Around a year and a half ago I took a look at the indie video game Tools Up!. The basic premise of the game was that you worked for a home renovation company. You and your cooperative partners had to work together to refurbish a home to match the owner’s desires. As a huge fan of these type of co-op games I enjoyed Tools Up!. Released last week, the first DLC for Tools Up! was released called Garden Party. Garden Party consists of three episodes with the first episode being ready to play right now. Tools Up! Garden Party takes the enjoyable gameplay from the original game and adds some fun new gardening twists to spice up the formula.
In Tools Up! Garden Party your crew of workers comes upon a tree house that is falling apart. As your job is to fix things up, you decide to lend your services. The basic gameplay is the same as the original game. You are given a blueprint which tells you what you are supposed to do. The DLC includes some of the same home renovation as the original game, but it mostly focuses on the garden of each location. Instead of changing the walls and floors, you are responsible for fixing the grass, planting trees, and completing other gardening duties.
Probably the biggest new addition to the game is the inclusion of grass. In most of the levels the ground will range from dead/overgrown grass to plain dirt. To grow new grass you first need to get the ground to the point where it is just dirt. This includes using your hands, lawnmowers, clippers, and shovels to get right of the old. You then need to place grass seeds on the dirt and then water them. This can be done with a watering can or the water hose. This will create new patches of nice green grass.
In addition to dealing with the grass, there are a few other mechanics that are new to the DLC. First you will be planting trees throughout the property in designated locations. As there are several different types of trees, you need to consult the blueprints in order to see where you are supposed to plant each tree. Additionally there are various pieces of furniture and lawn ornaments that have to be placed in specific locations. The old furniture needs to be removed and the new furniture/ornaments have to be placed in the correct location by consulting the blueprints. Finally you will use hedge clippers to shape the various hedges in the garden to the desired shapes.
While only the first episode of Garden Party is out at this time, it is already shaping up to feel a lot like what you would expect from a DLC to Tools Up!. The basic gameplay is mostly the same just altered in order to apply the gardening theme. I would say that Tools Up! Garden Party is quite comparable to the original game. Basically if you enjoyed the original Tools Up!, I see no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy Garden Party. If you never really cared for the original game, I don’t really see anything about the DLC that is likely to change your mind.
What I enjoyed most about Tools Up! Garden Party is that it does a good job focusing on what is most enjoyable about the cooperative video game genre. The game doesn’t have many tasks that force you to actively work with the other players, but players need to do a good job splitting up the tasks if they want to get everything done on time. I am a huge fan of this genre as it honestly might be my favorite video game genre right now. While Tools Up! Garden Party is not the best game that I have played in this genre, it is still really fun. The game is still really easy to pick up and play where those who don’t play a lot of video games should still be able to pick it up pretty easily. Fans of this genre should really enjoy the game. For more information on what makes the main gameplay so enjoyable, check out my review of Tools Up!.
As for the new mechanics I thought the developers were pretty clever with finding new ways of using the old gameplay mechanics tweaking them enough to make them feel new. I personally am not really into gardening, and yet I still enjoyed the DLC. Growing new grass and placing the furniture/lawn ornaments is fun. The new hose and lawn mower gadgets are fun to use as they can drastically cut down on the time required to complete a task. That is as long as you can figure out how to use them properly as they otherwise can cause chaos. Placing the various objects in the gardens also introduces a sort of memory element. You need to remember which object is supposed to be placed in each designated location as the game won’t tell you if you have placed an object in the wrong location. These new mechanics don’t drastically change the overall game, but they do enough to keep the gameplay fresh.
Tools Up! Garden Party is enjoyable like the original game for mostly the same reasons. Most of the issues I had with the main game are the same here as well though.
Probably the biggest issue that I had with the game was the fact that the controls don’t always work the best. The controls usually work well, but there are times where the game doesn’t respond how you would like it to. You sometimes need to be in a very specific position in order to interact with objects/spaces. There were times where I kept pushing a button to interact with an object/space and the game wouldn’t respond. This sometimes lead to leaving garbage/mess on the ground, but usually it was just kind of annoying. These issues are very similar to what I dealt with in the original game. They don’t ruin the game, but they do occasionally interfere with your enjoyment of it. I really wish the game would have fixed some of these issues from the original game.
The other main issue I had with Tools Up! Garden Party is that it was quite easy. The first episode features fifteen levels. I believe we were able to three star all but one to three of the levels on our first attempt. Those levels we were able to three star on our second attempt. Like the original game it seems like the game gives players too much time to accomplish the tasks. We ended up only playing with two players and we do play a lot of these type of games. This could have played a part in how easy we found the DLC to be. Still we usually had quite a bit of time remaining in most of the levels even when we made mistakes. On the positive side this makes the game more accessible where you don’t have to be perfect in order to three star a level. If you are looking for a real challenge though you may be a little disappointed.
There is one caveat to the easy difficulty though. That caveat is the raccoon. In a number of levels there will be a raccoon that messes with you. Basically it picks up objects and throws them into the river that runs through the level. Otherwise it is just a nuisance hindering your ability to finish a level. The raccoon does make the levels considerably more difficult. This can sometimes be funny as it is constantly messes with you. This helps with the game’s overall silliness. It can also be frustrating though as it regularly messes with you making it hard to get anything done. It also really likes to stop and block entrances basically preventing you from moving around the level. I didn’t hate the raccoon, but it can definitely become frustrating at times.
As for the game’s length I can only comment on the first episode as that is the only one currently available. You can either purchase the first episode individually for $6 or you can purchase the season pass which contains episodes 1-3 for $15. The first episode has fifteen levels. Most of the earlier levels only take a couple minutes to complete, but some of the later levels can take ten plus minutes as you have quite a bit of stuff to do. The length will somewhat depend on your group, but I would guess most people could finish the first episode in around 3.5-5 hours. For just one episode of a three part DLC I was actually a little surprised by how long the first episode was.
Tools Up! Garden Party is pretty much what I expected from a DLC for Tools Up!. The DLC doesn’t drastically change the original game. Instead it focuses on using the mechanics from the main game in fun new ways. Normally the gardening theme wouldn’t really appeal to me, but I think it works pretty well for the DLC. Most of the new mechanics revolve around fixing the lawn, but players are also responsible for correctly placing objects around the garden. The game maintains what was enjoyable about the original game by keeping the fun cooperative gameplay that is simple enough that anyone can enjoy. The new mechanics keep things fresh as well. The biggest issues I had with Tools Up! Garden Party are shared with the original game. The controls can be a little finicky at times where they don’t always do what you want them to do. The game is also kind of easy.
Basically my recommendation for Tools Up! Garden Party is pretty simple. If you never cared for the original game or hate cooperative games in general, you are unlikely to enjoy Tools Up! Garden Party. Those who have not played the original Tools Up! should check it out first to see whether they will like the DLC. Those that liked the original game though should check out Tools Up! Garden Party as it is more of the same enjoyable gameplay.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank The Knights of Unity and All in! Games for the review copy of Tools Up! Garden Party used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.