we had to wait 15 or so seconds for him to come back with his products.
As mentioned before, you are controlling a wobbly character who seems to love bumping into open paint cans or the rubbish bin spilling everything over the floor, which you have to then clean up before getting on with your level. As you can expect it leads to some laughs as you can only get one person at a time in a door or sometimes in a room, and trying to squeeze past that paint can while carrying your carpet always ends with a mess. Laughs is also another word for arguments as this game causes tension; why did you throw the paint or why haven’t you picked up the carpet from the stream yet?! Needless to say, some of the levels took us a couple of goes to master.
As you get further on the simple paint or lay carpet becomes harder as the game adds the function to strip walls, lay tiles, cement the floor, place wallpaper and paste, pull up carpet, mix plaster, mix floor seal, and various other options and surprises I won’t spoil.
This is my second issue with the game; you are shown during the loading screen for a level the new skill you will have to do in simple pictures, which means for sure the first time you do the level you will fail as you will have no clue. For example that if you’re doing wallpaper you have to paste the walls and stick the paper up within a tight time frame or the wallpaper won’t let you place it on the wall. It needed to be more user-friendly in my opinion. I played this game with my wife who thankfully plays the odd game so we managed to work out the new dynamics pretty easily, but my daughter or my mother would have no chance at learning these new things so quickly which then ruins the casual and family feel of the game.
Your only real reward for getting the max star ratings other than unlocking more floors in the building are the cosmetic new characters you can unlock to play as in the game. I would have loved to see certain characters be faster painters but slower carpet layers, for example, to add some tactics to the game.
Overall I enjoyed Tools Up! as a casual multiplayer game. It’s not the best version of this genre I have played and it has some frustrating mechanics which sometimes take you away from the game itself. It’s bright and colourful with a charm that makes it very appealing to anyone in the family. It has some of the major issues I have with this type of game once again so it would have been nice to see them change it up, specifically the star level progression and the lack of party modes. Overall if you and the people you plan to play this with have some game knowledge and skill you won’t be disappointed in small bursts, but don’t expect to play this for hours on end and not sometimes get a tad frustrated.
Rapid Reviews Rating
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