VG Tribune

Review: The Last Tinker

May 20, 2014 / 6:57 PM

By: Osvaldo Andreaus

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The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a platforming game available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s an accessible game aimed at a younger audience, with some exquisite art direction and a unique take on the classic gameplay of 3D platforming.

 

The Last Tinker tells a simple, Saturday morning-esque cartoon story. The game takes place in Tinkerworld, a place where anything can come into existence by using paper, glue, and color. The main character, a young monkey called Koru, and his sidekick Tap, a floating blue sheep who resembles a piñata, live on an island where colored spirits reign over the living animals. When the game begins, we are told that the inhabitants of the city have divided themselves into districts by color: red, green, and blue. Each district, represents an extreme psychological state, has a matching color spirit, and is inhabited by animals that correspond to its color. Red lizards are angry, green turtle-bunnies are fearful, and blue bears are depressed. There is also a fourth district, known as the Outer District, which maintains a healthy mix of colors. Its inhabitants are also more psychologically and socially balanced.

 


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Our hero, Koru, lives in the Outer District and has the ability to create, fix, and heal things. Early on, Koru is tricked by a fourth color spirit, purple, who introduces Bleakness into the world, which manifests as a white goo that removes color from everything it touches and creates monsters. With the world in chaos, it’s up to Koru to fix the mess he unwittingly helped create. The world of The Last Tinker is shown exactly as described in the game’s Prologue.
Characters feel like they live in this place, and they have the emotional problems described above. There’s a lot of racism dividing the city, and this is clearly shown in the first few minutes of gameplay. There’s an immediate sense of the overall problem that needs to be resolved, even if the city’s inhabitants are unaware of it. However, once the Bleakness enters the world, the game follows a fairly predictable storyline that sees Koru gathering the three colored spirits in order to finally eliminate Bleakness from the City of Colors.

The supporting characters that help you in the game always have some kind of problem that you need to fix for them, just like many other games in this genre. But unlike other games, The Last Tinker adds several NPC characters that first try to stop you, discover that what they’re doing is wrong, and then try to fix it by helping you out. Most of the NPCs are so obnoxious that I only felt compelled to help them in order to advance the story, or because I was expecting to earn some money to buy upgrades with.

 


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The Last Tinker presents some very well designed environments that are full of primary colors, and a world with many details. Each section feels like a plausible place where the animals live their lives. Each area feels unique, and it’s clear that the developers paid a lot of attention to the overall look and feel of each section of the city. I felt that the colors were a bit too saturated sometimes, especially early on when it seemed as though someone grabbed a pack of Crayola crayons and used it as the overall palette. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the developer’s use of color, but as the story progresses this choice makes sense because most of the game is played in a desaturated environment that you have to colorize again. There’s even an option for color blind people who have trouble distinguishing between red and green. As a visual artist, I thought it was a great option to have.

 

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The Last Tinker doesn’t go crazy with visual effects and doesn’t feel like a next-gen game, but it stands on its own as a polished and well designed current generation offer. While I was testing the quality options, I did come across a disturbing aspect of the graphics. I found that lowering the texture quality or any other visual options makes the game look worse than an old Nintendo 64 game. It made everything look muddy and pixelated, so I recommend checking if your system can handle the suggested specs. If your graphics card can’t handle the detailed environments, lowering the quality of the game’s textures destroys much of the visual quality the game relies on. I was also somewhat disappointed by the camera. There were countless times I wished I could zoom out to see more of the beautiful environment and get a better sense of the scale of things.

