DIY is boring. Yes, I know I need to build that cupboard/paint those walls/install that extractor fan, it’s just that I can’t be even remotely bothered. If only DIY was more like Tools Up!, where a wall can be painted in a few seconds by simply holding down a button, wouldn’t that be awesome? If only.
Since I’m procrastinating and avoiding doing any actual DIY, what better way to accomplish that than by playing a DIY themed party game?
The easiest way to describe Tools Up! is as Overcooked! but with DIY. That does the game a disservice though, as it has enough ideas of its own to stand apart from Ghost Town Games exemplary Cook ’em up. You and up to three pals in local co-op are tasked with giving an apartment the Nick Knowles treatment; laying new carpets, whacking up wallpaper and even knocking down a wall or two. At the start of each level you’re provided with a blueprint of the intended redesign, and it’s up to you and your team to carry out the renovations before the time runs out.
If you’re imagining some sort of tedious DIY simulator, then you won’t find that here, instead Tools Up! is infused with a healthy dose of bonkers. The themed levels include sheets of ice to slip on, ravines to fall down and even a few mischievous ghosts to dodge. Not only that, but you won’t actually start with all the equipment you need, instead relying on delivery men to bring you tools and materials as you go. Miss them frantically ringing the door bell and you’ll have to wait for them to return with those vital tiles you need to complete the refit – all whilst the timer continues to deplete.
Adding to the chaos is the fact that many of the rooms you work in are quite cramped and your avatars are very, very clumsy. It’s really this that helps Tools Up! separate itself from the clear and crisp gameplay found in the Overcooked! series. A level in Tools Up! can soon become an absolute mess, though I mean that in the best possible way. If you’re not careful, your charming and – as you unlock them – increasingly animalistic work men and women trip over paint pots, smash doors out of hingers and get stuck in concrete all the time.
You will soon discover that working cleanly, tidily and sequentially is the only way to achieve success. Though that might sound a bit too much like actual DIY, reigning in the destructive tendencies of your avatars is actually a big part of the fun to be had.
What isn’t so much fun is the lack of context sensitivity to the controls. Selecting objects and interacting with them can often be far too fiddly and unclear. For example, it would make sense when holding and laying carpet to only be able to highlight and select the floor – even in Tools Up! they know that it doesn’t go on the walls or ceilings – but that’s not the case. You’ll have to wiggle your avatar around until they are in just the right position to select the floor and not the numerous objects surrounding them. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is something to get used to and lacks some of the the outstanding intuitiveness of Overcooked!
There’s also an issue in that Tools Up! isn’t particularly challenging. My partner and I stormed through all the levels in an evening or two, only a few of them prompting a retry. If you’re expecting the same level of challenge of Overcooked! you won’t find that here, but this does mean that it caters to a wider audience with a variety of skill levels. Playing with less experienced gamers won’t spell disaster for your team, and one player can take the lead while others assist in any way they can. Or they can be really unhelpful and pick up and throw fellow builders whist they try to work. That’s fun too!
If only there was a little more content on offer. There’s a story mode that sees you and your team moving up an apartment block renovating us you go. Once that’s done there’s also a party mode, which offers the same levels but this time with increasingly limited time to complete the renovation in. It’s just a little too slight and feels insubstantial. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be found with Tools Up! while it lasts.