Review: Part-Time UFO
Posted 09 Nov 2020 at 21:32 by Adam Hirst
As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the arcades, whilst on holiday at Blackpool. Things like Pole Position, Hang-On, Final Fight and Sunset Riders, were my games of choice, and I spent many 10p/20p pieces on these games. One of my sisters used to come to the arcades with me, but she wouldn't really play on the standard games, and instead opted to play on the crane games. She was amazing at them, and there were a few times when we would come back off holiday, with bin bags full of cuddly toys that she had won. I would try my luck on the machines, but I was completely hopeless, and would never win anything.
Fast forward a fair few years later to the 3DS era, and Nintendo Badge Arcade was released. Once again, I came face to face with the dreaded crane game, and once again I sucked at it. I would actively avoid the crane game where I could, and instead try my luck with the games which allowed you to use a hammer, or a bomb. I had much better results from using these mechanics, over using the crane.
It's a Kirby Christmas tree!
Reading this, you may be wondering that if I hate crane games so much, then why would I buy a game in which the sole mechanic involves using a crane? A valid question. Firstly, the game is made by HAL, a developer who has a great pedigree and reputation. I can't think of an instance where they have let me down. Secondly, I was really sold by the trailer, when the game first showed up on the Nintendo Direct. It looked like a quirky and wacky game, the likes of which the Switch honestly needs more of. Both of these points made it so the game warranted a purchase.
The premise of the game is a simple one. You are Jobski the UFO who has come to Earth, and you need to learn the value of work. This being the case, you are tasked with helping out people with their various day to day jobs, and this is achieved by using the little crane which is attached to the underside of the UFO. Carrying things like fish, crates and pieces of art, is what you will need to do in order to please the masses. All you need to do is hover over the item you want to grab, press the button on your controller, and lower the crane to grab the item. It's then up to you to carefully move around the level, and place the item where it needs to be. Sounds easy, Yes?
What I found great about the game, is how snappy it is. The levels themselves only last a couple of minutes or so, and they will get even shorter once you get a grasp of the objectives that need to be completed. This is where the game's mobile heritage is seen. I don't say this as a negative, but rather to point out that this is how a lot of mobile games are built, with short game sessions in mind. Being able to attempt a level or two in-between doing other things is great. It's a perfect fit for the Switch, and especially for Switch owners who may have a busy lifestyle, and need to get their gaming fix in short bursts.
With the levels being so short, you may be thinking that the game won't be very long. Yes, this will be the case if you just play each stage once and then call it a day once the credits roll. Playing the game this way will mean you'll have beaten it in a couple of hours. However, I would strongly advise not to play the game like this, and instead dig a little deeper. The game encourages multiple play throughs, and this is where the meat of the game is.
Within each of the levels are 3 medals to earn, but the game doesn't outright tell you how to earn them, and instead gives you vague hints. Before you start the level, you will see 3 small pictures. These pictures each represent how to unlock the medal. Some of these can be quite tricky to work out, and others are very straightforward. For example, when you see a picture of a clock, that indicates you must beat the level before the time runs out, but others, such as seeing a picture of a sumo wrestlers face, means you will have some thinking to do in order to earn the medal.
Unlocking the 3 medals in a level will open up a more challenging version of it for players to try and beat. The changes made to the levels can be a little tough at times, and may require a different approach to that which you originally used when playing through the level for the first time. A level that originally had you grabbing 10 pieces of fruit, may now require you to grab 20, but also stack them in a particular way. There's nothing really too taxing here, but it's a nice change of pace to levels that you may be overly familiar with.
I'm not too sure about that Photographer on the right...
Upon completing a stage, you will be rewarded with coins. Perform well in a level, and you'll be rewarded with more coins. Trying to earn each of the medals is the best way to earn a lot of cash in a short period of time. Each of the medals you earn will give you a bonus, and the harder medals/challenges will give you more coins. In such a simple game, why do you need coins? Well, the answer to that is, to buy costumes!
