Tools Up Review: Extreme Makeover Overcooked Edition

Tools Up wears its Overcooked inspirations on its suspenders. Though it lacks the polish of that game, it is still a co-op party game worth any genre fan's time.

You may be able to point to a genre progenitor pre-dating Overcooked, but it's clear the kitchen chaos series is responsible for popularizing a certain type of co-op game.

Overcooked challenges its players to cooperate flawlessly, and then snickers as they hilariously fail and players are usually right there laughing too.

Tools Up is the latest apple to fall from the Overcooked family tree. Though it's missing some of the ancillary pieces that make its inspirator an instant classic, the game undoubtedly offers enough of the same happy hysterics to warrant a look from anyone who enjoys the genre.

Tools Up Review: Extreme Makeover Overcooked Edition

Tools Up quickly throws players from the character selection screen into the game, introducing its many-layered objectives and mechanics to come. Rather than move furniture, pilot a spaceship, or work in a kitchen, in Tools Up, you'll be renovating an apartment from the bottom floor to the outlandish top. 

There are several impossibly designed apartments on each floor, each giving players a top-down view of a home desperate for a makeover. Tools Up eases players in perfectly, with virtually every level introducing a new element to consider, making each area feel vital and foundational for the subsequent room.

While the earliest level asks you to repaint some walls, the next level adds carpet installation. Another level adds stripping the walls of old paint until eventually, you're putting doors on hinges, mixing concrete, slabbing bricks in place, and more.

This escalating contract exhibits precisely why you'll want to play in co-op as the game is intended, though with some smart planning, Tools Up does feel a bit more accessible than games like it for solo players.

Scorekeeping in Tools Up also feels more forgiving than it does in its counterparts. As long as you're not trying to three-star everything, you shouldn't hit as many progress-stoppers. Still, failing is half the fun anyway, so it ultimately feels like Tools Up strikes a good balance between offering difficult sections to complete without halting players for so long that frustration starts to seep in like water in an unfinished basement.

Tools Up's best attribute is its ability to capture most of what makes this genre so unforgettable. Tossing a paint can over the wall to your partner only for them to miss the catch, have it spill on the floor, and then trip another partner who is dashing across the room with carpet in tow is the kind of antics Tools Up sets out to deliver. And it consistently delivers highlights like that.

In every level — and without exception  the pandemonium can result in fleeting frustration that's always less than a moment away from shaping into riotous laughter. This is the oft-seen and addicting promise of the genre. Tools Up fulfills that promise almost as well as any other genre title.

Where the game falters is in some of its supplementary parts. The music is light but not as memorable as Overcooked's soundtrack, and animations and the UI aren't as clean and reliable as they need to be, with item detection sometimes slowing you down past the point where it would still be funny. 

The playable characters range from cartoonish humans to cute nonhuman animals, making it an all too familiar experience in the character menu. While the basic gameplay structure is forgivably like other games — because it successfully reapplies some core tenets to a new setting  character selection is an area where Tools Up really could have stood out from an increasingly crowded genre. 

With little to no story tying these games to a certain universe, I don't quite get why every game in this genre offers the same kind of characters when you could instead go in so many different directions. Still, Tools Up volunteers as the latest offender.

The game's secondary mode, Party Mode, doesn't offer much. It changes the scoring format and allows you to jump around the levels more than the rigid campaign, but because each level is the bedrock for the next, you'll not want to jump around anyway. 

Tools Up Review — The Bottom Line

Pros: 

  • Captures the happy mayhem of the games that inspired it
  • Difficulty ramp feels perfectly sloped
  • A bit more forgiving than genre counterparts regarding scoring

Cons:

  • Some polish is missing in areas like animations and item interaction
  • Feels like a very safe reapplication of the genre's tenets

With a similar cadence of chaos and a better-tuned scoring system, Tools Up is, without question, a game co-op party gamers will enjoy. It's just not the one you'd want to start with in what is fast becoming a crowded genre.

Tools Up successfully reimagines the games that inspired it in the most front-facing, important ways, even as it doesn't manage to bring quite all of the tools for the job.

[Note: A copy of Tools Up was provided by All in! Games for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
7
Tools Up wears its Overcooked inspirations on its suspenders. Though it lacks the polish of that game, it is still a co-op party game worth any genre fan's time.
Reviewed On: Xbox One

Contributor

Mark is the former Editorial Manager at TrueAchievements, now freelancing his way across the internet to write about the games he loves. He especially enjoys the latest and greatest horror, co-op, and battle royale games when he's not biking throughout Portland or enjoying a day with his family.

Published Dec. 11th 2019

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