Sony has never been a stranger to having platformers hit its consoles. In a day and age where 3-D platformers are becoming less common than they should, there are occasions when weʼre treated with a fun little title that rekindles our interest in the genre. Developer Mimimi Productions brings PlayStation 4 owners a new platformer called The Last Tinker: City of Colors, but is it worthy of your PS4 library, or is it nothing more than a bleak entry in an unpopular genre?
The Last Tinker kicks off with an animated storyboard cinematic, describing the backstory of Colortown and Tinkerworld. Once a location where everyone could live in harmony, it has now been separated into three districts: Red, Blue, and Green. Each district was known for a particular attribute, but over time, their differences started to show, and chaos soon ensued.
You control Koru, the last remaining Tinker in existence. As such, he has special abilities that allow him to harness the power of the colours. Koru is typically tricked into getting involved in a scenario that actually sets up the events to Tinkerworldʼs demise, as the world falls into bleakness and all the colours begin to fade, freezing its inhabitants. Of course, itʼs up to Koru to once again unite all the colours and save the world from this bleak devastation. The story takes a bit of time to get into, but certainly picks up as you progress, becoming quite intriguing.
As far as gameplay goes, The Last Tinker offers a throwback to the PS2-era platformers, and is certainly refreshing to play in this day and age. Koru is a fairly nimble character, able to 'jump' onto tricky platforms and flawlessly traverse areas, all by simply holding down the R2 button, which also lets you sprint. Think of it like Assassinʼs Creedʼs parkour control scheme, at least in a sense. However, letʼs get this out now — thereʼs no jump button. Yes, you read that correctly — itʼs a platformer where you cannot jump. While the game tries something different by having you hold down the R2 button, it also feels like it strips away any challenge or fun that would reside in more traditional platforming.
You'll progress through the world’s individual levels, each of which connects to one another. Youʼll explore the Outer District, which is essentially a neutral safe haven between the three districts, and from there, youʼll enter the Red, Green, and Blue districts to try and fix the issues arising in each one. Each area is littered with NPCs that converse with you, whether directly or indirectly, about little tidbits regarding the story, and this exposure helps flesh out their thoughts on the crisis at hand.
The Last Tinker, like many platformers, does its best to bring variety to core gameplay mechanics. You wonʼt just be running around an area to complete simple tasks and move ahead; sometimes you will have a mushroom-like character called Biggs who can aid in your quest. Heʼs basically a large, dopey creature that needs to be whistled to in order for him to follow you. Hitting him with a certain coloured attack will have him trigger various moves that will open up the path for Koru. For example, you could hit Biggs with the power of red to have him stomp the ground, which can trigger switches, and sometimes, youʼll have to shrink Biggs into a miniature version of himself called Boomer.
As the name implies, Boomer is more volatile in nature and can trigger explosions to take down cracked walls. You can even pick him up and set him loose to run straight ahead and explode on contact. At times, you'll also grind on rails --akin to Ratchet & Clank — to reach certain areas, and thereʼs even a mini stealth sequence early in the game. Unfortunately, that's where the variety tends to stop, as there are only two boss battles in the entire game, and in all honesty, it could have done with a few more.
In terms of generic tasks, youʼll collect crystals in the environment that can be used to upgrade Koruʼs abilities. Whether itʼs his combat strength, extra moves, health, or the duration of special attacks, itʼs nice to see the developers give you the option to upgrade your hero. There are also hidden gold brushes littered around each level, which can be used to unlock concept art and cheat codes such as Mirrored World mode and God mode. If you miss any brushes, you can always use the level select to go back and clean up the ones that alluded you, and it even displays how many are in each level and how many youʼve acquired, making this activity feel thoughtfully accessible.
When it comes to combat, The Last Tinker is fairly simple to grasp. Youʼll start off by beating down foes with your fists by simply tapping the square button. You can pull off up to five hits in a combo, with the fifth hit dishing out significantly more damage. But as you progress, you'll unlock moves that change up the combat a bit. When you unlock Greenʼs ability, for example, you'll be able to instil fear into opponents, which makes them run away from you. Unlocking Blueʼs ability, meanwhile, lets you stun the foes and finish them off in a single attack.
You'll also fill up a gauge by collecting cyan orbs in the environment in order to unleash a special attack. The special attacks range from making Koru rage and dish out double damage, to slowing down time, to becoming invincible, all for a short period. You can even aim over-the-shoulder and fire projectiles to hit enemies or objects from a distance. During combat, you'll usually fend off multiple enemies at once, and youʼll notice that foes have an exclamation point hover above their heads to indicate that theyʼre about to attack you. There is a dodge button implemented to give you a chance to avoid taking damage, but unfortunately, it doesnʼt always feel very responsive and has a slight delay to it.
Visually, The Last Tinker has a unique style, showcasing a quasi-papercraft look to the world. Think of it a bit like LittleBigPlanet, but more cartoony. Character models are pretty decent, with some nice animations all around, while Colortown itself looks especially interesting. Our main gripe with the visuals, though, occurs thanks to the erratic framerate, which certainly affects the overall experience. When gaining control of Koru for the first 10-15 seconds, the game appears to run close to 60 frames per second, but as you turn around the first corner, the framerate drops like a tonne of bricks, and there isn't even anything too demanding occurring to cause this seemingly dramatic dip.
Sadly, this means that the framerate can be so incredibly inconsistent that the title can become a chore to play. Ironically, the framerate seems mostly steady during combat, but once more of the environment renders within the draw distance, the fluidity tends to disappear. Aesthetically, the release is charming and endearing to the eye, but thereʼs nothing here that shows off the PS4's power, so itʼs baffling that the game seems unable to run smoothly.
In terms of audio, The Last Tinker has a catchy soundtrack that certainly conveys a great tone for the overall setting. Sound effects are very appropriate as well, along with the cheery sounds that the characters make when speaking to each other. In particular, Biggsʼ voice will always have you chuckle when you hear him following or coming over to you.
Last Tinker: City of Colors is a solid platformer that fans of the genre will certainly enjoy, although the issues are hard to ignore. An incredibly erratic framerate, little replay value, and the lack of any real challenge throw a few wrenches in the gears, but overall, it's not a particularly bad game, even if you'll never look back once the adventure is over.