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The Last Tinker: City of Colors review

For

  • Light and breezy puzzles and platforming
  • Unique
  • kid-friendly
  • and mostly charming personality

Against

  • Stiff
  • boring combat
  • Gaudy art style
  • Constant frame rate issues
  • Bland and forgettable overall

I'm trying to remember the six or so hours I spent playing The Last Tinker, and it all feels like a giant multicolored haze. There are a bunch of goofy characters, some jumping here, some combat there, and then it ends. It isn't an unpleasant experience, but everything feels so decidedly average that I can't put my finger on anything that stands out about it--and based on how whimsical it is, forgettable is the last thing it should be.

The Last Tinker puts you in the role of Koru, a young boy with bizarre, ape-like features and a knack for building things and mismatching his clothes. You live in Tinkerworld, a once peaceful place where everything is made out of color, paper, and glue that has since become bogged down in hue-based tensions. Each colored segment of Tinkerworld's population has splintered off and formed their own district, and the once unified town is fractured, seemingly beyond repair. Enter The Bleakness: a white, goopy paint thinner-like substance that starts raining down from the heavens and destroying all the color in the city. As Koru, it's up to you to unite the creatures of Tinkerworld, find the color spirits, and save the day. It takes a couple hours for the plot to get moving, but once it does, you're in for colorful, if predictable ride.

It's a simple story, but like a kid's CGI movie, it's not without its charms. The varied residents of Tinkerworld all have their own unique mannerisms and traits. Each of the citizens of Tinkerworld coo or bleat when they speak, with a papercraft word balloon hovering over their heads--it evokes memories of '90s-era games like Banjo-Kazooie, and it's all very cute. I mean, the sun has giant beady eyes, two arms, and a goofy smile, for crying out loud. If only the color scheme weren't so painful to look at. The opening sections of The Last Tinker start out in a part of Tinkerworld that combines every single color in one garish mess, as though Dr. Seuss threw up all over a bunch of pastel Easter Eggs.

In order to save Tinkerworld, Koru has to travel through each district, find the representative Color Spirit, and use its powers to combat the numerous foes that stand in your way. Combat is your standard 3D action platforming fare, similar to games like Prince of Persia. Once you're surrounded by enemies, you need to fend off their onslaught before you go back to exploring the levels. Unfortunately, these fights are just... boring. For the first half of the game, you have access to only one power, with a standard and charging attack. There's very little strategy--mash the button to beat up on bad guys, and charge your attack to destroy their shields. Eventually you gain the ability to stun your enemies and make them run away in fear, but they do little to make the act of fighting feel interesting. Add to that the fact that your actions feel pretty choppy, and combat is just a downright chore from the opening moments to the final boss encounter.

Luckily, the monotonous action is broken up by far more interesting platforming sections. Maneuvering your way through the various environments is rather easy--simply hold down the R2 button and you'll stick to any outcropping or ledge you come in contact with. You'd think that this would make platforming all too easy (because what is a platforming game without, you know, jumping), but it puts the focus more on timing than your ability to land a jump. Octopus tentacles dip underwater and blocks sink under your weight, forcing you to find the quickest path before drowning. Maneuvering through these trickier areas is rarely difficult, but movement feels fluid there's a sense of accomplishment you get when you complete a fairly lengthy parkour line.

In between beating up paint monsters and clambering over everything like a monkey, The Last Tinker also engages you with some light puzzle solving. The majority of the brain-busters require you to lead a sentient (and rather stupid) mushroom through various obstacles. You have to direct him to platforms he can interact with and walls he can break by using your powers and growing or shrinking him to move on to the next area. These--and other puzzles--are rarely taxing, and it won't take you more than a minute or two to suss out their solutions, but they're still fun and inventive, fitting into the bizarre world of Tinkerworld wonderfully.

Even with the decent platforming bits and puzzles, the whole experience just bleeds together into a formless mass of cartoon characters and mediocre action. Challenge is kept at a minimum, Koru is continuously funneled from one area to the next as he gathers the Color Spirits together, and other than a few standout sections, nothing feels especially important. But worst of all, The Last Tinker tries so hard to be whimsical that it forgets that it takes more than some googly eyes and bright colors to make a memorable experience.

The Last Tinker tries to ape the best platformers out there, but with boring combat and unchallenging gameplay, it's just a dull one.

This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4.

More Info

GenreAdventure
DescriptionUse the power of color to unite the city against bland bleakness.
PlatformPS4
US censor ratingRating Pending
UK censor rating
Release date:19 August 2014 (US), (UK)
Available platforms:PS4, PC
Genre:Adventure

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.
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