Getting together for the holidays is a great reason to fire up some local multiplayer games, and Tools Up! by developer The Knights of Unity plays into that perfectly. We tested the game on a PS4, but it’s also available for PC, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch.
Despite its “home renovation/do it yourself” theme, it doesn’t take long to realize that Tools Up draws a lot of inspiration from games like Overcooked. Playing solo or with up to three other players, it’s your job to renovate the heck out of a series of apartments spread out over the course of 30 levels. And when you’re as handy as I am, then this is going to sound more daunting than it really is. You’re not just taking stuff out and moving furniture about (though the latter is tons of fun when you’re coordinating with other people), you also need to lay down floors and paint. Luckily, none of that takes the hours and hours it would take in real life – or is it days and days?
But where Overcooked has a more or less equal division of labor between players, Tools Up features a blueprint that lays out what needs to be done. Only one of the players can hold on to the blueprint, so communication is important here as that person becomes a guide to the other players – and he or she can also control the camera angle. This is a bit of a double-edged sword because even though it encourages teamwork it also makes for an asymmetrical experience that doesn’t suit all players.
Where Tools Up works best is when playing it in a family setting, where the more experienced gamer holds the blueprint and helps everyone else complete their tasks and have fun. This way, I was able to enjoy the game together with my son – for whom Overcooked is still too overwhelming. Tools Up features simple controls despite the hard work that has to be done, and this makes for a more accessible game than Overcooked is.
Besides being more accessible, the game is also more forgiving – you still work on a timer but the pace is far less hectic this time around and it’s much easier to keep your bearings. In a way, this puts Tools Up somewhere in between Overcooked and those (mostly awful) time management games that were big on mobile devices for a while. Only this time, the cooperation is less frantic, and the list of tasks you have to complete is far more meaningful and goal-driven.
Like other games in this genre (that also get a Switch release), Tools Up features a cute aesthetic – in this case one that fits great with how well-tailored it is to playing with younger gamers as well. It doesn’t have that competitive “let’s try this one more time!” magic that Overcooked has, but it’s a lovely family-friendly take on the formula.