 

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This game took a lot of risks with its core gameplay mechanics. They threw out a lot of the tried-and-true rules of platformers, and replaced them with simplified versions. I was recently watching Tim Shafer Plays “Day of the Tentacle” Part 1 on Youtube, and at a certain point he comments on how they tried to simplify the commands that could be given in the game, and realized how boring the game would be if they only had only one action button. That’s kind of what happened here. There’s no jump button in The Last Tinker. Instead, what you do is run toward a ledge and if Koru can jump across, he will. It’s similar to Assassin’s Creed, where the game forces you to keep the right shoulder trigger held to run. The problem is that speed is essential for platforming sections. Halfway through the game I started wondering why I was forced to press the button at all, seeing as running is a required action at all times and it’s the only way to jump between platforms. There are no sections of the game where you wouldn’t want to run. In Assassin’s Creed, running impairs your ability to make precise movements, but not here; in fact, going slow hinders your ability to do anything worthwhile, so I’m not sure why they didn’t just go the Super Mario 64 route and drop the running button altogether. The Last Tinker also suffers from a weak fighting system. You have one button that lets you punch, another button to combo other actions, and an aiming button. You can dodge and move Koru mid-combat, and even make him jump (!) up and punch the ground. It’s a very simplified combat system along the lines of God Of War. Aiming makes a circle appear at the center of the screen, and the game will auto-aim at Koru’s nearest enemy. At that point he can shoot balls of colors at it, which felt like a dumbed-down version of Infamous’s fighting mechanics. The main problem here is that Koru can only hit a target that’s auto-targeted, and the other problem is that shooting enemies is useless. It doesn’t hurt enemies enough to be worth the trouble, and although they do occasionally attack, most enemies just stand around waiting for their turn to be punched.

 

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Halfway through the game you unlock two new powers. The green spirit gives you the power to make enemies flee in fear, and the blue spirit makes them stop in place, so you can attack them from behind. Unfortunately, there are very few instances where you’ll be using them. The majority of your time will be spent running to the next objective, punching some enemies, then rinse and repeat. There’s very little extra content and the levels are linear, so you can finish the game in about eight hours.

I played The Last Tinker on Windows with an Xbox 360 controller. The game fully supports it with analog and vibration. This setup should also work on Linux, while Mac makes use of the PlayStation 3 controller. This setup wasn’t bad, but it was a bit tiring and wondered if all of the trigger and button combinations would be ideal for smaller hands.

The Last Tinker has great sound design. Every level has the right music that will get you in the mood, the sound effects are great, and nothing felt out of place. I did find that the game lacked when it came to the character voices. While the NPC characters spoke gibberish and acted out depending on their mood, their voice sounds were incredibly annoying. To top that off, it seems like the developers only recorded a couple of seconds for each character, and looped it until the text in the balloons is dismissed.

The game’s animations face a similar problem. During gameplay, characters sort of move in slow motion. This is especially evident on Koru when he isn’t running. It gives off a peaceful sense of exploration, but it reminded me of a kid’s cartoon. And when there’s dialogue we encounter the same problem as the voice acting; simple generic animation based on the character’s mood, put in a loop until the text box is dismissed. I will say that at least the characters always seemed to look in the right direction and moved appropriately to what’s happening, but you’ll soon recognize the same animations after the first three frames. It made things feel cookie-cutter. There were also a couple of times where I had a hard time understanding what emotion Koru wanted to express. It seems like the animators wanted to keep up a happy, smart character all the time, even when it needed to do something else. One thing I noticed is that there was a lot of jaw and tongue action with the animation for the monsters and spirits, and this worked great for them. They fit perfectly with the dumb-minions-that-attack-with-no-strategy style. Overall, the animation had a very South Korean feel to it. I guess this won’t make much of a difference to the majority, but it’s a thought that often crossed my mind during cutscenes.

 

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Overall, The Last Tinker is not a terrible game. The main flaw is the oversimplified gameplay that clearly targets a younger audience, but I’m not sure what age exactly. The beginning feels targeted to a 3-to-6 year old audience, and then halfway through it seems to jump to around 6-to-10. I’m still not sure why the developers felt that removing the jumping action from a platformer was necessary. The music and sound effects are both very well executed at all the right moments. Everything is topped by a great visual presentation that is consistent throughout the game, and some decent animations that, although repetitive, never feel rushed out of the studio. The first Console/PC game from Mimimi Productions might not be the latest must-have game in the genre, but it’s a great start and makes me wonder what other titles they will release in the future.

 

VGTribune gives The Last Tinker for PC and Mac a 7.2 out of 10

This review was based off a purchased copy of the game from Steam.

The Last Tinker

7.2

Final Thoughts

7.2/10

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