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The Last Tinker: City of Colors review: The Legend of… Koru?

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The Last Tinker: City of Colorsthe last tinker logo small
Price: $19.99
System(s): PS4 (Steam)
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher (Developer): LOOT Entertainment (Mimimi Productions)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Fantasy Violence

The Last Tinker is a grandiose, colorful action-adventure platformer from Mimimi Productions. Mimimi is a German developer with a history of successful mobile games, and The Last Tinker seems to be its first attempt at something more ambitious.

Tinker is a nod back to late 90’s platformers such as Banjo Kazooie or Mario 64. However, rather than exploring different levels and collecting a million little trinkets, Mimimi is more interested in challenging players and telling a story.

the last tinker screenshot

 

Cardboard Dystopia

The Last Tinker takes place in a world created by, well, Tinkers — people who had the power to create anything they wanted with cardboard, then breathe life into their creations using color. Colortown, the main hub of the game, leads into several districts separated by colors. Tensions are on the rise between each group, whose personalities are defined by their colors. Reds are angry and violent, Greens are timid and fearful, Blues are crippled with depression. Society is falling apart because nobody can get along.

Koru, a monkey-kid who doesn’t fit in with any of the other races, struggles to get by as a sort of street urchin. He begins to realize he has special powers just in time for The Bleakness, a malevolent absence of color, to attack Colortown. In true video game fashion, it’s up to Koru to save everyone and fix all their problems.

the last tinker screenshot 2

Hack and Splat

Mechanically, The Last Tinker is mostly straightforward. You run around and jump on things, and sometimes punch enemies. Platforming is more akin to the parkour feature in modern Ubisoft games, and stretches of jumping are more about timing than precision as a result. Combat feels loosely based on the ever-popular Arkham formula, but a lot less fluid and a lot more distracted. You generally just kind of flail around, hammering on the attack button and relying on an unreliable dodge button to get you out of trouble.

As The Last Tinker progresses, you gain more options and color-based powers, but they never have a game-changing effect on combat. As jumping feels inconsequential and combat struggles to feel rudimentary, the game has trouble remaining compelling, especially in its opening hours. It doesn’t help that, on the PS4, The Last Tinker is laced with framerate issues. It’s especially bad during on-rails sections that require more precision than usual, but are hampered by said technical issues and an overuse of motion blur.

Where The Last Tinker really shines is in its puzzles. Mimimi’s philosophy is to find approaches that work for both casual and more serious gamers, and it strikes that balance well in its puzzle designs. I wonder if the developers wanted to mainly focus on puzzles, but felt pressure to add in the other stuff to appeal to a wider audience. Whatever the reasons, each part of the game that wants you to slow down and think is very well done. The player is given everything they need, but never handed the solution.

The story, characters and world-building are also surprisingly compelling for fare this light. Basing each color on a spectrum of emotions is a good shortcut for distinct characters, especially for what is essentially a story about race relations meant to be digestible by children. It may be easy to forget about the level design or combat mechanics, but I’ll certainly remember everyone who helped Koru on his quest.

the last tinker screenshot 3

Travel Woes

If colorful platformers are in your gaming wheelhouse, I would recommend checking out The Last Tinker. It suffers from a bit of an identity crisis at times, but eventually settles in and does what it wants to do well. However, I don’t think I can recommend playing it on PS4. This version was actually ported by a separate dev, LOOT Entertainment, and the performance issues are likely a product of that. Tinker is much more likely to be a smoother experience on its original home on Steam. The Last Tinker is candy-coated, ambitious budget gaming. Ambition goes a long way in my book.

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