[Review] Tools Up! – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: The Knights of Unity
  • Publisher: All In! Games
  • Release date: 7/2/2020
  • Price: ¬£17.99 / $19.99
  • Review code provided by All In! Games

Co-Operative!

I really love a good couch co-op game, especially these days when those can be pretty hard to come by. Thankfully the Switch has been somewhat of a bastion for this style of game, like Nintendo consoles tend to be. Also, thankfully, I was able to recruit my little sisters to join in on this one with me. I brought them up before in my review of Jackbox 6, but as a refresher on what kind of players they are so you can get an idea of the play experience of our group:

S – 19, plays mostly Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, and Minecraft. Sometimes forgets controls of games she is not familiar with.

K  – 15, has played twice as much Breath of the Wild as me, Stardew Valley master, obsessed with BeatSaber.

Who’s Ready for the Chaos?

Tools Up! is one of those amazingly chaotic games where you have to get a task done in a time limit but, everyone has to actually communicate or you’re all just going to get in each other’s way. That’s the real test. Can you actually manage to get along with your friends enough to get the project done? In the case of Tools Up! the task that is on hand is that of renovating the inside of houses/apartments. This means tearing up and replacing carpet, laying tile, painting, putting up wallpaper, and other such tasks. You can tackle this in either the story mode or the party mode. Story mode has you getting points in order to determine how many stars your team gets. Party has how long you take determining that instead. The levels of party mode are mostly those of the story mode so we just opted to play through the story mode in order to get our experience in while learning the mechanics along the way.

The sense of progression was really rewarding for us, especially since doing well meant that we would get more stars in order to unlock more of the possible characters to play as. I don’t know why that was so rewarding to me, but it hit just right as a motivator aside from the fact that we had managed to do well in one of the levels. After just a few floors of the story mode’s apartment building we had gone from a team of 3 humans, to a diverse renovation squad of Dog, Otter, and Mario.

The Task at Hand

A crack team if I do say so myself.

The story mode really is the best place to get your feet wet with this game. It allows you to learn the concepts of the game play one by one and grow. It starts with just painting and laying carpet but soon you’re ripping up flooring and sealing walls and laying tile all in one room and there’s another room to be done as well! I think if you’re looking for real organized chaos, then three players is a good number.

K would disagree though as she was easily the most organized of us. While S and I were getting into shenanigans, slipping on paint, and getting confused in one room, K was methodically taking on the larger of the rooms all on her own. Eventually S and I figured out how to not be such utter disasters, but that took a little while, until which she was mildly annoyed with us. It really was the truest test of family bonds. Not really, but it did lead to some of that good old playful couch co-op arguing.

Our Disorder

There are a few things that get in your way aside from the other players, though. Every time that a paint can falls over, it will leave a spill no matter what, even if it was an accident from two people trying to squeeze through a narrow space. Laying cement or tile on the ground makes that spot on the grid unable to be walked on for a little while, so it meant that once or twice, S was blocked into the bathroom for a  little bit until she was able to walk there again. If you put up glue for the wallpaper, you had best put up that wallpaper right away because once it dries you need to apply it all over again. These are all things that you need to work around and it’s great because it keeps things a little more varied than if you were just doing things for a checklist and that’s it. You have to think about what you’re doing.

The addition of the ability to throw stuff over the tops of walls was excellent because I could get done with something and just throw it out of the apartment to get out of the way. It helped to keep things exciting and frantic in a really fun way when we were scrambling around at the very end. The ability to pick up your teammates just would get in the way, though, and an option to turn that off would have been nice so I didn’t pick up my otter companion when I was trying to grab the carpet she walked past.

Only Minor Flaws

That’s not to say that there are not any problems, though. There are a few gameplay quirks that could get in the way for us. For instance, there were a lot of times that we wished that there was not just one bucket in the apartment since they’re used for both carrying larger amounts of garbage than a person can carry alone and for mixing a few different substances. While you can carry out garbage by hand in many trips, the mixes could only be used from the bucket so it meant either waiting or doing things the long way and sometimes K wanted to cement the floors while S and I were ripping down wallpaper in another room that would be irritating to do the long way. While I understand this from the standpoint of making decisions in game play and weighing the options, when you have enough players to be split into 2 teams, it could become a frustration.

Additionally, not all the materials you need will always be there when you start. You may have to run outside to get deliveries as they come for your carpet, paint, or other supplies. While this does help to adjust priorities in the early part of a level, there would be points where we were panicking that we didn’t have something that we needed, only for it to show up outside a moment later. The fact that there are sometimes multiple deliveries and you don’t know which one is going to be coming next makes it hard to plan around them, as well.

All By Myself

The game becomes something entirely different when trying to play by yourself though. It becomes a project of time management and your ability to get tasks done in an orderly and timely fashion rather than something fast paced and frantic. I personally found this to be the less fun of the two ways to play because you still move at the slower speed of the game with others and there is a lot less to get in your way. It is satisfying to get things done neatly without knocking paint over all the time, but it is a very different type of game than the one that I played when I was running around with S and K. Some people might like it better that way, but I personally am much more interested in playing this one with other people rather than trying to play it all on my own.

A Job Well Done

Either way, I still had a very good time trying to deal with my own personal interior¬†renovator. It’s cute and fun and that’s about all that I ask for in a game to play with my sisters. It’s why we played so much Puyo Puyo Tetris when the switch library was small. Any game that I can add to the co-op cabinet of fun is something that is going to get a lot of playtime on my switch.

Pros

  • Frantic and fun game play
  • Rewarding progress in the story mode
  • Bonding through yelling at each other about everything going wrong

Cons

  • Minor game play frustrations
  • Game is entirely different when played alone (not in a good way for everyone)

Verdict
Bright and colorful in all the best ways bringing fresh co-op fun to the Switch!
4/5

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