I can be pretty competitive when playing multiplayer games, so many people find it surprising that I enjoy couch co-op games as much as I do. There’s just something about sitting down with a group of friends and working toward a common goal, no matter how hectic or ridiculous the game may be. When I saw the cute, chubby faces of the renovators in The Knights of Unity’s Tools Up!, I immediately knew that this would quickly become a beloved staple in my co-op game library.
- What is it? A bright and friendly couch co-op about home renovation
- Developer: The Knights of Unity
- Publisher: All In! Games
- Platforms: PC,PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Release Date: December 3, 2019
- Price: $19.99
Tools Up! seems to take a lot of inspiration from Overcooked! in both its design and gameplay, though on a smaller and simpler scale. Players take on a series of home renovations across a variety of bizarre floor plans, and must complete each of the requested tasks within a certain time limit.
The game can be played in either Campaign or Party mode, changing the requirements needed to receive stars on each level. Campaign mode focuses on completing as many of the assigned tasks as possible before time runs out (rewarding you for each completed renovation), whereas Party mode awards points based on how long it takes to complete all of the assigned tasks (rewarding you for finishing the renovation in a shorter time).
The Name of the Game
As a couch co-op, Tools Up! relies on player teamwork. It’s certainly possible to play alone, but it isn’t nearly as fun — a lot of the appeal of the game comes from the hectic back-and-forth involved in communicating with (and tripping over) your teammates.
There’s plenty of fun to be had in a full four-player game, though the task-oriented nature of the game leads me to recommend playing with a group that works well when delegating responsibilities. I’m the type of player who likes to get the full three stars on each level, which gets a bit difficult as the rooms become progressively crowded and we’re all “accidentally” lifting each other up and tossing ourselves across the house.
High Ground View
Tools Up! has a very charming design that fits in well with its fun and friendly gameplay. Players can choose from an array of cute, round renovator characters (including a few animal options) to run around and bonk into each other with. I was especially fond of the level design, which evolves slowly by introducing new gimmicks that make gameplay a bit more dynamic. Considering the fact that the game’s relatively simple mechanics can make renovations feel repetitive after a while, the occasional added layer of complexity ensures that the game feels fresh at every turn.
The aforementioned simple mechanics make Tools Up! easy to pick up and even easier to master. The basic how-to’s of the game are explained in the loading screens, though the controls are relatively easy to memorize — a single button is used for both interacting with and using objects. This is helpful at times, especially in later levels, when the renovations and floor plans get increasingly complicated.
This simplicity isn’t entirely necessary, though, and can be detrimental at times. Using one button to pick up, set down, collect, and apply objects gets repetitive, and a single mistake when selecting an object or holding the button for the proper interval can cost precious time and throw off the entire team’s momentum. The game also doesn’t differentiate between the players’ active selections — every selected item is outlined in white, regardless of which player(s) are currently selecting it. This can slow things down as well, as it isn’t always clear whether or not you’re successfully interacting with the proper item.
It’s also worth noting that the game doesn’t do much to teach you new concepts. The controls are consistent, but new tasks are introduced with little to no explanation, and players are left to fend for themselves in figuring out how the game is meant to work. It’s not incredibly difficult to piece together, but it would have been nice to have a better understanding of some of the more complicated mechanics (like the fact that laying cement on a tile creates a temporary barrier until it dries) before being thrust into a sink-or-swim situation.
Game title: Tools Up!
Game description: Work together with up to three friends in this charming couch co-op to complete a series of ridiculous home renovations within the time limit.
Gameplay - 7/10
Level Design - 8/10
Art Elements - 9/10
Tools Up! is a friendly couch co-op game with effective teamwork at its core. The overly simplistic controls can be a headache at times. Nevertheless, developer The Knights of Unity still brings a fun, clever task management game to the table.
- Fun co-op experience
- Easy-to-learn controls
- Dynamic level design that rewards teamwork
- Single-player isn’t as exciting
- Overly simplistic controls can be frustrating
- Doesn’t effectively introduce new concepts