Part Time UFO (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Michael McCann 15.05.2021

Review for Part Time UFO on Nintendo Switch

Consider the humble crane game - a popular staple in funfairs and arcades across the world. They have existed in some form or other since the early 20th century, although it wasn't until the '80s that these fabulous contraptions started to resemble what most people commonly know them to be today. Incidentally, they can be referred to as UFO catchers in Japan. Is this a coincidence, though, considering Cubed3 is about to look at HAL Laboratory's Part Time UFO on Nintendo Switch? Maybe not!

Containing a myriad of prizes inside, often stuffed in nature, the aim is to spend coin in exchange for the thrill of a chance to obtain. Movement typically removes the advantage of using the horizontal and vertical axis operations simultaneously. The rigidity of this limitation creates a challenge factor when applied in real-world practice, making it difficult to judge and commit to distance on each axis independent from the other.

Particularly, this is so when combined with the unreliability of the crane or claw itself. The claw comprises of two or more mechanical prongs - prongs that, as hinted at, have no more than a tenuous grasp over whatever it is that is desired; and even a grasp over that which is not so much desired! It is indeed much like the pursuit of true love - finding just the right weighting and just the right balance is important to achieve crane game supremacy. No small task, as it can lead to much unadulterated and repeated frustration if gotten wrong. 'Just one more go,' though, and maybe it will have itself right.

Screenshot for Part Time UFO on Nintendo Switch

More pertinently - and back to the point of this actual review - within the world of interactive electronic media, the crane game can, on many occasions, feel relegated to the position of a mini-game. The idea features memorably in titles such as the Yakuza series, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, or examples like Badge Arcade do also exist, where the concept of 'crane' sits more centrally to the whole. No doubt there are dozens more examples out there to cite but it is regardless always framed as being frivolous - a distraction, a secret, or a palate cleanser to the main event. What, then, if the crane game, humble as it is, was the main event? Could an entire title, top to bottom, left to right, hinge on this singular theme? That is exactly the question that HAL has asked, and answered - rather resoundingly, too - with Part Time UFO.

Of course, much like another well known 'Crane,' there is a bit more substance and class to Part Time UFO. It should go without saying that HAL is a developer with a strong pedigree and a level of expectation for the craft in a way that is, here, inherently represented in the final product. Of course, notable for its work over the years as a Second Party developer for Nintendo on the Super Smash Bros. and Kirby series, as well as having many Nintendo alumni 'graduating' from HAL first (not least, late former Nintendo president, and all-round legend, Satoru Iwata!) before reaching the upper echelons of videogame society and the 27-hour working day. More recently, HAL found smaller breakaway success with the BoxBoy titles, offering a tighter, smaller, stage-based puzzler for punters to enjoy. Part Time UFO follows in a similar vein to BoxBoy and its successors.

Screenshot for Part Time UFO on Nintendo Switch

Starting life originally as a mobile effort, it proffers bite-sized challenges that can each be mastered for the best possible (for all intents and purposes) three-star rating. Thus, this in turn will unlock additional, even more difficult, stages to move on to. It does have all of the immediacy and hooks of a mobile release; however, unlike far too many mobile-borne affairs, this has some nuance to it, too. Every stage here is physics-based. It shares DNA with titles such as Tumble, Boom Blox, or even Buckaroo (if you want to get analogue), where the goal is to stack various objects on top of each other, within a time limit, and without having them collapse in on themselves. The player has free movement of Jobski, a UFO that is visiting Earth on no other real proviso than to help people with getting their odd jobs completed on time. Be it arranging gymnasts into pyramids, stacking a pancake as high as possible, or fixing broken artwork in a gallery, the ideas come thick and fast.

Screenshot for Part Time UFO on Nintendo Switch

It is a joy to see what the developers will invent for each subsequent 'job' as it's constantly playful and can often subvert expectations, incorporating obstacles and exploring every possible opportunity that is available within Part Time UFO's simple concept. As well as the standard point scoring, levels contain three additional 'secret' tasks that can bolster that score further and earn currency for the in-game shop, where it is possible to buy some smashing outfits to dress Jobski in, as well as occasionally granting perks, such as faster movement. These tasks are communicated in small thumbnails and can be a puzzle in themselves to work out yet pursuing them does open up many more possibilities of risking failure.

It's not a particularly long or difficult title, by any means, though, so overall these kinds of additions do add a lot to the replay value. This is also true of the way the physics work, creating an infinite amount of possibilities within the exact same confines or premises of a level. It can be a double-edged sword, however, creating frustration when many a failure can be chalked up to complete chance or a very minor mistake, but isn't that what UFO catching is all about, after all? Special mention must also be made of the soft body dynamics that are applied to characters and objects within Part Time UFO. They all have this satisfying squidgyness, which sounds like an odd thing to remark upon, but it's just really, really good.

Screenshot for Part Time UFO on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

No pun intended, but Part Time UFO is the very definition of a pick-up-and-play effort. You know… pick up… with a claw… Ahem! Anyway, it's rewarding for short bursts and designed very well for this kind of play, with a level of polish not found in some other 'short burst' titles. It also saves some of its best surprises for the endgame. With an included co-op mode too it's a design sensibility, and a deceptive amount of content, that shows off HAL Laboratory's years of expertise of structuring reward in that respect. It may frustrate players on longer sessions, though, or after multiple fails on a repeated 'job,' but this is always offset by the charming and colourful style, which by the way also includes some well-placed cameos in the stage background to look out for. Along with that rock-solid reply value, this is definitely easy to keep coming back to.

Developer

HAL Laboratory

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Puzzle

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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