When many of us think of HAL Laboratory our first thought is usually Kirby, a Nintendo franchise that the developers are perhaps best known for creating. However, the team are also responsible for creating both EarthBound and Super Smash Bros.. While HAL might have their hands full creating triple A Kirby titles for Nintendo, they can still be found creating new and charming IPs, a recent example being BoxBoy – a series of puzzle games released for the Nintendo 3DS. Today HAL have released their very first mobile game, Part Time UFO, and it continues the tradition of being an incredibly charming game from a beloved developer.
Now it’s worth saying that I’m not someone who plays mobile games all that often. Most of what I do play tends to be free to play with microtransactions or feel like a cut-down version of what could have been a great handheld game. This has left me with a distaste for the medium and largely ignoring anything that comes out, but Part Time UFO is different. The game was released in Japan back in November, but today it has finally been released in the west for both Android and iOS and I was surprised to find that the game is just a single purchase for £3.99 and has no microtransactions at all.
The game is simple: You play as a UFO (with a handy claw attached to the bottom of him) who is looking for work. You’re given a book of part-time work which results in your UFO friend getting involved in all sorts of things, like collecting fish, food and livestock for people as well as putting back together marvelous works of art! Part Time UFO is made up of a really simple idea but it’s a game full of the charm we’ve come to expect from HAL.
While each stage usually has a simple objective (collect these, balance those, build that), every one also has three challenges attached. These are usually for incorporating a special item into the task or finding a mysterious women who likes to hide in disguise, but they can be surprisingly difficult to accomplish. They’re not impossible and nor do they feel unfair, so they act as a compelling reason to replay stages and work out how to achieve what it’s asking. The nice thing is that each stage is fairly short and can be played within 2-3 minute sittings, so it’s perfect while commuting to work or school or just wasting time on the loo.
Part Time UFO might sound simple but it’s made up of colourful, vibrant backgrounds (which vary a great deal) and sprite art. Our UFO buddy can be customised with various costumes (including hats!) if you get bored of seeing his standard design and these can be bought with in-game currency that you earn from completing the stages. This currency doesn’t seem to have any other use, so it’s worth doing and works as a nice way for players to have their own unique UFO.
What HAL have accomplished here is creating a game that feels like it belongs on a mobile device (rather than a console or even on Switch) and isn’t being fueled by microtransactions. Because of this it doesn’t feel money grabbing, something a lot of mobile games do suffer from, and instead we’re left with a project that feels well loved by its developers. Part Time UFO is well worth checking out for a short burst of crane game fun!