by Jonathan Fortin
reviewed on PC
Tinker Tailor Color Spy
The Last Tinker: City of Colors follows the grand tradition of such whimsical, cartoonish action-adventures as Banjo Kazooie and Jak & Daxter. It's actually quite refreshing to see a game like this in today's market; the most recent game I could compare it to would be 2005's Psychonauts, a comparison which is very much a compliment.
The game takes place in Colortown, a vibrant world of paint and paper. Though the inhabitants of Colortown once mixed their colors together, they have recently begun to segregate themselves into three different sectors: the violent and angry Reds; the paranoid and fearful Greens; and the depressed Blues. A few citizens continue to mix colors, but they remain a severe minority.
Players step into the paws of Koru, an acrobatic ape who discovers he is a Tinker—someone who can harness powers from each color's spirit. When all of Colortown is endangered by a color-sapping force known as the Bleakness, it's up to Koru to bring the different colors together, for only then will they have a chance of survival.
The racism metaphor is a little heavy-handed, but fortunately none of the colors are meant to represent real-world races. Had the greens been indicated to be Asians, for example, the whole story would have fallen apart. Instead, The Last Tinker takes a more interesting approach: each color represents a different emotion, with its own potential strengths and weaknesses. It's as though the colors are philosophies of life, and the tension arises because Colortown's inhabitants each believe that their philosophy is best.
True to the game's Banjo Kazooie inspiration, characters never speak aloud; their dialogue pops up in text bubbles while they mumble adorably blurred speech-like sounds. Like Link before him, Koru never even speaks through text, and is instead spoken for by Tap, a floating blue sheep-thing who resembles a squeaky toy in many respects—including, unfortunately, the voice. Tap is, however, quite useful: if you hit “T,” Tap will fly in the direction you need to go, making sure you never get lost.
A Diverse Palette
Sometimes a game is like a bottle of orange juice: you've gotta shake it up to keep the taste fresh. The Last Tinker understands this. It has a wonderfully wide variety of gameplay elements, including combat, platforming, puzzle solving, item collecting, rail-riding, and more. Just when you're sure you've seen everything the game has to offer, it will give you something new, or put a new twist on what you've seen before. The last third in particular has some surprising scenarios, including a quest to solve a mystery, and a musical minigame. It's as though the game knows that by this time you're used to its usual bag of tricks, so it wants to surprise you with unexpected situations.
The one exception to this is a miniboss who appears many times over the course of the game, and always does the same thing: he spawns enemies for you to fight, then when you've killed them all, he sticks out his big ball-tongue so you can hit it. Then he'll spawn more enemies, and you'll kill them, and then he'll stick his tongue out again. Wash, rinse, repeat until he dies. Fortunately, the game always gives you new kinds of enemies to fight, which helps keep even these encounters unique.
The free-flowing combat has Koru locking onto various enemies and hopping from one to the other. It's simple at first, but later on you unlock more powers, such as the ability to make enemies run away in fear, or be immobilized in depression. This may be the only game where, with a single punch, you can make enemies so depressed and demoralized that they'll take moments to find the strength to fight you. It's a unique brand of badass.
Hilariously, you can even run around punching friendly NPCs with these emotions, causing them to yell in anger, or bite their nails in fear, or cry. It's particularly funny to punch the green bunny-turtles with Red (anger), because then they scold you in high-pitched squirrel-like voice.
Beautiful graphics and music, diverse gameplay, prevailing sense of humor
Doesn't save frequently enough; awkward PC controls; repetitive miniboss battles