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Review: Part Time UFO


Mo' mentum, mo' problems

It’s easy to see mobile gaming as nothing more than a cash grab that preys on players' desire for success with as little effort as possible. That’s why there are massive ad campaigns for so many mobile games that don’t even require you to play them to win. Just push the auto-play button and you’re set and also please spend money on some loot boxes while you’re at it. It can be discouraging to those of us who buy games to actually play them.

What’s most disappointing about this is the mobile platform provides ample opportunities for experimentation. It’s not expensive to make a mobile game, and rather than try to rope players into a long, drawn-out campaign with little innovation or talent required, I’d like to see more inexpensive titles built around a single mechanic that lasts just long enough not to wear out its welcome. You know, games like Part Time UFO.

Part Time UFO (iOS, Android [reviewed on a Moto Z2 Force]) 
Developer: HAL Egg 
Publisher: HAL Laboratory 
Released: February 25, 2018
MSRP: $3.99

Part Time UFO has a simple premise: I play as a small flying saucer taking part-time jobs, using my extendable crane to pick up items and stack them. Each level features one of several themes, from laboratory and restaurant to school and the circus, and there are three challenges I have to meet in each level to earn my three gold medals. I’m only given visual cues for each challenge and it’s not always clear what it is I’m supposed to do. Seeing a clock is obvious enough, but when it looks like a random silhouette, I find myself repeating a stage just to figure out what I’m meant to do. Making sure I complete each of the challenges takes a backseat, however, through the first hour or so as I adjust to its control scheme.

The game has two control options available: two-hand or one-hand. The one-hand option has me holding my finger on the screen to move the UFO and tapping once to get it to drop its crane. The two-hand option mimics a standard controller with a directional pad and a single button to control the crane. I go back and forth with between the two trying to find the method that suits my play style and it isn't until I play the two-hand option with a specific costume that I am able to actually be effective with my movements.

There are many costumes to unlock using the money I earn from completing levels. Some are just for looks but others provide me an advantage. There are costumes that make the crane drop faster, move my UFO faster, or give me greater control of my ability to stop. Stopping is the most crucial aspect of the game because the greatest challenge in Part Time UFO lies in its momentum. 

Picking up a heavy object will cause my UFO to move rather slowly, and when I do stop, the force of that movement will swing the object forward taking my flying saucer with it. This is why I go between the two control options so often. Figuring out how to move my character and its payload without ruining my in-progress stack proves to be difficult early on. A big issue in that is the game doesn’t really recognize subtle movements very well. I try and inch my character forward and the game doesn't respond. I move my finger slightly more and now the UFO is moving too fast. Frustrating as hell, but also a problem completely solved with proper costuming.

The UFO in these costumes is absolutely adorable. There isn’t a bad one in the bunch. In fact, there isn’t any bad artwork to be found in the game. With its 8-bit aesthetic, Part Time UFO is a glistening example of NES graphics with modern technology. There is a great deal of liveliness to be found in the movements of background characters. Whether it’s a dog shaking its butt or the museum curator freaking out when I break a part of a sculpture, the animation is an absolute highlight and something I need to cheer me up after I inadvertently knock over my pyramid of cows.

The game absolutely shines with the small touches. When I’m changing costumes it’s presented as a fashion show. The chef in the restaurant challenges cooks with all the flair of a cartoon character. Even something as minute as the commuter trains traveling in the distance beyond the UFO’s apartment makes the world feel alive with an attention to detail I often only find in Japanese games. And that theme song? Absolutely crushing on it. In fact, the entire soundtrack is a wonderland of midi marvels that delight with elementary melodies.

Part Time UFO is a HAL Laboratory classic through and through. It’s cute, charming, and challenging. It may not set the mobile world on fire, but honestly, it’s the exact type of game I’d love to see more of from the old-school titans of the industry.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Part Time UFO reviewed by CJ Andriessen



Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide


CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenFeatures Editor   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games. Also, I backed that Bloodstained game. more + disclosures


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