In a world full of alpha trials, early access, demos, patches and updates, it’s more often than not gamers experience an unrefined, unpolished version of a game. From bugs and glitches in Bethesda games, to the all-but unplayable Alien: Colonial Marines, and all the indie Greenlight, early access and Kickstarter previews in between. In the passing weeks, I’ve come to miss – and I know this might be seen as heresy – but I’ve come to miss the PS2. Back in the old days, developers either made a game right, or they didn’t make it. Sure there were some exceptions, and more often than non graphical and hardware limitations led to some of gamings most memorable characters. But more than that, I miss the simple joys old-school games provided.
Classic platformers such as Sly Cooper, Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, I-Ninja, Crash Bandicoot and Prince of Persia – the list goes on and on. All these titles gives me that feeling in the pit of my stomach. That feeling you get when you listen to your favorite song. That chill down your spine when the twist of Unbreakable is revealed, or when HAL whispers his famous line “I’m afraid” in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Last Tinker: City of Colours encapsulates these simple feelings of joy present in the aforementioned games, and almost tried to amplify the giddy, jovial fantasy of playing them. While unfortunately it doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (largely due to the implementation of more modern mechanics), The Last Tinker is still a nice bit of fun that somewhat filled the void in my heart. Like a delicious slice of cheesecake to a man who wants a victoria sponge. I feel I should mention here that the first two paragraphs of this review were but a slight melancholy digression, and I didn’t experience any bugs while playing The Last Tinker.
When I talk about modern mechanics, I mean the auto-platforming in games like Assassin’s Creed. Holding RT does all the work for you, and you merely have to time the leaps in certain parts. While scaling scaffolding in fluid bounds does have a modicum of satisfaction to it, I’ve been playing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West recently, which features locked-jumping when scaling scenery, but still allows for errors, which is what makes games engaging. The Last Tinker is yet another platformer that doesn’t have a jump button, which is something I honestly can’t fathom. Can you imagine playing Tomb Raider, Sonic, even Half-Life – without being able to jump?
There are some modern mechanics that work will in the game, however. The combat system is a lot of fun. Although there is only one primary attack button, it locks on to players, allowing you to rack up combos like Batman: Arkham Asylum. Throughout the game there are opportunities to spend gems to learn new moves, which are executed with a mix of timing and dodging etc.
The Last Tinker is definitely aimed at children, and there is a children’s mode available in the difficulty. However, unless you are a child, I’d recommend the ‘Insta-death’ setting. Playing through on hard, there was only one instance where I got stuck against a boss, and that was just due to pain-in-the-arse timing more than anything. The storyline provides a great message to young audiences: Help end the prejudice that exists within the City of Colors between the blues, reds and greens. The city itself is brought to life thanks to the truly gorgeous visuals, probably the best in any indie game I’ve ever seen, and the soundtrack only serves to accompany them.
A plethora of features help flesh out The Last Tinker, despite it’s rather linear level design. You can speed around areas on Sonic the Hedgehog style rails, there is an optional confetti trail that leads you to your objective, the colours start to drain from the screen when you lose health, and the environment reacts your your physical presence. The gameplay is what you’d expect of a adventurer platformer. You must solve puzzles to get to new areas, fighting baddies along the way. To get the to puzzles you must climb to them, but to climb to them, you must solve puzzles. The game feels nicely elongated in a this-is-fun kind of way, not a “another puzzle”?! kind of way that can give levels a disorienting feeling, and make players feel lost.
The market square is a bit more of an open space compared to the slightly more direct levels. The market square acts as a hub-of-sorts, full of mini quests and collectables. However, the sheer number of NPCs did make the framerate drop a tad at times. Nothing major, but there was some definite chugging going on as I raced from place to place. Other parts of the game play as surrealist dream sequences that have you racing through different planes of reality. Again the visuals really shine through in these, and you can tell the developers had fun with them. Still, they do feel a bit more like style-over-substance, as you’re really only walking through an incredibly narrow path.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
The Last Tinker: City of Colors has one very important thing going for it: the enormous fun factor. Despite it’s incredible lack of difficulty, and annoying text-based conversations, jumping and swinging from pole to platform is joyful, and so is wailing on the gooey blandness that are the enemies. For $14.99, it is definitely a niche. If you have kids old enough to work a keyboard or controller, I’d 100% recommend it.