An Ageless Adventure
While 3D platformers in the vein of “collectathon” classics like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 have faded over the past two console generations (if you’re looking for slap-stick 3D platformers it’s basically just the Ratchet and Clank and the Sly Cooper franchises keeping the tradition alive), there are a number of independent game developers currently working on games designed with this nostalgic style in mind. Leading the charge of the resurgence is Mimimi Productions with their 3D platforming adventure, The Last Tinker: City of Colors.
Debatably, what led to the decline of the old collectathon games was how tedious they became after awhile. Finding every golden puzzle piece or golden banana felt like a chore, and players were literally locked out of new areas until they scrapped previous areas clear of these golden collectables. The Last Tinker deals with this issue simply by not forcing players to find the golden paint brushes that are hidden within the game’s environments.
Players keen on picking up every single brush will be rewarded with unlockable perks like “big head mode” and “god mode” and ultimately unlocking the Combat Arena, but players can progress through the entire game without ever needing to pick up a single golden paintbrush.
With that said, The Last Tinker is a fairly linear game, so finding most of the paintbrushes is simply a matter of going down a dead end and looking behind a bush or some boxes. A few areas do open up to allow the player to venture to various objectives in the order of their choosing, but the majority of the game has players following their little sheep-piñata sidekick from point A to point B.
The linear gameplay may be a bit of a deterrence for older players, but it is clear that The Last Tinker was designed to be accessible for a young audience. The game itself looks like it could easily be a game based off of a show on Nickelodeon. Mimimi Productions did a fantastic job creating a living world full of history, lore, memorable characters, and – as the title suggests – plenty of color. There is also the overriding theme of “living in unity is better than hating others because they’re different,” which the game works into the story very sensibly.
The titular “City of Colors” refers to the land in which the game’s inhabitants live. All of the three different groups belong to a different color, which all come with a personality type distinct to that color. The red salamanders are aggressive, the blue walrus-bears are depressed, and the green rabbit-turtles are scared of everything. The protagonist, Koru, (who is inexplicably a monkey) turns out to be a Tinker: a being who can utilize the powers of the color spirits in order to unify the people, and keep the wicked Bleakness from destroying the world.
Combat in The Last Tinker is a simple affair to cater to the younger audience. While the combat is shallow, the variety of enemies grows throughout the game, so even though I was one-two-three-punching everything, I started having to coordinate my fights to eliminate enemies based on the particular threat they posed to me at that given time.
Koru eventually attains color powers which he can use on enemies (or on himself) to modify the combat experience significantly. Punch an enemy with some green, and they will turn and cowardly run away for a brief amount of time. Activating green on Koru will slow down time, allowing him to move through fast-moving obstacles or packs of enemies with ease. These modifiers were useful, but I found it was just as easy to rely on dodging and punching to dispatch foes.
Like the combat, the platforming felt watered down to make it kid-friendly. There is no controllable mobile jumping in The Last Tinker, everything is done automatically. In the trailer it shows Koru leaping across wooden planks sticking out of the side of a rock. Conducting those jumps simply involves holding a button and pushing the control stick in the direction you want Koru to jump towards. It reminded me a lot of the climbing mechanics in Assassin’s Creed, and how a person watching you do it on screen will think you’re amazingly talented being able to time everything so perfectly, when in fact you’re just holding down a button and pushing a control stick forward.
The automatic jumping mechanic does require a bit of skill as timing can come into play, where certain parts of the game involve sliding across ropes and knowing when to jump and switch ropes in order to avoid obstacles. If you feel like The Last Tinker is too easy, you can always crank the game up a few difficulty levels, which range from “kids” easy to “insta-death” hard.
One aspect of The Last Tinker that I did not expect to love as much as I did was the music. The game sports a soundtrack that totally caught me off guard. Every tune for the different areas of the game fit perfectly to whatever I was doing and really reinforced the thematic elements of the game. The soundtrack can be purchased through Steam for an additional two dollars…which is totally worth it.
The Last Tinker: City of Colors is one of the most impressive games I’ve played this year. This would be a game that 8 year-old me would have loved to play, and even 24 year-old me found The Last Tinker pretty fun at times, regardless of how simple the game was to play through. With the visual and audio treats combined with some pop culture references and tongue-in-cheek humor, genre fans of all ages should give The Last Tinker a shot.