by Dan McAlister
Many games, classic and modern are empowerment fantasies, putting the player in the role of a capable hero shouldering a mighty responsibility. I love that! Empowerment is a comforting, familiar fantasy. But what I admire about Part Time UFO is that it isn’t interested in empowerment. Rather, it makes you feel different, and finds joy in the mundane. The world won’t be saved for your involvement, but it will be made better. One odd job at a time.
In Part Time UFO you’re an extraterrestrial performing manual labor. You fly in your diminutive saucer, using a claw reminiscent of carnival crane games to pick up and stack objects in a wide variety of freelance gigs on a strange planet: Earth.
The gigs are varied and imaginative. In one level you’re sea fishing, in another you’re assembling a salad as ingredients speed by on a conveyor belt. It’s not enough to simply transport these goods; you usually need to pile them in specific configurations. The pieces aren’t designed to fit together neatly, and your structures will teeter and sway as you race to pile on more salad ingredients, machine components, small rodents, or whatever the game throws your way. Part Time UFO excels in building novel challenges for your ship’s simple capabilities, and whether you’re helping at a secret lab or at the circus, the game finds a balance between absurd situations and logical problem-solving.
Part Time UFO is joyfully tactile mobile game. Action is simple. and the flying is smooth, but every time you grab something, you get a real sense of weight as your ship pitches and tilts to accommodate. This dulls your precision, but gives the game a delightful physicality.
I also dig the supportive atmosphere. All of the characters you help are rooting for you, and it makes for a lovely, laid back play experience. Excitement derives from trying to do your best in adverse circumstances, not from adversarial characters. It can be tough to try to reassemble wobbly museum sculptures or stack fidgety cheerleaders in a pyramid, but quick levels means mistakes give way to iteration and improvement. If you don’t do well the first time, the game and its characters never stop supporting you, and they’re positively jubilant when you’re successful. Part Time UFO is a game that values sincere effort and a job well done.
In the game’s first level, you’re helping a farmer re-load his truck after his produce spilled onto the road. The game will spell out the basic actions you’ll need to take. But when you finish the level, you’ll see that the level has three bonus challenges: to put the oranges back in a basket, to place the produce boxes face up, and to finish within the time limit.
Every level has three goals, but until you feel confident with the games controls, maybe just focus on one of them. Part Time UFO is generous with it’s progression: you never have to get everything done. Just do your best, and tackle the challenges that appeal to you.
Self expression in games is usually precise, like assembling an outfit or choosing abilities to improve your character. Self expression in Part Time UFO lies in the attempt at greatness, and you’ll probably fall short as you careen across the stage, balancing trajectory with a heavy load. But thanks to the light, happy scenario and joy in movement, you’ll have fun regardless.
Every level you finish gives you the opportunity to snap a picture of your handiwork. Have fun with it! Build precarious structures, treat it like an art project. Pass your phone around and let friends take a shot, and see how people approach the same challenge differently. Appreciate the job well done, because when you’re helping others, it’s always a job worth doing.
The opinions in this post are expressly the views of the author and do not reflect the views of their employer(s) or any entities that they might otherwise be affiliated.
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