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Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Last Tinker: City of Colors Review


By on 8:42 AM

The Last Tinker: City of Colors is a mottled blur of mechanics done better in other games. Brightly painted backdrops and a creatively rich world lay a thick primer of promise on the canvas, but as you grow familiar with the automated platforming and raise an eyebrow to the stuttering framerate, the jagged brushstrokes begin to show. The story and surrounding visual elements carry their fair share of charm, but a ho-hum combat system paired with lackluster puzzles drag down this otherwise imaginative experience.

Tinkerworld is colorful, but the gameplay can be drab in comparison.

From the start, it's clear that The Last Tinker is trying to mimic the best '90s platformers. The expressive characters chirp and tut as they speak, harking back to classics like Banjo-Kazooie, while the anamorphic protagonist would fit in with a crowd of nimble mascots from generations past. Tinkerworld is coated with reds, blues, and greens that make you question if you should adjust your TV's contrast, and you can't take more than five steps without stumbling into a pyramid of boxes begging to be punched.
The Last Tinker has the superficial trappings of those successful 3D platformers, but lacks elegance in its execution. Instead of giving you the ability to jump from ridge to ridge manually, The Last Tinker presents equidistant platforms that you can cross by simply running forward. Correct timing is often necessary, as floating boxes or scalable tentacles might submerge if you're too slow. However, there's little challenge associated with traversing the environment. Seamlessly swinging across canyons looks like a thrill, but the short-lived excitement that goes along with the weighty sense of movement isn't enough to replace the satisfaction of landing a well-timed jump. The combat doesn't fare much better, as rudimentary combinations that require little more than simple button mashing are often the easiest solution to the busy encounters. Purchasable upgrades and additional abilities earned through story progress spice up an otherwise elementary system, but there just isn't much here to sink your teeth into.
Despite its artistic aptitude, The Last Tinker lacks identity.
Beyond punching, dodging, and countering, your hairy hero can cause enemies to run away in fear, as well as stun them for a short period of time to provide openings for finishing blows. Stringing your strikes together by dashing from target to target can lead to fleeting fun, but once you're in the thick of the action, the paltry framerate disrupts your flow. The Last Tinker struggles to deliver a smooth experience even in its quieter moments; just walking across an empty street can cause the game to stutter annoyingly. These instances are manageable, but the busier sections consistently bend the game toward its breaking point.
The technical failings are a shame, since the prismatic scenery can be truly dazzling when it's presented at a steady clip. Tinkerworld is coated in color, with each district supporting a particular shade. The red, green, and blue districts all have their own styles and unique citizens, and while they were once able to coexist, color-based prejudices have drawn sharp lines between the groups. The sudden outbreak of bleakness that leaves previously vibrant locations windswept quiets the bickering, but it's really up to the hero Koru to bring the guardian spirits of each district together against a common enemy.

The game is evocative of '90s platformers, although never reaches the heights of some of the best from that era.

It's predictable, but cute. The Last Tinker never surprises you with its dialogue or plot points, but the story is a satisfactory complement to the visual flair. It's just a shame that the actual interactive part of the game never goes beyond being adequate. When you're not punching or jumping, you're often faced with dull puzzles that have you guiding a dopish mushroom creature from place to place. The additional powers you unlock over time give you a wider range of interactions with this companion, and that leads to more varied and complex riddles. Still, none of the puzzles are too demanding, and you'll often find that the greater challenge comes from keeping the mushroom at your side rather than discovering the solution.
Despite its artistic aptitude, The Last Tinker lacks identity. The combat is remedial, the platforming is robotic, and the puzzles are little more than frustrating roadblocks that fail to mystify. The florid environments you'll jump through give Koru's journey a hint of personality, but the medley of tired, unpolished mechanics come together to form a forgettable, shapeless package.

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