In a games landscape littered with bullet casings and deep tones of black, gray and brown, The Last Tinker: City of Colors stands out as a bright and colorful beacon of hope for the PlayStation 4. It’s a family friendly game that plays well for both youngsters and adults alike, harkening back to an age when action platformers were king. Getting all of that out of an inexpensive indie title was a rather welcome surprise.
It’s hard to believe that The Last Tinker: City of Colors isn’t a boxed title you can pick up at a store. The world is large and detailed. The action is fast and loose. The adventure is also pretty big, clocking in at around 8-10 hours depending on how much exploration you want to put in. At first glance, Tinker appears to be the launching point of a new series in the vein of Ratchet & Clank or Sly Cooper, two titles it apes rather nicely. And, to be fair, this could very easily evolve into such a series. But this sort of scale isn’t something you typically expect to get out of a $20 downloadable game.
The team at Mimimi Productions, though, has clearly poured buckets of time and love into The Last Tinker. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s got guts and a heart that’s twice as big as the average bit of wholesome entertainment.
As Koru, the titular Tinker, you begin the game in Colortown, where things have started to go a bit downhill. Back in the day, all colors lived in unison, happily spreading their shades around and mixing with everyone else. Eventually, though, the colors began to segregate, with red, blue and green districts separating themselves from the rest of the world, convinced that their color was superior. Colortown is the only remaining district where all colors are welcome uniformly but, as of late, blemishes are starting to show up in this former paradise. Troublemakers are ruining everyone’s fun and, as a result, some citizens of Colortown are starting to retreat to their own districts, furthering the separation between former friends.
Through a rather unfortunate series of events, Koru discovers that there’s an even greater threat looming over his world, one that threatens to eradicate all colors with the power of an all-consuming white Bleakness. With the help of a few friends and the formerly segregated citizens of the various districts, your job is to use your newfound abilities as a Tinker to fight back against the Bleakness, solving light puzzles and pummeling baddies along the way.
Take one gander at any screenshot from The Last Tinker and the first thing to catch your eye is likely how colorful and vibrant everything is. The game is all about the importance of diversity and creativity, so it makes sense that each environment would be overflowing with lovely little details, like some massive diorama cobbled together out of cardboard, construction paper, clay and paint. The soundtrack also deserves a special note, as its fun and plucky tunes match the gameplay perfectly and are catchy as hell to boot.
As I said in my opening, the game appears to have been built from the ground up like a Pixar film; perfect for kids, but also appealing to adults who don’t need buckets of blood and drama to get their entertainment fix. The controls are a prime example of this. Rather than having a jump button, you instead hold down on the right trigger to allow for freerunning antics similar to say, an Assassin’s Creed game. While I typically prefer more free exploration in my platformers, this allows Koru to perform some rather exciting displays of acrobatics as he runs, swings and leaps through various obstacles.
Similarly, you could get through a lot of the game’s combat by simply mashing on the attack buttons. That sort of brute force approach works perfectly for younger gamers, but The Last Tinker offers up a bit more depth for those older players willing to learn a handful of maneuvers. You’ve got a few basic attack actions, each mapped to one of the three primary colors in the game. Use these attacks enough and you’ll be able to trigger their corresponding special abilities. You can also augment combat with a bit of dodging about, and a quick flick of the left stick will move you from one opponent to the next, chaining together beatings similar to something you might find in an Arkham game.
You don’t see a lot of games like The Last Tinker these days, and maybe publisher LOOT is onto something by aiming to provide these types of experiences on a more bite-sized scale. That’s not to say that the game is “small,” just that the developer is helping prove that you don’t need a massive budget and a team of hundreds to produce a rather lovely action game.
That’s not to say that The Last Tinker doesn’t suffer from a few faults. The framerate sometimes chugs when there’s a lot going on at once, combat can get a bit repetitive and clunky and none of the puzzles are going to put your gray matter through its paces, but I don’t think that was the experience Mimimi was going for with this game, anyway. The gameplay is fun and kept a smile on my face, so a few technical hiccups were pretty easy to overlook.
The Last Tinker: City of Color for the PS4 manages to achieve a lot with a little; something bigger developers might do well to take some notes on. The game is pretty simple and wholesome, but there’s certainly a place for such an experience in this industry. Truthfully, I kind of miss the days when these sort of mascot-driven romps were more commonplace. But just because it’s perfect for youngsters doesn’t mean that adults in the mood for a more colorful, warm experience won’t find plenty to enjoy here, too. The Last Tinker will make you feel like kid again, without ever actually treating you like one in the process.
This review based on a PlayStation 4 download copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Mac, Linux
Developer: Loot Entertainment, Mimimi Productions
Publisher: Unity Games