The Last Tinker: City of Colors PS4 Review
If you were a gamer during the Nintendo 64’s heyday, you probably noticed how prevalent 3D platforms were during that era of console gaming. Super Mario 64 set the stage for analog-controlled collect-a-thons, which would later be expanded by titles like Banjo Kazooie and ultimately emulated in Crash Bandicoot and other games outside of Nintendo’s revolutionary console.
But like with all gaming fads, the 3D platformer genre soon faded, with First Person Shooters serving as the current dominating force (but seem to be on their way out as well). Only Nintendo and a select few Indie developers seem interested in dipping into the now-nostalgic platforming of the 90’s, with The Last Tinker: City of Colors hitting PS4 and PC courtesy of the latter group. Developed by Mimimi Productions, Tinker ignores the current trend of violent triple A titles or 8-bit retro Indie titles and goes for the untapped middle ground of 3D platforming.
The story of Tinker revolves around Koru, the monkey-faced resident of Color Town, where its citizens are categorized purely by their skin color; green, red and blue-colored creatures take up a district in the city, and though the various colors try to coexist, the tension between each race continues to grow. After discovering that he is (spoiler alert!) the last Tinker, Koru gets mixed up in the sudden invasion of the Bleakness, an army of grey-colored enemies looking to steal all of the color of Colortown and trapping its citizens in an eternal colorless prison. Only by cooperating with each other, as well as receive the aid of each colored spirit, can Koru and his friends put a stop to the Bleakness and save Colortown.
You can probably guess the message that The Last Tinker is going for. Despite its lack of subtlety, the game’s story does a rather adequate job at showcasing themes such as racial bigotry and tolerance of other cultures. For a game marketed toward children, Tinker gets points for dealing with a sensitive issue in a way that doesn’t feel ham-fisted nor esoteric. The characters may not stand out with their clichéd personalities, but they are likeable enough and go through a few developments that help the story progress along…even if the majority of them do sound like cats drowning in a swimming pool. Regardless, some actual effort was put into creating Tinker’s world and characters, which puts it a step above most 3D platformers.
Speaking of which, anyone who has played said platformers will probably have an immediate idea of how Tinker’s gameplay works. The closest approximation would be Jak and Daxter (before that series added guns and vehicles, anyway), where the playable character is given an array of athletic moves from the outset; Koru can punch, roll, and flip around obstacles and enemies, and can also purchase additional abilities from vendors. Combat is about as basic as it can get: punch smaller enemies until they die, punch bigger enemies and roll out of the way when they ready their attack. The platforming portion is a little bit different, as Koru lacks a jump button but will immediately hop over a contextual surface when holding the run button. This includes rail-hopping, which goes to show that anyone can make a better 3D Sonic game than the people still making Sonic games.
The most unique repertoire in Tinker’s move set are his Tinker powers, which allow him to utilize color-based abilities in both offensively and strategically; one such power lets him fire from a distance, which is necessary for hitting out-of-reach switches. Another lets him send foes into a fearful panic, which also comes in handy for manipulating a certain blubbering bruiser of an ally to break down walls. Ultimately, the main objective in each area is to restore all the lost color by defeating the Bleakness bosses. It’s all standard gameplay, and also a bit repetitive, but it’s still serviceable without feeling too stretched out, a notion that has plagued many 3D platformers in the past.
Despite being a PS4 release, Tinker’s visuals dip much further back to PS2-era quality, though the unique art style and character designs does add a bit of charm, even if Koru is one of the ugliest main character designs seen in a while. Unfortunately the game does not get a pass for its technical performance: the framerate in Tinker is one of the worst offenders to plague Sony’s new machine yet, with almost every single area dipping well below acceptable speeds. Only the dream world segments, which feature white backgrounds and limited platforming areas, achieves a stable framerate, which will make players wish the rest of the game would just stay there. Mixed with the paint-heavy color palette of the areas, the slow framerate could even create feelings of nausea for players, which ultimately hurts an otherwise decent platformer.
The Last Tinker: City of Colors deserves props for creating a child-friendly game with an adult-themed message. Its use of abstract colors and unique character designs is also a welcome alternative to the current crop of videogame visuals. Had the developers manage to put the same amount of care to the game’s technical performance as they did with its concept, The Last Tinker could have ended up as a stronger recommendation. In the end, it’s worth a curious glance while keeping its technical failings in mind, or a decent distraction for younger children to play with.