I have a long and varied list of hobbies (now isn’t the time) but gardening is not one of them. I just don’t have the interest, or patience, required to make my outdoor spaces pretty and inviting. That is something I leave to the other half. Infact, I often just end up making more of a mess, an element which Tools Up! Garden Party captures perfectly.
To clarify, Tools Up! Garden Party is the season pass for the base game, which we reviewed way back at the end of 2019. It was released in three parts, and they are now finally all available to play. It’s fair to say that we had some issues with the original game, so how does this substantial DLC pack stack up?
This time around the vast majority of the action is set in the garden (as the name suggests) with a minimal amount of indoor DIY to be done. Each episode contains an extra 15 levels, bringing the total to a very generous 45. You follow the seasons through from Spring to Autumn with each looking distinctly different. Tools Up! Garden Party still looks charming in the sort of metaphorical hug sense, like a nice cup of tea on a cold winter’s day.
Tools Up! Garden Party works in pretty much the same way as the original. To recap, each level has one or more blueprints which when viewed, give you the details of what the finished renovation work needs to look like. You’ll then have to set about completing these tasks with the tools provided before your time runs out. You’ll earn points depending on how much you get done, and if the area is tidy after you are finished. These convert to leaves (of which there are three available from each level) which will unlock new characters and skins, but at least one leaf is required to progress to the next level.
Your task list in Tools Up! Garden Party is mostly based outdoors, so you’ll be mowing the grass, raking leaves, growing plants, laying the patio and installing garden furniture amongst other things. For the most part, the gameplay mechanics are identical to the original, it’s just been replaced with gardening skins to match the theme.
As a result things get repetitive very quickly. In pretty much every scenario you’re doing the same things, with a new task thrown in every few levels. However, it’s still essentially press A here, then X there. Unfortunately there aren’t enough new ideas introduced to carry the many new levels on offer.
Given that the game is categorised as “family and kids”, from the second episode onwards the levels get noticeably more difficult and complex. You’ll frequently be dealing with several areas to renovate, along with different blueprints for each one. Getting everything done before your time runs out becomes a real challenge, but this is where local co-op comes in handy. That’s right, as before you can enlist up to three other keen gardeners to help you sort out the mess in each level.
However, the control setup remains the biggest frustration in Tools Up! Garden Party. It simply can’t keep up with what is being asked of it. This is especially apparent as you’re always against the clock. When you are doing something basic such as feeding the plants, you’ll sprinkle some water on after pressing X but then it takes a few seconds before you can do it again. At other times your character will half complete a task unless you hold X in just the right way. Given you’ll need to carry out several repetitive tasks in each level, this becomes really frustrating and unnecessarily time consuming.
The biggest problem arises when the level gets busy and there are lots of items on the ground. Selecting what you want to pick up becomes a headache, as you can’t choose easily but instead need to get close to and look at what you need. Even then, it’s not guaranteed that what you want will be highlighted (for example when your waste bucket is sitting on a pile of dirt, selecting it is a pain). When there are mounds of muck, tools and materials lying around it quickly turns from frustrating to anger inducing.
What doesn’t help is that it’s incredibly easy to make a mess. For example, if you drop your waste bucket or watering can rather than placing it down carefully, some will spill on the floor. If you are carrying said items and slip on some rubbish, you will hurl them away and some waste will spill on the floor. If you want to place them down but your character refuses because there is crap everywhere (something which happens a lot), so you chuck them instead, some waste will spill on the floor. Then you can throw the pests into the mix, such as Raccoons or Moles, who will throw items into nearby streams or dig up your lovely lawn and generally cause mayhem. Before long, the level can descend into a tortuous merry go round which you will want to get off.
Given all of the issues with Tools Up! Garden Party, it’s still oddly addictive. There’s something to be said for turning your client’s garden from a dump to a relaxing, tidy space. There is still fun to be had if you have the patience, but I don’t doubt that for some that will run out fairly quickly.
Tools Up! Garden Party doesn’t really do much to advance the repetitive gameplay of the original, or remedy any of its issues. However, it’s a generous package for the price, despite being the same game with a different skin on.
Head to the Xbox Store to get green-fingered with the Garden Party