The Last Tinker: City of Colors (PS4) review: A wonderful trip down memory lane
3D platformers on consoles aren’t dead. Developer Mimimi Productions made sure of that when they decided to bring The Last Tinker: City of Colors -- formerly only available on PC -- to the PlayStation 4. Honestly, there’s probably not a better home for such a game, as the PlayStation brand has often housed quirky platforms. The Last Tinker: City of Colors harkens back to games like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot, reminding us that next-gen consoles can do more than offer us the latest hyper-realistic shooter.
The first thing you’ll notice when booting up The Last Tinker is its whimsical presentation -- vibrant colors and intriguing characters that speak in funny sounds (dialogue is understood through pop-up text boxes). What’s neat about The Last Tinker’s design is how it works so well with the actual plot.
The Last Tinker: City of Colors is set in Colortown, a once bustling city where inhabitants of all colors -- Red, Blue, and Green -- could work together in friendliness and cooperation. It was a utopian society, until it wasn’t. Eventually, the colors began bickering -- Red citizens became angry; Green citizens became terrified; and the Blue citizen sank into a deep depression. With Colortown in turmoil, the evil Purple Spirit seeks to drain the world of its color. Enter Koru, the silent ape-like creature protagonist, who, along with his good friend Tap, must gather the powers of each district to destroy the Purple Spirit who is looking to turn the world white.
The Last Tinker is a magical world filled with vibrant colors and whimsical characters -- it’s something children can enjoy. But it’s easy, as an adult, to understand the deeper thematic undertones -- prejudice, acceptance, and friendship. Again, it’s not the deepest game you’ll play in terms of plot, but it’s a nice reminder 3D platformers can be deeper than their appearance lets on.
Same goes for the actual gameplay mechanics. The Last Tinker is marketed as a platformer, although I feel that’s somewhat misleading given the lack of an actual dedicated jump button. Instead, it’s more of a free-runner, in the same vein as the parkour movement in Assassin’s Creed -- you hold down the run button and Koru will automatically jump between platforms.
Though the game introduces some dangers while platforming (like having to make it across an aread before the platforms sink), the whole thing largely feels like a passive experience. Having said that, some of the most fun moments of the game involve an on-rails grinding system. Again, this is done automatically, though there are times you’ll have to dodge obstacles. Unfortunately, these rail sections are hindered by awkward camera angles and a stuttering frame rate.
Speaking of frame rate, the PS4 version does have some noticeable frame rate issues, particularly when first entering and area and grinding on rails. I haven’t played the PC version so I’m not sure if these same frame rate issues are present there, but they are definitely noticeable in the PS4 version. It’s not game breaking by any means, but it can sometimes become annoying.
Platforming and grinding aside, there’s also another element of gameplay -- combat. Again, there’s not much to write home about with this. It’s functional, but nothing jaw-dropping. Basic mechanics involve spamming the face buttons while carefully timing your dodges to avoid damage. Later in the game you’ll unlock special powers, like the Blue power which freezes enemies in place, but by the time you unlock everything you’re practically at the end. Despite the simplistic nature of the combat though, it’s still fun. And more importantly, it works.
If anything, The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a nice tribute to the wonderful 3D platformers of yesteryear. It’s just a pick-up-and-play kind of game, void of overly complex gameplay and intense narrative. It will remind you of why you started playing games, especially on the PlayStation system.