It’s a little sad that I begin most of my platformer reviews by stating what a shame it is that the genre has all but disappeared from modern console line-ups, with only Ratchet & Clank doing their best to keep it alive. But with Insomniac aligning their studio closer to Xbox nowadays, it may be a while before the duo return. Let’s not talk about Knack either.
So, when browsing this week’s releases I was pleasantly surprised to see a new IP amongst the PSN releases and a quick trailer search later revealed it to be a new platformer. One download later and I’m in the world of The Last Tinker: City of Colors.
But, where’s the jump button? I just hold R2 to run and I’ll just ‘platform’ automatically? What!? So much for rekindling the platformer genre. To be fair, I should have known this game was aimed at a very young audience thanks to the mega-bright hyper-coloured visuals. We’ve nothing against games aimed at the younger kids though here at Dealspwn, as anything that eases new gamers in should be applauded, which is certainly the best way to look at this action-sort-of-platformer.
You play as Koru, a young monkey-boy who is tasked with saving the titular City of Colors from the Bleakness, a malevolent force that has washed other the land robbing it of all colour (back to the proper spelling now) and trapping anyone caught in its white flow. The land is split up into multiple districts for the red, blue and green creatures who had all closed their gates to outsiders- creatures of other colour. Of course there’s a sense of allegory to the game’s racial tensions and it’s a neat way to get younger players thinking of how ridiculous the concept of treating others differently because of their colour or where they’re from is. The only issue though is that this theme just bookends the story and can be easily missed if you don’t finish the game.
All dialogue is portrayed via speech bubbles too as everyone talks in a maddening gibberish language of growls or squeaks. The visuals themselves are particularly garish for the most part and even the frame-rate can make you feel a little queasy if you spin the camera too quickly. At least the dream land sequences strip back the visuals a little, giving your eyes a reprieve. There’s nothing about the game that justifies a PS4 release over a last-gen version either, except maybe the publishers can charge a bit more.
Back to the action though and that lack of a jump button. When holding R2, Koru will run and automatically hop onto any ledge, platform, rocky outcrop or stepping stone in a pleasingly fluid set of animations. Some stages also feature audio chimes for each platform, providing a little tune to go with a series, which is a neat design touch.
A series of Ratchet-style grind rails DO actually require timed jumps though to hop over obstacles or make carefully-timed switches to a different rail. Once you get used to the slightly delayed response times they can be fun diversions to all the hand-holding.
Puzzle elements involve leading mushroom characters to areas to help you blow up path-blocking boulders or charge through frozen webbing. The concepts are sound enough, but these sections can be longwinded as you’re forced to spend ages pressing the ‘follow’ button every few seconds to make the brain-dead helpers keep up. That said, the little bomber mushroom’s happy-happy face is just adorable.
Koru is a handy fighter too and has a series of punches, charges and ground pound strikes to dish out against Bleakness baddies. The game has an awfully slow start, but once you start gaining favour with the elemental spirits and adding them to the mix, the melee brawls get much more interesting. You start with fire moves, but later the green spirit gives your punches the ability to make enemies flee. Later on, a blue one stuns enemies allowing you to get around them and attack from behind. With each element assigned to individual face buttons, you’re able to manage large groups of enemies with a satisfying degree of variety. Each element can also be thrown in ball form to reach distant targets. These elements unlock other abilities too, but with the game clocking in around five hours (for a seasoned gamer adult at least) I’ll not spoil them.
More annoying than the game’s brevity is the haphazard auto-save system that despite claiming to have saved your position is all too keen to shunt you back up to twenty minutes when you next turn on the game, effectively forcing me to finish it in two sessions to avoid the risk of a not particularly adult-like tantrum. Also, parents looking to pick this up for their child be warned, you may be drafted in to help on the final boss that’s considerably more difficult than anything else in the game.
- Automated platforming is great for gaming newbs
- Combat feels satisfying throughout
- £11.59 seems reasonable. Just.
- Could have been released on PS3
- It’s pretty damn ugly
- The autosave is a douche
The Short Version: The Last Tinker is more for the younger gamers out there thanks to the simplified control scheme and almost obscenely bright and garish visual design. The automated platforming is supported by a robust combat system that allows for some quickfire tactical depth when choosing which powers to use on larger groups of enemies; although by the time you have them all the game is pretty much over.
Reviewed on PS4.