There was a time when colorful, kid friendly games were the norm within this industry, but that time has long since passed. Almost every high profile game is M rated these days, and the most common color seen in games is brown. For every Rayman Legends or LittleBigPlanet there are ten military shooters or post-apocalyptic games. For as great as those types of games can be, the industry could definitely stand to be a little more varied. Mimimi Productions is certainly doing their part with The Last Tinker: City of Colors, a colorful 3D platformer with undeniable charm and a striking art style.
Tinkerworld is a realm of color and imagination. Anything you could possibly need can be built using everyday crafting materials, giving the world a distinct paper mache aesthetic. However, all is not right in the City of Colors, as the denizens have become divided and insular. The color folk have split into their own districts and cut themselves off from the others. In their isolation, they have regressed to embody the base emotions associated with their color. The red district is full of anger and rage, the blue district sadness and despair, and the green district fear and mistrust. Only in the outer district are all colors represented, which is where the game’s hero, Koru, resides.
The world of The Last Tinker is an intriguing and beautiful place. The papercraft look of the world is incredibly endearing, which is complimented well by the vibrant pallet and colorful characters. As you might expect, the story takes you to each district of the City of Colors, and each has its own unique look that reflects the emotion the citizens of that color represent. The plot of the game involves stopping “the bleakness,” a malevolent force that intends to eradicate the City of Colors. Throughout the journey, Koru learns he is a Tinker, an individual able to wield color powers. He gains these abilities from the color spirits and uses them to re-unite the colors and stop the bleakness. Though the actual plot is pretty straightforward and predictable, the charming aesthetic and quirky characters make it an enjoyable ride.
The Last Tinker is probably most accurately described as a platformer, but it plays differently to most typical 3D platformers. Rather than task you with navigating the environment and making jumps with precision, the platforming is instead a much more directed experience. There are very specific spots that you can engage in the game’s parkour, which usually amount to nothing more than holding the right trigger and moving forward. These sequences look nice and function as intended, but if you’re looking for a true 3D platformer you’re likely in for disappointment. There are occasional instances of challenge, usually the result of timing based obstacles, but they are rare. For a game that is billed as a platformer, the absence of a jump button is a bit of red flag. The closest the game ever gets to real platforming are the Ratchet and Clank-like rail grinding sequences, but it’s not enough.
In addition to platforming the game also features melee based combat, which while also overly simplistic does feature more depth than the traversal. When the combat is first introduced it seems to be simple to a mindless degree, but as you get deeper into the game more complexity presents itself. The different color powers each have a specific use in combat, and later enemy types force you to make use of them all to survive. It’s still not super deep, but the combat is varied enough to hold your interest for the entirety of the game. Even though they are mechanically on the shallow side and not remotely challenging, both the platforming and combat are fairly satisfying and usually enjoyable thanks to tight controls and smooth animations.
The final pillar of gameplay is puzzle solving, which is when the game is at its best. Like the traversal and combat, the puzzle solving is very straightforward and usually very easy, but these sequences can typically be counted on to make clever use of the color powers. Most of the puzzles involve a strange mushroom creature that can change size and reacts to each of your color powers in unique ways. Like the other aspects of the gameplay, if you’re looking for a challenge you’re going to be disappointed, but the interesting color mechanics make them engaging nonetheless. The game is especially good at making you re-think situations as you gain new abilities. You get completely new ways to interact with objects you’ve been seeing the entire game, which creates a great feeling of variety and progression.
For as hit and miss as some aspects of the gameplay can be, it always comes back to the presentation. The Last Tinker is nothing short of striking, an impressive blend of technical prowess and an enchanting art style. Each district has a distinct look that is both a reflection of those that live there and a consistent part of the greater whole. The music is also outstanding, complimenting the visuals and enhancing the tone of the story. The only negative that could be mentioned about the presentation is the lack of voice acting, which necessitates a lot of text. However, the game makes the best of this shortcoming by integrating the text bubbles into the art style, making them cardboard cutouts that hover above the characters’ heads.
The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a hard game to hate. The beautiful visuals, brilliantly realized art style, and enjoyable music will put a smile on even the most cynical faces. The gameplay, while certainly far too simple and often downright shallow, is mechanically sound and controls well. The unique and endearing setting populated by likable characters gives the game substance to accompany the pretty visuals. The Last Tinker: City of Colors is certainly not for challenge junkies, but anyone looking for a downright pleasant experience full of charm and whimsy will not be disappointed.