Of course the first mobile game from HAL Laboratory, the Kirby franchise’s main developer, would be as charming and adorable as Part Time UFO. The newly localized, $3.99 iOS and Android title is as much a crane game-simulator as it is a puzzle game — but an early level reveals that it’s just as evil as those games can be.
Here’s the gist of Part Time UFO: You’re a tiny, flying robot that just landed on Earth. In order to support your new life on the planet, you take on odd jobs for clients — generally ones that involve moving and stacking bizarre objects, like oranges and toppled pieces of art. To progress, you have to both complete each level and earn enough challenge-based medals.
I completed the first three levels easily; they involve catching different kinds of fish and fixing up a museum. But the fourth level? I’m speechless.
The UFO part-timer has to stack a group of cheerleaders. This is normally fine! They’re easy to grab onto (which is less weird than it sounds). But the other primary requirement is that the stack reaches a certain height, something no prior level requires. And with these girls always prone to tumble — and the UFO itself being only so strong, and not the most stable carrier of goods itself — goddamn, is it hard to get them to form a tower that meets the minimum ask.
It’s a surprisingly steep difficulty spike that has me constantly throwing my game in rage. Part Time UFO, like most games, should get progressively more difficult as it goes along, sure. But if the first three levels are an easy-mode tutorial, expect this quirky game to just keep being far, far, far more challenging than it looks. (A level that professes itself to be “harder” isn’t kidding around, either, although it’s not as infuriating as that damned unstable herd of high school girls.)
Still, I’ll stick with Part Time UFO, as it evokes my most cherished, ultra-quirky Nintendo games. Part Time UFO may be neither a Nintendo project nor as classic as things like Rhythm Heaven, Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!, Chibi Robo, Drill Dozer or Pocket Card Jockey, but it’s a cheap diversion into a weird world of game design.
Now, if someone would like to help me stack some cheerleaders, please let me know.