Nintendo has got into a habit recently of announcing and then immediately releasing games during their Directs, which is both brilliant and a little frustrating when you have to cover them. The latest game to be dropped was at the end of the last Partner Showcase for 2020 a few weeks ago, HAL Laboratory’s Part Time UFO.
Sometimes these surprise announcements come out of nowhere, I don’t think anyone expected to be playing Control on the Switch this year, but anyone familiar with Part Time UFO, released on Android and IOS devices back in 2018, suspected that it wouldn’t be too long before the game came to Switch. HAL Laboratory might be an independent studio, but having worked on various Smash and Kirby games down the years and currently being based out of Nintendo’s Tokyo Building (with Game Freak on the same floor), it makes sense that Nintendo would work with them to bring their puzzle game to the Switch.
Part Time UFO is a physics-based puzzle game, where the player controls a cute little UFO named Jobski, whose main skill revolves around utilising his giant claw and moving objects to complete objectives. The player is presented with a list of jobs for your little UFO to take on, which they can earn money to spend on new outfits and costumes, all which add a little gameplay mimic like the monkey costume making you swing less, and in turn unlock new jobs to take on.
The jobs start out fairly easy, the first one sees you collecting all the parcels and loading them onto a van, introducing the simple gameplay mechanic of hitting a single button to grab and drop items. From there you’ll be piling cheerleaders on top of each other to make a pyramid or balancing monkeys at a circus, or even constructing an increasingly tall structure in Tower of Infinity mode (more on that later). Unlike the claw machines that you’d find in an arcade, Jobski’s claw is very forgiving when it comes to picking up items, but then picking them up isn’t really the challenge.
Jobski becomes a crane once they pick up any object and the physics of the game start to kick in, as I found out quite early as my crane suddenly became a wrecking ball to the delicately assembled tower I had constructed. Each job has a main objective, which will involve placing objects that are flashing into a specific location, and unless the stage requires you to balance items on two sides of a seesaw, that main objective is easy enough to complete on your first attempt most of the time. The three secondary objectives are a little more tricky, they might involve catching one of every fish or placing items in a particular order or position or even finding some hidden items in the map, but one of the three will always be to complete the tasks in an allotted time.
Completing all the secondary objectives for a stage will unlock a harder version of that mission, which gives you more to do and requires precision to pull off. The more difficult variant of the jobs is just one of the new additions to the Switch version of the game. Alongside three additional jobs, there is the 'Feats of Glory' screen, which allows you to unlock animation screens from various jobs if you complete enough secondary objectives. The whole game can be played in co-op, from the main job missions to the new Treasure Island mode that sees players explore a larger environment in search of treasure, all while battling against the time limit. Due to lockdown I’ve not really had anyone I could play co-op with but with simple controls and a simple concept, it’s obvious that this game would suit co-op, especially for those of you that are fans of Snipperclips.
And while the game does give off very strong Kirby energy, from the adorable music that plays in the background while you’re tackling jobs to the animations and the little flying saucer you control, it really does remind me of Snipperclips. Co-op gives players the potential to work together and complete tasks, or for the slightly more chaotically aligned among us, to sabotage and make things harder for the other player. Playing with a friend would be the best way to play this game, but with 2020 being what it is, that might not be possible for a while. Thankfully I found a mode of the game that I keep coming back to throughout my couple of weeks with the game.
The mode that I spent the majority of my time on after I’d cleared the main missions, was the Tower of Infinity mode, which sees the player pile up item after item until the whole thing collapses like Jenga. It took me a fair few attempts to earn the first star, which was for a measly 20m high tower, and it honestly felt like I had constructed a skyscraper at that point. The whole thing came tumbling down shortly after, honestly, after seeing the middle section it’s a wonder that I managed to get past 10m, and I started the process again. Alongside the ability to play co-op, Tower of Infinity is the best addition to the game, and it’s sure to take up much of my gaming time over the next few weeks.
I've had a fun time while I've been playing through Part time UFO, particularly the Tower of Infinity mode, which will likely continue to take up more of my time since I can take my Switch anywhere. At £8.09 / $8.99, it comes in at a little bit more than the mobile game, but with all the additions mentioned above, I think that's actually great value. This very much feels like a game with the polish that you'd expect from a Nintendo published game and I suspect it won't be long before we see these two companies team up on another Switch game soon.