Visit the shop at the main menu of the game, and you are greeted by the shopkeeper who will want to sell you his wares, in exchange for the coins you have earned. There are plenty to choose from, and early on in the game you will have to be picky about what you want due to the lack of funds. The amount of costumes, along with the simplistic style of the menus, took me back to my childhood, and reminded me of Mr. Benn. How many of you remember that old show? I'm showing my age now. Anyway, the costumes not only change the appearance of the UFO, but also give it certain abilities to use. Want to move quicker around a level? Then the Ninja outfit would be for you. Is the crane moving around too wildly when you pick up an object? Then channel your inner Village People, and buy the Construction Worker outfit. These abilities can come in very handy when trying to get certain medals, or when taking on the hard version of the levels.
Head to the shop and buy a new costume.
So, we have costumes, medals and coins, all to be earned/unlocked, but there is something else to play for. Like other HAL made games, this game also features an in game achievement list. There are a healthy amount of these to unlock, and they will have you performing a variety of crazy tasks in order to unlock them all. There are 4 in each set, and if you unlock all 4 of them, then the achievements will turn into a very short video clip. These aren't really anything special, but they are a nice bonus for those who take the time and effort to earn them all. Just like the medals, these achievements can be vague at times, and you will need to think outside of the box in order to unlock a couple of them.
Visually, the game reminds me very much of games such as; WarioWare and Rhythm Heaven. There is that simplistic and yet distinctly crazy style that is on show here, and you can't help but smile when you see some of the characters on show, and the little animations that occur when certain events happen. It may look very basic at times, but this just adds to the overall charm of the game. The games I mentioned also have a very basic art style to them, and it didn't do them any harm.
Look at this and tell me it doesn't remind you of WarioWare.
The game does feature a co-op mode, but sadly, outside of using it to grab a couple of achievements, I didn't have the opportunity to properly try it out. I imagine it will be a bit like the Overcooked! games in that an extra pair of hands could be helpful in certain situations, but could also cause a bit of chaos when things start going pear-shaped. I do wonder whether or not the game will be any harder if another player joins you. Having two people doing the lifting will certainly make things quicker, and maybe the game compensates for this by decreasing the time?
Outside of the main campaign, there are a couple of extra game modes for players to have some fun with.
First up, is the Tower of Infinity mode. It's here where players are tasked with building a structure as high as they can, without it all falling apart. This mode is very challenging, and can be quite unfair at times. The parts that you use to build with are randomly selected, and if you get dealt an awkward set of items, then your run will come to a stop very quickly. Also, you have to use one item before the next arrives, so it's not as if you can wait around for something better to show up. Finally, if a single item falls to the floor, then it is game over. There are a couple of achievements which are tied to this mode, and these are the two things I'm still missing from the game. It will take time, patience and, most importantly, luck in order to unlock them.
Can you unlock them all?
The other mode to play around in is called Treasure Island. This mode has you working your way through a few stages, where you will need to find and collect treasure chests, and also unlock special doors by grabbing keys, and placing them on a pedestal. You are against the clock in this mode, and there are a lot of enemies which need avoiding. Get hit by any of them, and your time will be deducted. If you happen to lose all of your time, then you will be kicked off the island, and have to start again from scratch. In order to get back to the island, you will need to visit the shop and purchase a plane ticket. This item is easily affordable, and you will be able to attempt the island again quite easily. Saying that, it should only take a few attempts to complete. It's not very long, and once you get a feel for how things work, then you will be back home, with every bit of the treasure in hand, in no time.
In the past, I have been very critical of the Nintendo Switch eShop, and the lack of quirky games which are for sale on there. They are either few and far between, or they get buried by the sheer amount of garbage that ends up on the service. These types of games seem to have slowly disappeared ever since the Wii/DS era of gaming, and it's great to see such a game hit a Nintendo console again. Like titles such as Heroki, it shows that mobile gaming, when done right, can be perfect for consoles and especially the Switch. The console being a hybrid means that these types of mobile games are a match made in heaven for Nintendo's console, and perfect for those who happen to be on the go a lot.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A quirky, charming game which has an abundance of replay value for those who are willing to put the time in. If you are the type of gamer who likes high score chasing, trophy/achievement unlocking, or simply likes games with replay value, then you will get a lot out of this game. Don't let this be another game that gets lost in the eShop. At around £8, Part-Time UFO is well worth grabbing.
Lots of replay value
Quirky sense of humour
Has a great pick up and play feel to it
Constantly brings a smile to your face whilst playing
Short game if you call it a day once you see the credits