This article was first written for and posted on TheGameEffect.com.
Imagine a combination of Assassin’s Creed, Arkham Asylum, and Prince of Persia, with a story about racial differences and bullying. Now make it a kid’s game. On paper it sounds absurd, yet The Last Tinker: City of Colors is real. I played a brief portion of the opening game, running through the tutorials and seeing most of the starting stages. Without a doubt, I can say I am eagerly anticipating to try more of it because what I found was astoundingly good.
The Color of Life
Everything in the world feels handmade. Your little sidekick is a floating piñata who sounds like wrapping paper crunching and rubbing between your fingers as he floats on by. The various creatures are all like wooden and plush toys brought to life, like talking lizards and bunny turtles that hide in their shells while their eyes peek out from inside nervously. The paint on their skin is sometimes smeared hastily and other times is delicately detailed. Their speech bubbles during conversations will physically appear as cardboard cutouts that rotate to your view as you turn the camera and walk around. The entire world is charming and pleasant just to walk around in. It’s like all your childhood toys came to life before your very eyes.
Better still, The Last Tinker has more up its sleeve than just an eye-popping art palette. The story is about Koru, who is the last Tinker. Brought to life by creative forces, the entire society of Tinkerworld is built around creativity and invention. As the last Tinker, you have the power to control the colors Red (Anger), Blue (Sadness), and Green (Fear). It’s hard to discern their true role in society, whether they are godlike beings or just angelic creatives. The world being devoid of them has impacted everyone. Your mission is to save Tinkerworld from the all-devouring Bleakness and the social divides between the now tainted colors.
The different creatures from different colors all seem wary of each other, whilst the mixed color creatures seem far more at ease and helpful. There’s a clear tension when they intermingle and trade with one another in the city center. Their nature is not entirely of their own choice, but it’s clear that their have colors exclusively define their natures and borders. I’m curious to see where this topic goes in the final game as it’s a very daring thing for a children’s game to address racial divides and other mature topics.
Color Me Kung-Fu Crazy
On the gameplay side, it’s clear the designers were taking note of successful platforming action games. During my time with the game, I brawled in what felt like a strong mix of Remember Me and Arkham Asylum-style fighting and flung myself around the levels in a number of platforming sequences that took pages out of Assassin’s Creed and Ratchet & Clank. The combat flows nicely, although like Remember Me, you can get a disconnected from a combo a little too easily.
The game presents fighting as self-defense and the game talks briefly about bullying without being ham-handed about it. Not too long after, you find several characters from the Red quarter of the city making a nuisance of themselves. Attempting to attack non-hostile NPCs resulted in them being shaken, but you cannot harm them. Platforming holds your hand slightly in some scenarios with a very clearly controlled sense of where you can and cannot move. This is not to say platforming sections are unfailable nor easy; just that timing and planning are far more important than doing a backflip or wall jump perfectly.
Puzzle solving comes in the form of helping plant mushrooms, guiding a large sentient mushroom around levels while making his path clear. He can be shrunk down to the size of a rabbit or grow taller than anyone else, and has very good AI pathing from what I saw of him. The one problem is that you must spam the “whistle” button over and over to keep him following you. I understand this is to make it so he doesn’t wander where he shouldn’t, but a simple “start, stop” style of command instead of repetitious calling would be very welcome.
The Last Tinker takes one of the best parts of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the instant restart, and gives it to you as an ability so long as you have more than one health orb remaining. If you fail beyond that point, you return to a checkpoint, but there is no other life system present. You can try as many times as you wish, and the amount of health orbs available in the preview were plentiful. Another aspect that’ll make the experience scalable are the various difficulty settings. There is a specific child-only setting for the youngest gamers in the audience, and even a hardcore “Instant Death” mode for those wanting the greatest challenge.
Tons of little references and jokes are hidden around the game world.
One thing I did not see in action during my preview were the colors in action. Right as the game hinted to the greater plot developments and what to expect, the demo ended with the coy promise of more to come. Judging purely by what I played though, I can absolutely guarantee you should be hyped for this game. This is one of those great indie gems, just like Hotline Miami and Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers. I look forward to reviewing this title later this year.