Papier-mâché, sock puppets, and pop up books are things that kids get excited for as they are allowed to create and visit new worlds that are filled with vibrant colors. The Last Tinker City of Colors, manages to capture the beauty of pop up books and brings them to life. The characters in this game are sock puppets while the environments and settings look like they are made from cardboard and other basic materials. While this charm is present throughout the game, the player can’t help but notice the game’s flaws that harm it in the end. From its rushed storyline, extremely linear gameplay, and not fleshed out battle system, it diminishes the appeal that the world has set for the player.
The Last Tinker starts with a voiceover explaining the perils that are happening in Tinkerworld. Tinkerworld used to be a peace-loving world, with all of its inhabitants living together in Colortown. There are three major color districts in Colortown: red, blue, and green. At first the inhabitants accepted one other regardless of their color. This ends when the inhabitants start to decide which color is the best. Eventually this forces each color inhabitant to live in their own designated color district separated from one another. The only place that is open to all colors is called the Outer District. A bleakness has settled on Colortown, and it’s up to Koru to visit each color district to enlist help of each color spirit to stop the bleakness from destroying TinkerWorld and Colortown.
This story could have been a perfect setup to teach children about discrimination in a proper manner. Since the story was not fully thought out, the message falls flat and is not emotionally climatic. The story is told through text bubbles, so it can be time consuming. Keeping track of every bubble can get boring, which leads to players skipping text and missing out on vital story information. Additionally, Koru never speaks. His friend Tap acts as Koru’s mouthpiece, which isolates Koru from the player and eventually leads to the player not being emotionally invested in the main character. There is also no character development for any of the characters.
The gamplay is divided into combat and platforming. The combat system is reminiscent of the Batman Arkham series, with a good punch/counter system. When the player meets a new color spirit the player is given a new ability. The color that the player uses on an enemy incites different emotions. The green color makes enemies scared of the player, while the blue color will make an enemy temporarily fight for the player. The player has special attacks as well that correspond to the color being used. The red abilities allows the player to emit a shockwave that damages surrounding enemies, while green stops time and blue provides a protective force shield. This should make for a very diverse combat system, but in reality it can get repetitive. The special abilities are used primarily as a plot device to advance the story.
There is an upgrade system, but it too has a flaw. Most of the enemies a player fights will drop money, but the problem is that there is a finite amount of enemies once a player clears out an area. The only way to farm money is to save and reset the game. This brings up an annoying factor in the saving system. If the game autosaves as you enter a new location, that’s where your save will start you. A manual save only saves your financial progression, however, and not your location. When you reload a manual save, you’re taken back to the checkpoint location.
There are platforming elements to the game, but they are disappointing. The player is constantly jumping off cliffs, but there is not a jump mechanic. This forces the player to run off cliffs in specific areas to make it to the next cliff. This being said, the game does allow the player to make acrobatic moves. If the player holds down the right bumper, the player can run through obstacles without falling. It is strange that they would introduce a mechanic like this but leave out a jump mechanic. The game has on-rails sections spread throughout, which is the only time the player can actually jump. There is a stealth section, and many puzzle sections in the game that add variety, though some of the puzzles can be very difficult.
The only saving grace to the game is the graphics. Colortown is a beautiful, vibrant world that feels like a pop-up book. The characters are all cute as well, which adds to the charm. The soundtrack is also well done; each new district has it own musical theme which gives it a unique personality. Colortown is a world that a player would enjoy to explore just to see the beauty of the environments. That being said the player is constantly being moved in a straight path, and exploration isn’t really possible. The linearity of the game really hurts the over all experience, as does the poorly developed story. There are unlockables, but since you can’t go back to past areas, there’s not a lot of extended play value.
The Last Tinker could have been an incredible game with a touching story of acceptance. The game fails to bring a cohesive experience on all levels. A muddled story, gameplay that doesn’t fully use its own mechanics, and the linear progression leaves this game dull and colorless.