Sep 192014

“A kid’s platformer” might be the best way describe The Last Tinker: City of Colors by German game developers Mimimi Productions and LOOT Entertainment. Blending elements from classic platformers like Ratchet & Clank, Okami, and Banjo Kazooie, Tinker aims to bring a platforming world of brilliant color that’s accessible to everyone, including the youngest gamers.

You play as Koru who needs to return color to Colortown, which has been stripped of most of its color by an enemy called “Bleakness” and stripped of happiness by its own people. Looking more like it’s covered in snow, Colortown isn’t all that colorful and its people definitely aren’t very happy. It’s up to Koru to utilize the power of various colors that he discovers along the way to once again make Colortown live up to its name and bring the people together again.

Tinker plays like a standard third-person platformer – very familiar territory to those who have played R&C or J and D. Although you have to beat up the enemies that attack, the game is very cartoony and bloodless. Defeated enemies vanish in a puff, so there’s no need to worry about violent content. Like many platformers, you can collect money (or gems in this case) to upgrade Koru’s fighting and health abilities. For example, some of the larger gems can’t be broken until a stronger punch is purchased with the various small gems that you collect throughout the game. You can also break various boxes and jugs to gain more money. (Actually, you have to because you need to find a lot of money to progress through the game.)

The art style is very much that of a kid’s painting project: lots of bright colors with broad paintbrush strokes, speech bubbles look like they were drawn in crayon, and the overall design is that of a papier-maché style. The combination works well and helps to reinforce that this is a game that kids can enjoy. The idea of a colorless world that needs to get its color back might seem familiar to those who played games like Okami or the highly underrated The Saboteur. In both of those games, the evil for a particular area is washed away with the restoration of colors and a positive attitude returns to the NPCs in that area.

Platforming is simple enough with various run and jump requirements and fighting is nothing more than pushing a button. Borrowing from classics like Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter, the gameplay consists of what you’d expect in a platformer, even including rail grinding that’s ever-present in R&C. It’s a relatively frustration-free formula, and it works just as well as in other platformers.

The puzzles aren’t particularly difficult; however, there were a few times where the answer to a puzzle wasn’t readily apparent, leading to a lot of running around with an eventual accidental discovery of the solution. (Of course, there was one time where I told my son “You need to do this to get past.” “No, I don’t, dad.” “Yes, you do. Now, do it!” “Oh, yeah, you were right….”) There were also one or two puzzles that needed me to look at a walkthrough video to figure out how to progress. This is standard fare for a lot of platformers, though.

Although my color blindness is very mild, Tinker also includes a color blind mode for people who have more severe forms of color blindness. I had no need for this, but it’s good to see this kind of inclusion in a game.

The campaign provides about eight hours of gameplay; however, the game unlocks to let you play any level again after you complete the game. You can easily squeeze a few more hours out of it by trying to collect everything that you missed during the main game as well as purchasing any remaining powers that are still locked. Doing this can earn you a gold PlayStation trophy, so those who love their trophies won’t have to spend too much time to earn this one, at least then it comes to time. When it comes to having the tolerance needed to try to get that gold trophy, that could be a different story.

The big question with Tinker is the target audience. In many ways, it feels like a lot of loved platformers that kids and adults have played for years – Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter being the two that spring readily to mind. Neither of these are so difficult or “adult” that kids can’t enjoy them, but they’re not marketed as games for kids. Tinker isn’t specifically marketed as a kids’ game either, but I found that I couldn’t keep a lot of interest in it. The odd part is that I can’t really explain why. It’s no less a colorful 3D platformer than other games I’ve mentioned. It’s not that Tinker isn’t fun. It is. But at the same time it’s not … fun.

The Ratchet & Clank series and even the various LEGO games often contain many laugh-out-loud moments, whereas Tinker is devoid of such moments. Some of the pop culture references are unfortunately more groan-worthy than funny. The game also has a very slow pace to it. I can’t say whether this is to keep kids from feeling overwhelmed too quickly or to pad the game out to be longer than it could have been (or perhaps both), but so much of the game felt like trying to wade through a bog. As an adult I found that this game just couldn’t hold my interest.

Conversely, my two youngest kids loved it! They sat for hours playing it. My son immediately started going back after the game was finished to do more collecting – something he rarely does in a game. When they finished the game, I asked both of them if they could think of anything about the game that they didn’t like and that I needed them to be completely honest with their answer. Both of them responded with a resounding “nope”. Tinker was definitely a hit with them. So, it’s obvious that although it’s not marketed specifically as a game for kids, the difference in reactions makes clear that younger kids enjoy Tinker more than adults.

That is an unfortunate reality because the game is such a change from the bland grey-a-thons or the retro 8-bit platformers that have flooded the market as of late. One thing that I think could really help to draw me into the game is if it was offered in stereoscopic 3D. The brightness, high frame rate, draw distance, and colorful brilliance of the game just screams for true 3D! If Mimimi/LOOT offered a new version of Tinker in stereoscopic 3D, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. It’s not that it would make the game more fun, but the increased immersion would hold my attention better. But as the game is right now, adults would be better served by playing their favorite Ratchet & Clank game again.

If you have children who don’t have a “-teen” at the end of their age, The Last Tinker will likely be a big hit. The color, the bloodless fighting, the wonderful music, and the simple art design that looks like it came out of a kid’s art class all come together in a way that makes the game very inviting and challenging enough for kids to enjoy. If you’re an adult, you might find this game to be quite boring. That’s not to say it’s not worth playing if you just want some stress-free gaming, but you might have to put in some effort and patience to get all of the way through.

The Last Tinker: City of Colors
Available for Steam (for PC/Mac/Linux), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Developed by Mimimi Productions (Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One) and LOOT Entertainment (PS4)
Published by Unity Games

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

This product was provided for free by LOOT Entertainment, courtesy of Indie Gamer Chick; however, this did not have any effect on the honesty and integrity of this review.