The Last Tinker: City of Colors Review: Play the rainbow
Although platforming, the delicate art of giving purpose to seemingly aimless jumping, has fallen from the favor it held during the PlayStation 2 era, games like Rayman Legends, Valdis Story: Abyssal City and Dust: An Elysian Trail ensure that we won’t want for 2D action-platformers. 3D platforming, on the other hand, has become a true unicorn. However, even if the market were flooded with collectibles to horde and levels to navigate, Mimimi Productions’ The Last Tinker: City of Colors would stand out. If you somehow manage to tear yourself away from its striking aesthetic, you’ll still be doomed to fall for the charm of its crafted world, its superb score and its undying whimsy.
And what a world it is.
You play as Koru, the titular and terminally mute—perhaps appropriately mute given the history of platformer protagonists—last Tinker, and are accompanied by Tap, a sidekick adorable enough to make even Viva Piñata green in the face. And of course, you’re platforming—walking the unseen lines between the many ledges, boxes and grind rails—oh yeah, it’s got plenty of those—of Colortown as you struggle to combat the Bleakness, an evil, pale force that has drained the world of its color.
Strangely, though, you won’t be doing so with careful timing and daring jumps. City of Colors boils platforming down and puts it on a roller for easy distribution (I’m going to keep making paint jokes, so buckle up): Whether it’s a trail of stepping stones or a curiously arranged series of branches, you need only hold dash (L1 in the case of gamepads, which you’ll want to use if possible) to automatically negotiate the hazards of Colortown..
Green also helps you negotiate those hazards. Thanks, Green.
It sounds trivializing, and to a degree it is, but this Assassin’s Creed-esque style of traversal does have its merits. It works to accentuate the world itself, freeing you to take in the flora and fauna which have been painstakingly sculpted from cardboard and styrofoam, held together by popsicle sticks, glue and child-like creativity. And although it does turn otherwise dangerous situations into veritable connect-the-dots puzzles, it’s still up to you to decide when and where to jump. Think of it as a narcoleptic autopilot: It’ll get you there, but not without an occasional and often knee-jerk reminder.
This guy forgot the first rule...
In addition to dashing through the main portions of the world—the towns of Red, Green and Blue, with other locales sprinkled in—you’ll also be punching your way through a robust combat system. As you progress through the aforementioned towns, you’ll befriend their matching spirits and gain their powers. This evolves combat from mashing the Red punch to stunning enemies with Blue and fearing them with Green, turning packs of enemies into puzzles themselves. There’s even an upgrade system to spend your hard-earned Crystals (think Precursor Orbs) on, extending the duration of your super attacks and status effects, which also plays a part in platforming. Floaty Brushes (think Gold Bolts), however, exist only to lure you into the unlikely corners of the world—and to unlock concept art and some wonky in-game effects like Big Head Mode.
Coupled with ranged attacks, an annoyingly laggy but still viable dodge (“a second before a second before he attacks” will get you by) and the aforementioned grind rails, whaling on new enemies keeps Colortown diverse and exciting, never growing dull nor beating you senseless with new mechanics. That said, the general pace of movement can feel a bit sluggish, occasionally losing the snappiness that makes jumping around so cathartic. And with that said, you should know that it never actually became a bother throughout my playthrough.
Blue was my favorite, by the way.
So, action and platforming—two fourths of the game’s palette. Next come puzzles, both created and solved by the infinitely versatile Mushroom People. Biggs and Bomber will be your partners in puzzling here, and allow you to steamroll through walls, stun enemies and blow up all manner of things. You can switch your Mushroom companion’s form to fit the puzzle, command them to position by whistling (it’s no escort mission, don’t worry), and dictate their behavior by whacking them with different colors. Together, the Mushroom People add a new dimension to Colortown, and you certainly wouldn’t get far without them. They may even get you to scratch your head a time or two.
The final shade of the game is certainly an unlikely one: a subtle coat of social commentary. Mimimi did their homework on the science of color—red is correctly depicted as being synonymous with strength and anger; green, cowardice and curiosity; and blue, calm, fortitude and sadness—and also opted to pepper the dialogue with a few admittedly mushy words on the various prejudices of human nature. I didn’t particularly feel the need to have a multicolored lizard remind me that “All colors are equal,” but he got a smile out of me nonetheless. It’s no History of Mary Prince, but it’s there and a worthwhile message nonetheless.
I have to admit, this got a bigger smile out of me.
But that’s far too heavy a brush. On the whole, the game is an upbeat delight, one worthy of carrying the mantle built by Ratchet, Jak, Ty, Sly and so many others. Aptly named, The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a colorful adventure with style and care dripping off the screen so heavily that I’m still trying to get the blue out of my carpet. And I look forward to doing so again when I play it on PS4.