Tools Up! (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC)

Tools Up! is a co-op couch multiplayer game where you must use teamwork to perform home renovations.  Paint walls, carpet floors, and clean up before the strict time limit expires.  It’s kind of like Overcooked, except with construction instead of cooking.  It’s available to download on all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.  Speaking of the review, I’ve got a treat for you today.  The folks who played this game for this review all have experience with home renovation.  First, there’s me.  While I write game reviews on the side, my full time job is working as a sales associate at a major hardware store chain.  I don’t do any D.I.Y. projects myself, but I certainly know my way around a hardware store.  But my Player Two for this review was my stepfather Jamie, who used to do home renovation projects before he started driving a truck again.  So with our combined experience, we should be able to ace this game, right?  Well, you’ll just have to find out by reading this review!

Play control is seemingly easy.  Run around with the control stick and press the X button to pick up and put down objects.  The circle button makes you throw things.  And the square button will perform an action depending on what object you are near.  If you are close to debris and it’s highlighted, you’ll pick up the debris.  Then a meter above your head will tell you that your hands are full of garbage and you must find a recycling can or dumpster to unload it so you can do actions again.  This works with other items, too.  Find a paint can and hold down the square button to pick up paint, and go to a highlighted wall to paint it.  Same goes with carpeting and tile, but sometimes you must strip the floors or walls, like how you handle garbage, before you can paint or carpet.  Mishaps will occur as you tip over paint buckets, break down doors, move furniture, and more!

The flow of the game goes something like this.  You’ll view a few rooms from a top down perspective.  Usually you’ll have to clean up some debris first, and then find a blueprint.  Pick up the blueprint and read it to find out which walls and floors need to be redecorated.  Sometimes a delivery man will bring the necessary equipment for you to finish a level, and you must pick it up from him before he leaves.  Then when you are done, you must take all your tools and trash out of the house to clean up.  If you can do all of that before the time expires, you’ll finish with all three stars.  Anything less and you’ll get only one or two stars.  The more stars you collect, the more playable characters you can unlock.  There are two modes of play.  Campaign is the main mode where you complete levels in a high rise building.  And Party Mode takes select levels from the campaign mode for you to beat as fast as possible to get stars.

Playing the game by myself, I would be lucky to finish a level with only one star.  But this is supposed to be a multiplayer game, so did I fare better with help from my stepfather Jamie?  Well, not really.  In fact we did even worse.  We’d end up getting in each other’s way, and both Jamie and I had a rough time wrestling with the seemingly “easy” controls and unclear goals and instructions.  I’ve been playing games for nearly 40 years and reviewing them for over 20, and I still had to restart every level at least twice to figure out what to do.  This game really needed some interactive instructions to show you what needed to be done.

Case in point.  In one level there was a square container with a picture of a red bucket on it.  I didn’t know what it was, but Jamie said it was a bucket of grout (Hey, I work in the plumbing department, not flooring).  During one of the loading screens, there was a picture cue that showed someone pouring a container of grout into a bucket and then laying down floors.  But we couldn’t figure out how that correlated to how it was used in the game.  Did you have to put it in the trash bucket or would another one be delivered?  Another time we got a long box that Jamie said was full of floor tiles, but when we went to install them, it had a big red X on the floor and we couldn’t walk on it.  Why?  We don’t know, the time ran out and we couldn’t beat the level.  If two guys with some experience in home repair couldn’t figure this game out, I can’t imagine how inexperienced players could do it.  And could you fathom doing this with FOUR players?

It’s a shame, too, because I really liked the concept of the game, Jamie liked tearing things down, and the graphics reminded me of the “Money for Nothing” music video from the 80s.  But unclear goals, inconsistent controls, and piss poor instructions really ruined the game for me.  You can’t even rotate the camera unless you are holding the blueprint, so you might miss whole sections of walls or floors that need TLC.  This game really could’ve used some interactive tutorials.  If any game developers are reading this, please, please, please put GOOD instructions in your games, especially if it’s download only.  This is why I really miss the days of physical copies of games and instruction manuals.

Kid Factor:

You can slip and fall on debris and spilled paint, and can destroy property, but that’s as violent as it gets.  Reading skill isn’t needed to play, but younger gamers may get frustrated at the high difficulty and unclear goals.  Tools Up! is rated E for Everyone.

One Response to “Tools Up! (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC)”

  1. Too bad. It reminds me of some of the problems I had with Dragon Quest Builders.

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