Ever since Nintendo created the iconic Zelda characters, they have more or less been the standard by which all other adventure platformers are judged. As a result, gamers picking up The Last Tinker: City of Colors bring a lot of expectations – ones which, much to its credit, Tinker tries valiantly to satisfy. Unsurprisingly then, though it doesn’t completely succeed (did you really think Link would ever be dethroned?) the game earns a great deal of credit for trying.
Playing as a character who bears more than a passing resemblance to a monkey (think Enslaved) in a vibrant and cartoonish world (think Wind Waker), as the last tinker you are tasked with bringing together the disparate color-factions of the world in order to save Colortown from the encroaching white Bleakness. Predictably, in a land filled with Reds, Greens and Blues, eventually people stopped getting along and segregated themselves into different districts, where this schism is what initially allowed the Bleakness to enter the world.
After a little bit of training in how to punch people in the face (especially when they point out that your own face looks like that of a monkey), you quickly encounter your first spirit and gain the power to infuse things with color, through the elegant use of your fists. (The game does have several different difficulty modes, one of which is Kid’s Mode; the irony there being that the core message of this game might be summed up as: “Bringing the world together, through violence.”)
Despite the cartoonish (and beautiful) look of the world, the aptly named “Instant Death” mode and the tense moments where you must escape the Bleak before being drained of all your color often lend Tinker an adult feel. This is even more reinforced when you’re reminded of other great past titles that Tinker seems keen to emulate (I challenge you to slide down any cargo rail and not think of Bioshock Infinite).
The platforming itself has that great auto-jump feature which takes the fear out of mistiming a jump. Oddly enough though, that fear is thrown right back into the mix when crates sink or octopus tentacles submerge in rhythm, giving you a brief window to cross gaps or plunge to a watery grave. The checkpoint system is frequent and very forgiving, so falling isn’t a huge ordeal, but it just seems awkward that you can accidentally walk right off a cliff at any given moment – I’d prefer being completely confined to prevent a silly demise, or given complete freedom (and responsibility). Tinker skirts the boundaries of both those systems and as a result stands out, but not in a good way.
That spirit of sticking out and being unique again seems contradictory to what Tinker is trying to do, especially when you hit a jump pad and catapult across the map on the arc of a barely visible rainbow, with the last tinker shouting, “Wahoo!” (You don’t even have to see it to know exactly what platformer that’s from.) So does Tinker do anything that’s completely original? There actually are a few moments.
Most notably in this game (unlike any other) you are tasked with solving puzzles through the manipulation of the world’s dumbest and angriest mushroom. In two different sizes (large or small) your muddy mushroom friend can be coaxed into three different actions, depending upon which color your hand is when you smack him. In large form, most skills revolve around being heavy and stepping on switches, or being lumbering and trampling through foes and obstacles. In small form, the Napoleonic mushroom’s abilities revolve around exploding, either through being hit, thrown or carried somewhere and stuffed down a tube (which naturally lends itself to a later battle against a kraken, where your friend is shot out of a cannon).
Tinker has some cool moments, like where the color first drains from the world and everything takes on a different hue. But for the most part, it feels less unique and more like a copy of others’ successes (as opposed to pleasantly nostalgic). The game becomes occasionally frustrating in combat scenarios when you’re swarmed by enemies, and the jumps don’t always feel precise due to the mixture of constraint and freedom. And when it comes to the world, where it might have been free roaming to better contend with its larger Mario and Zelda opponents, Tinker confines itself to extremely linear stages, peppered with hidden floaty brushes that you can collect and return to a character with large, poofy hair, who will use them to paint “happy little trees.” (That is not hyperbole – it’s clear who the caricature was meant to be.)
The Last Tinker’s sense of humor is definitely appreciated (I admit I laughed at the guy dressed like a wizard, standing on a bridge and yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”), but by the end of the short, eight hour experience, those chuckles feel more derivative (i.e. unoriginal) than they do referential — like watching a comedian who mostly just does impressions. The Last Tinker definitely has some character. But for the most part, that character isn’t really its own. If the thought of that doesn’t bother you, or you’re just now getting into the action/adventure/platforming genre, then this is a decent place to start. But compared to the countless other entries in the field that have made a huge name for themselves, The Last Tinker is lackluster. (Which is really funny, once you realize that the entire premise of the game is the fight against blandness.)
SCORE: 6.0 out of 10
A code for The Last Tinker: City of Colors was provided to Pixel Related for review.