The Last Tinker: City of Colors Review (PC)

Hearkening back to the classic days of Banjo-Kazooie, Jak & Daxter and Psychonauts, The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a bright and breezy adventure platformer that overcomes its lightweight fable by wrapping it in a vibrant and entertaining world.

What'll hit you in the face the moment The Last Tinker: City of Colors appears on your screen is the adorable and eye-searing art-style the developers have created. It's immediately enticing as just spending a few moments with the handcrafted art-style and the variety of bizarre inhabitants makes you, dare I say, feel good about life?

Colour like this makes your eyes bleed in the best possible way

However, that in-game feel-good vibe of Colourtown doesn’t last long as you soon witness the creativity of the world falling apart due to colour racism (no, really), segregation and conflict. As a young monkey-like boy from the slums you soon discover you have the ability to restore Colourtown to its former glory and uniting the fractured populace.

Playing as Koru, you and your friend Tap - the Kazooie to your Banjo - travel throughout Colortown leading the fight back against the Bleakness. No, this isn’t some emo-ridden Goth band gone rogue, it’s essentially an attack of the beige as the Bleakness drains all the colour out of the world. Seeing as you and everyone else is made out of colour this means certain death for all involved.

Fortunately you have the power of three colour spirits to help you along the way and the abilities of the titular Last Tinker. You obtain the red spirit early on, enabling you to physically fight back against the gobs of porridge-like goo invading your world. Later on you obtain the power of the blue and green spirits with powers that can influence the enemies in different ways to your advantage. Blue paralyzing them while green will send them running away in fear.

Combining these and the Spirit’s special abilities is the core of The Last Tinker’s gameplay - the enemies don’t vary too much and only later do you come across ones that require a certain rotation of your colour skills to dispatch. As you might guess none of these encounters are particularly taxing - they don’t seem like they were meant to be either - leaving the real meat of the game to its visuals and simple fable-like storyline.

If that comes across as dismissive, it isn’t meant to be. True, The Last Tinker, is a very easy game to play and complete in about six hours or so but that charm and the vibrant colours enable it to punch beyond its weight. Simply being in its world, traversing the landscape and watching the townsfolk bounce and waddle around is rewarding in itself. Maybe I’ve been starved of a decent 3D platformer for too long but The Last Tinker reminded me that video games can be pure lightweight entertainment in the best possible way. It doesn't always have to be about zombies, moral choices and relentlessly militarised simulators - it can also be about having fun.

If these two guys can't make you laugh then you are an empty husk, sir

The few set pieces the game uses to break up the levels keep that fun vibe going. From destroying a massive sea Bleakness monster to investigating sabotage in a rainy village, The Last Tinker does a good job of keeping the simple gameplay systems fresh and making sure the visuals are always front and centre.

The platforming is kept fairly simple and will no doubt annoy some who were hoping for Mario 64 levels of gameplay. By holding down the run button Koru will automatically jump onto appropriate ledges or poles leaving the timing, when needed, up to you. It’s disappointing that the world isn’t big enough for this platforming to be freer but it’s in keeping with the theme of the game - not very taxing so just sit back and admire the view.

Keeping that sense of character going throughout the game you’ll come across two peculiar versions of the mushroom folk - Biggs and Bomber. You’ll only get to use these guys one at a time and later be able to transform them from one into the other. At the game’s core these two add a few wrinkles to the platforming / puzzle system by being able to blow up weak walls, activate pressure pads or smack down bridges.

But given that The Last Tinker is more about style than Portal-level quality of logic puzzles, these two reflect the game’s often hilarious art-style and charm. When you beckon Biggs he’ll come lumbering towards you, overjoyed to be summoned - the moment you stop - he looks dejected and miserable. That cartoony display of emotion adds a layer of quirky humour to proceedings that helps to make its fairly basic puzzles feel a lot less rote or tiresome than they would in other games.

It feels harsh to criticise that aspect of the game as The Last Tinker looks and feels like a game designed for kids, even though I can see anyone picking this up and enjoying it for its gentle charm and art-style. If I had to criticise a few aspects of the game then it’s with the character you play. In Banjo-Kazooie, Jak & Daxter and Psychonauts - all the titles that The Last Tinker is heavily inspired from - the characters you play have distinctive personalities. There's no such protagonist here as Koru is nothing but a cipher for the player. It's a shame because the expressive ability of the character models and game engine could have made him much more memorable.

Combat may be basic but at least it's colourful

My other disappointment is that the final few levels feel a little anti-climatic. I was hoping for an epic re-colourising tour of the city, using my powers to take back the home of all of those I’d met along the way. Remember that sumptuous finale of Flower as you bring nature back into the city? I was desperately hoping that a similar mechanic might be used here - especially as you have to go through several rail grinding passages throughout the game that would have been perfect for this.

Don’t let those minor complaints put you off as this is a gentle and entertaining romp through a fantastically realised world. The art-style and characters make it a special experience and even though the final few levels are a bit of a let-down with their formulaic design, The Last Tinker is worth picking up just to drink in its handcrafted visuals and feel-good vibe - when was the last time someone said that about a videogame?

Top Game Moment: The Biggs and Bomber Orchestra - adorable cute overload!

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By The_Tingler (SI Core) on May 11, 2014
Had my eye on this one for a while, so glad to hear it's actually pretty good - and I agree about the main character, he couldn't look more bland.

I'm hoping A Hat In Time will be as good or better, so we can have a couple of good 3D platformers out this year.