Certain games simply feel as though they should be on a specific platform. For whatever reason, gritty first-person shooters seem as though they belong on Microsoft systems, just as characters like Mario and Yoshi should never be on anything other than a Nintendo platform. For all of its eclectic independent titles and hero-centric third-person action games, the PlayStation feels like the place for quirky character platformers. From Gex, to Spyro the Dragon, to Crash Bandicoot, to Sly Cooper, the PlayStation ecosystem is brimming with silly mascot-based games, even to this day (*cough* Sackboy). The Last Tinker: City of Colors, originally released on PC in May, is a title that feels right at home on a PlayStation system, which is why it’s such a joy to see it in all its adorable glory on the PlayStation 4.
Set in a quasi-papercraft world, The Last Tinker: City of Colors tells the heartwarming story of one…ape-thing’s quest to reunite his broken town. Colortown was once a bustling bastion of hope, filled with cross-color cooperation and genuine friendship. Red, Blue, and Green citizens were dependent on one another; when every color was working together, Colortown was utopian. Eventually, the colors began to bicker with one another over which one was truly the best, sending society into a downward spiral. The active Red citizens became angry; the curious Green creatures were suddenly terrified of everything; the brave Blue folk sank into deep sadness. Enter Koru, the aforementioned ape-like creature, titular last Tinker, and only person capable of saving Colortown. In the midst of full-fledged chaos courtesy of the evil Purple Spirit, Koru has to use his Tinker abilities to liberate his peers from the clutches of the all-encompassing white-Bleakness.
There’s something oddly magical about stories that children can enjoy, but still have deeper thematic undertones for adults. On the surface, The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a tale about saving a bunch of adorable creatures from a evil spirit. When one delves a bit deeper, it’s a game that touches upon the dangers of prejudice, the power of acceptance, and the strength of friendship. Granted, one doesn’t have to look into the thematic elements of its narrative, but it’s comforting to know that everything doesn’t necessarily have to be about silly lizard people and smiling ghosts. Then again, gamers are bombarded with emotionally-charged content constantly, perhaps a colorful game with babbling monsters can make for a nice virtual vacation. Take as little, or as much, out of The Last Tinker as you want, but know that this is a title that has the potential to spur up genuine emotion if you give it the chance.
While its thematic aspects, atmosphere, and general sense of charm are clearly The Last Tinker‘s strongest points, its gameplay can be pretty engaging as well. Those who choose to play on the standard difficulty setting might find a genuine lack of challenge, but that can be easily fixed by turning on one-hit kills. Calling The Last Tinker: City of Colors a platformer, while technically correct, feels a bit misleading. Because of the lack of a dedicated jump button (easily The Last Tinker‘s biggest sin), players find themselves free-running between platforms in a manner similar to the parkour in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The movement is fairly smooth and continuous, though simply holding the trigger while moving around can occasionally make one feel like a passive participant instead of an active gamer. A larger emphasis is placed on exploration and combat than simply moving from platform to platform, though massive free-running sections tend to be some of the most fun moments players can have here.
Fighting off various Bleakness monsters, while somewhat simple, is never boring. The Last Tinker: City of Colors does a fantastic job of introducing new enemy types and weaponized movements before fully adding them into the shuffle, so players never feel overwhelmed. While the combat system is nowhere near as insane as say, God of War, it isn’t rudimentary to the point of monotony either. Each color has a standard attack mapped to a face button and a meter-based special move activated by a certain direction on the D-pad. Players can throw color orbs from a distance, make enemies depressed, scare foes into fleeing, or simply beat adversaries into submission. It speaks to The Last Tinker‘s fantastic world-building that the contextualization of each attack is just as, if not more, interesting as the animations themselves.
So what’s different in the PlayStation 4 version? The simple answer is nothing. Getting to use the DualShock 4 natively certainly adds a level of comfort to a title brimming with pleasantry, but this isn’t necessarily a feature that dramatically alters the overall experience. Where the PS4 functionality truly shines is through Remote Play, as The Last Tinker: City of Colors works fantastically as a handheld game. Because free-running is mapped to the right trigger, players simply have to place a finger on the top-right portion of the rear touchpad to maneuver across platforms. This hand position feels far more natural than attempting to avoid triggering a touch-pad function by gripping the sides of the Vita, so using the handheld’s most controversial input mechanism is never an issue here. The release of numerous character platformers on the Vita, notably the Sly Cooper Collection and the Rachet & Clank Collection, has proven that this genre clearly works in a portable setting.
The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a throwback to a simpler time in gaming. Complex, harrowing storylines can be absolutely fantastic, but sometimes it’s nice to relax into a charming tale. Deep thematic elements are present for those seeking that type of experience, as the narrative gracefully touches on a number of always-poignant social issues. For those looking for an engaging gameplay experience, The Last Tinker brings a number of exciting free-running sections wrapped around some downright fun combat. The Last Tinker: City of Colors does such a phenomenal job giving off a PlayStation vibe that one could easily be fooled into thinking this independent offering came from one of Sony’s heralded first party studios.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4