The Last Tinker: City of Colors Review – Bright and Colorful, with a Heavy Message
The Last Tinker: City of Colors, a new game by Mimimi Productions and Unity Games, is a very colorful adventure platformer with unique mechanics and navigation. You play as Koru, a kid who lives in a shack on the outskirts of town. Koru, as it’s discovered very early, is the helpful sort, fixing things for people, building things for others, and along with his flying sidekick Tap (a green and yellow goat), Koru ends up being the only one left in his world who can save everyone from the Bleakness (which saps color and strength from inhabitants). This is accomplished through platforming, combat, and puzzles.
Photosensitivity warning: This game is VERY bright, and even the color-blind mode may not help if you get headaches from bright colors.
There is an underlying message about segregation in this game, and the way it’s presented is both child-like and over-bearing. There is a line where a message is so fervently stated, so frequently, that the original point is lost in the noise, and unfortunately, Tinker crosses that line fairly quickly. I won’t disagree that, even today, it’s good to remember that equality and working together are very important. There are, however, stereotypes applied that may make people uncomfortable, as well as name-calling that may be sensitive for some players.
Koru’s power, as you discover, is the use of colors to evoke certain emotions in other characters. Red enrages (which you can use to blast through obstacles), green frightens, and blue causes mourning. The characters in each of these districts exhibit those qualities inherently; Koru is rewarded with these abilities after visiting each district and saving their respective color spirits. The colors must be utilized quickly and appropriately to advance, but thankfully there are enough prompts that it’s very little trouble to acclimate to this type of combat.
Through exploration in the story, you pick up crystals and health pellets through the smashing of crates, find paintbrushes in out-of-the-way areas (collecting paintbrushes seems to be more of an achievement than a requirement), and discover different ways of getting around in the districts. The game is very clear about where you’re supposed to go, and if you’re ever lost or confused, you can press a button and Tap will leave a trail of confetti in the direction you’re supposed to travel. The game saves whenever you enter a new area, which is fine for long-session players, but if you have to leave the game before you reach one of these save points, you have to repeat up to 15 minutes of gameplay you may have already completed. This can be frustrating.
Koru also picks up allies along the way, including the other color spirits (the spirit that causes the Bleakness, Purple, initially seems to be an ally, but then tricks Koru into allowing him to control the Color Tower, thus triggering the main storyline), a mushroom-like creature that you can use to blow up obstacles (using the red power), and different villagers that teach Koru skills, such as fighting techniques. Utilizing these allies is one of the more challenging parts of the game, partially due to the way the game is ported for the Xbox controller.
I don’t play many games with the keyboard, because I grew up gaming on consoles, so keyboard acclimation is still difficult. Having said that, there are standard configurations for controls that people are accustomed to, and this game’s controls are so different that it makes for a large adjustment and some confusion at first. One example is that there is no button for jumping – Koru auto-jumps when you hold down the right trigger on your gamepad (which is also the key for auto-run). The purpose of the bumpers changes depending on the circumstances. The only really consistent controls are those for looking around and moving – right and left analog sticks, respectively. Again, this isn’t necessarily a failing, it’s merely a situation where long-session players may have an advantage over casual players.
As mentioned previously, the graphics in this game are very bright, the colors are pure and vibrant, and the texture designs are fun and clearly-defined. Aside from the risk of headache for those with photosensitivity, I don’t see any other issues with the graphics, and didn’t encounter any problems with distinguishing between objects or locations. The colors on the characters, while mostly primary, are still different enough that each character has their own personality made by both their attitude and their color scheme – it’s a neat way to help differentiate between different members of a group, should the need arise.
The sound design of The Last Tinker is very well done. There is no actual dialogue (there are grunts, squeaks, and other noises meant to mimic speech, but words always appear on-screen), but the noises aren’t overdone. The music gives cues according to situations, but isn’t overbearing or distracting. When I was stuck in a puzzle maze early in the game (I was stuck due to a gamma issue on my PC, not due to the game’s design), I was able to focus on what I was doing. Considering that the main reason I quit some games is because of their sounds being irritating, this made me very happy.
My overall impression of this game is positive – for kids, it’s a fun adventure with a message that if you work together and stop the needless hate, things are more likely to work out. I have no quarrel with the message, but older players may get annoyed at the barrage of advice about something they should have already learned. “Preaching to the choir” comes to mind. If you’re able to get past the nearly-constant string of dialogue boxes in some areas of the game, The Last Tinker really is a wonderful adventure. This game looks to be a boon for speedrunners, as there are definite paths and tasks, making the replay value more apparent, especially for the price.