Arts video game review

Construction for dummies

‘Tools Up!’ provides hours of couch co-op fun

9283 toolsup art   erika yang
'Tools Up!' is a fun and wacky adventure with friends.
Courtesy of The Knights of Unity

Tools Up!
Developed by The Knights of Unity
Published by All in! Games
Available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Windows

Tools Up! is a game that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: provide a fun, wild, and wacky couch co-op experience. The premise is simple: you and your friends take on the role of a renovation crew. Together, you tackle increasingly complex home improvement jobs in which you have to paint walls, place tiles, carpet floors, and so on. The format will probably be very familiar to fans of the Overcooked series, although Tools Up! stands out in its own right, with different mechanics, challenges, and opportunities for disaster. 

Meant for up to four players, the game features level after level of construction-based madness. Within each level, players must first find and read a blueprint that outlines the level’s objectives. Each level has a time limit, so the longer you take to find the blueprint and understand the plans, the less time you have to renovate! The more you’re able to complete in the time limit, the more stars you earn. A certain number of stars is required to progress to further areas, but fully completing every level is mostly for earning alternate character skins and bragging rights. Fortunately, levels do not change between attempts, so players can commit the blueprint to memory and try again for more stars.

While it might seem like time is your biggest enemy, you will quickly realize that cooperation is just as much of a challenge, albeit in the best way possible. My friends and I refrained from assigning concrete roles, so every level led to unique new forms of chaos and fun. We would run into paint buckets or try to throw supplies to each other, resulting in countless spills and misplaced items. There was no shortage of shouting as we discussed what needed to get done, who would pick up the carpet delivery, or why the heck there was a couch in the doorway.

There is no overall story to the game, but this decision makes sense, as one isn’t required. Going from level to level and seeing what fiendish new tasks the game has in store for players is enough motivation to progress. However, the game could use slightly better tutorialization throughout. Often, the first time my friends and I encountered a new task, we would have no idea what to do until we exhaustively tried everything.

Another minor disruption is the occasionally questionable selection mechanic. In the heat of construction, you might often find yourself in a scenario where your paint is lying between your carpet and another player. Trying to select just the paint can be a whole trial on its own. We would frequently pick up each other instead of the paint, which led to laughs but also a failed level.

The downsides mentioned are fairly rare occurrences in the grand scheme of things and don’t detract too much from the core gameplay. My friends and I had an absolute blast, feeling like construction pros after just a few levels. Tools Up! is super easy to pick up and play, and it is recommended for anyone seeking a fun party game.