For those gamers who, like me, loved games such as Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and Banjo Kazooie, Mimimi Productions The Last Tinker is a welcome breath of innocence in a gaming world seemingly dominated by blood, gore and horror. The 3D platformers spawned by the Playstation and Game Cube era were something parents could give their kids without worrying about content, and which they themselves could play for a bit of fun timewasting. Those games died with the arrival of the PS3 and Xbox 360, when players (and developers) fell in love with the photo-realism the new technologies presented.
The Last Tinker – City of Color, harks back to those more innocent times with colorful, engaging and simplistic graphics, a solid story and plenty of mad moves to master.
Color is important in Tinkerworld, where anything can be crafted from paper, paint and glue. So it’s little surprise that the City of Color is bright and colorful. Even the people are defined by color – literally. People from the Red District are, well, red. People from the Blue District are blue and those from the Green District… You get the idea. But the different districts have become distrustful over the years, segregating themselves from other districts, and keeping themselves to themselves.
Koru is unlike any of the other citizens. He lives in the Outer District, where colors mix, and so do the people. When he and his floating buddy, Tap, somehow find themselves drawn into a strange dreamworld, they’re grateful when a purple spirit approaches and offers to show them the way out. But all is not as it seems. By virtue of some dastardly underhandedness, Koru is tricked into releasing the ‘Bleak’ on the unsuspecting Tinkerworld.
The Bleak spirit was imprisoned so long ago people have forgotten it existed at all. Now it’s free again, and looking for payback. For Bleak, read Bleach, since the white tide now sweeping the city leaches everything of colour, turning people grey and freezing them in place. Koru and Tap rush to escape, but the ‘Bleakies’ the bleach-stuff vomits out are impossible to fight, and stepping onto the white areas bubbling up from everywhere means instant death. Reaching a precarious place of safety, Koru learns he’s the only one who can save the city.
All the time he thought he was just good at fixing things. Now Koru learns he’s something more – a Tinker. The last Tinker. Now it’s time for him to fix the damage he’s unwittingly caused. To save Tinkerworld, Koru must gain special powers only he can wield. He must enlist aid, learn skills and gain the strength to fight the Bleakies. Ultimately he must reset the balance and overthrow that pesky Bleak spirit. But the journey won’t be easy.
I know there are adults like me who love the challenge of getting across deadly lakes of boiling whatever, collecting hidden items, exploring, talking to weird and wonderful characters, solving puzzles and sneaking past bumbling guards. It’s fun. Brings out the kid in me. So, yes. Kids game, definitely.
This game is not just for the young at heart either. Younger kids will enjoy it, as there’s nothing scary or inappropriate in the content, and it has difficulty settings running from ‘Kid’s Mode’ to ‘Instant Death.’
Concerning the very young, there’s no actual dialogue; it all takes place via cardboard speech bubbles, which clearly require some degree of literacy to read. Very young children might struggle, therefore. However, my son learnt mental arithmetic at 3 years old by playing Spyro the Dragon. (Who says games aren’t educational?) So, rather than seeing the text-heavy content as being a minus, it’s a good way to encourage reading ;).
Don’t go thinking this game is bland or twee, however. There’s a sinister edge, such as the friendly townsfolk being either buried in bleak or turned to stone by it. Certain areas require a degree of digital dexterity that make you wish you had an extra set of fingers, too.
To say this game is colourful is something of an understatement. It uses primary blues, greens and reds with a few blends and tints here and there. This isn’t overpowering, even if it sounds it, and the nicely-drawn graphics have a cool retro feel.
Although simplistic, the graphics are lovely, with some nice touches, such as the texture of crumpled paper on the houses, and the cardboard machinery. New technology has been beautifully mixed with old techniques to produce a fresh-looking old style game.
Each district has awesome music to accompany it, composed by Filipo Beck Peccoz. The mix of electronic and string instruments is both evocative and enchanting and will haunt you even after you hit quit.
As mentioned above, there’s no dialogue, and most of the communication is via speech bubble. I felt the text speed was a little slow, and couldn’t find a way to speed it up. The characters, although they don’t speak, do squeak, growl or burble, which was okay to start with, then got a little grating. These sounds can be reduced to zero in the pause menu, though, so no biggie.
If you hanker for the old 3D platformers, you’ll find everything you want in The Last Tinker. There’s swinging from poles, jumping onto floating islands and grinding on rails as well as the punching and kicking of baddies, as one would expect. Koru gains further powers, which let him target and shoot enemies from a distance. There’s an autojump feature which causes Koru to take paths across raised objects automatically, without you having to keep mashing keys to jump. The real skill in these manoeuvres comes in the timing. Koru can enlist friendly creatures, who assist him in getting through blocked areas or who give him piggy back rides when he needs them. In all, it’s a varied and fun environment, with enough challenges to keep you playing till well past bedtime.
There’s not much I would fault with this game, except I found the camera a bit sensitive. I haven’t played using a controller, which the developers say is fully-supported, but playing with mouse and keyboard had me spinning around wildly trying to locate enemies, or my next target, which got annoying, and me dead several times. Plus I’m not sure the friendly characters I accidentally punched appreciated it, even if they didn’t complain.
Though there weren’t any major glitches, Koru did occasionally get stuck behind one of his helpers, which was frustrating until I discovered a magic button in the pause menu called ‘Reset Player.’ This awesome feature removes Koru from the screen and resets him a few feet from his former position. Quite useful, but I wonder if this was just an easy fix for what at first seemed like a major bug.
This is a slick offering from Munich-based Mimimi Productions and its publisher, Unity Games. I’d recommend it to anyone who misses those 3D platformers of yesteryear. There’s plenty of story, gameplay and color, and the music will stay with you long after you’ve quit. I thought this was a really good, wholesome game and, aside from my minor complaints, I had a great time playing it.