The Last Tinker: City of Colors is Pure Action/Platforming Elegance [Preview]
My entire preview of Mimimi Productions’ The Last Tinker: City of Colors was spent in a single, long tutorial. You might be expecting me to rage on about that, but somehow, this game is extremely charming, fluid, and elegant even when it’s teaching you the ropes. It doesn’t hurt that it’s gorgeous, sounds great, and managed to make me develop an attachment to the characters within moments. When it ended, I physically slumped, wanting nothing more than to keep exploring this magical world, and its full release can’t come soon enough.
The game has an interesting story, one whose themes were driven home by the beautiful opening video that played when I started it up. I watched as the story was hand drawn out before me, pen strokes and sweeping colors flying across the screen. Visually, it looked great, but it also set up the game’s themes quite nicely, really doing a solid setup for a story about warring colors in a world completely constructed by creativity. The story should have been silly, maybe even borderline childish, but this opening, and the game that followed it, told it with a grace and skill that made it appealing to this adult.
If you loved the look of Viva Pinata, I think you’ll feel right at home once the game opens. The whole world is filled with splashes of color, with every creature and surface just doused in differing shades. The lizard creatures and other odd inhabitants of the city are all showered with varied hues as well, looking like someone went crazy with a paint brush. The patterns that have been colored all look like deliberate strokes more than just someone going crazy with paint, giving the game a unique, bright look that really makes it stand out. It’s well worth it just to take some time to look around, appreciating the vibrant, colorful city and the weird inhabitants inside it.
I did, and enjoyed watching the city bustle all around me. The game was just filled with NPCs, many of them saying stuff as I walked by. Now, Mimimi did what is probably the best way of communicating NPC dialogue that I’ve ever seen. Instead of having people everywhere that I could talk to by pressing a button, they had a dialogue box pop up over an NPC’s head when I walked by. As someone who’ been talking to NPCs for years, it’s amazing to be able to get information from an NPC just by walking near it. The same effect might have been accomplished by having the NPCs speak, but doing so would have resulted in a bunch of voices all talking at once and drowning each other out. This method helped the game communicate what the NPCs wanted to say without me even having to break my stride, and without filling the audio with jumbled junk.
Speaking of not breaking my stride, the tutorials were downright seamless and never interrupted gameplay. I was given a few hints on how to move and other basics, but they just showed up in the corner of the screen while I was playing. It felt like they were more communicated to me on the off chance I wanted to know, and then they disappeared without bugging me at all. The game’s combat was a bit more intricate, but this was worked into the plot in that I was teaching some people how to fight. This could have been annoying and insulting, but the game presented its new moves during the flow of combat rather than forcing me to stop. A lot of the games that have bugged me lately have made sure I got the move right before letting me move on, when normally I would just abandon any move I was having too much trouble with. This game offered me some explanations if I wanted them, then presented me with a situation to use them in if I wanted to try them out. That was it, and it was amazing.
Now, the tutorial was straightforward, but that’s because combat and movement have been streamlined. Combat only has a couple of attacking and dodging moves, surprisingly cribbed from the Batman: Arkham Asylum series of games. Enemies will show a little exclamation mark before they’re about to attack, and you can attack toward an enemy at distance just by pushing the stick in their direction and hitting the button. You’re not exactly breaking these guys’ arm or anything, but you do flip and hop around like a certain caped crusader as you fight. The game didn’t offer more than a few basic attacks at this point, and while that seemed like it should get dull, I was already dodging around groups of ten enemies before the preview was done. I don’t know if throwing large groups of enemies at me is enough that combat will always stay interesting, but I was just gaining a new power as the preview ended. I’m sure Mimimi Productions might have a few more tricks to add to my arsenal when the full release comes out.
That streamlined feeling was also featured in the platforming, although that might not be the best name for it. It’s closer to the kind of mountain-climbing and platform hopping you’d see in Tomb Raider or Uncharted. Now, your character will be hopping across tiny platforms, swinging from poles, and sliding down rope systems that stretch the entire length of the starting island, and the only thing the game asks you to do is to hold in the right trigger while you’re running to do so. That’s it. If you’re running to the edge of a platform and hold that button in, you’ll leap to whichever surface or platform is closest and move from there. It does seem to take all of the challenge out of much of the platforming, but you may want to take a look at some modern games before you start clucking your tongue at The Last Tinker.
How much looking around do you have to do to make a correct jump in games that feature platform climbing these days? For instance, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 wouldn’t even let you move unless you were pushing toward a viable platform, taking all challenge out of it but also making movement clunky and slow. In The Last Tinker, you fly across these kinds of areas with ease, making movement fun, for starters, and also keeping the game flowing with your character’s parkour expertise. It is very simple to move over every obstacle and object in the game since all you have to do is hold down a button, but the focus in these areas is more on the look of moving around. It’s incredible to see your character swinging from platform to platform before sliding down a few hundred feet of rope, then grabbing a pipe and throwing yourself to a mountain outcropping. It feels like the right way to set up the spectacle of a quick time event, showing you the awesome event while giving the player a more interactive role in it.
There were some sections where I was expected to have good timing while platforming (the platforms would fall out if I didn’t go the right way fast enough), but overall, neither it nor the combat were very hard on the normal difficulty. Even if you are getting challenged, there are checkpoints everywhere, too. That fact never bothered me once, though, because I was just enjoying being able to move around the great world that Mimimi Productions created here, where keeping the player moving and exploring were more of the focus. Combat and platforming exist to break the game up and keep it from getting stale, and they do a marvellous job of doing so, but the challenge of those elements isn’t the most important part. I never felt that the game was lacking because it wasn’t hard, so if neither of these aspects changes in any way, the game won’t be worse. I saw hints that both might be made more challenging in unique ways in the final build, but they don’t have to for this game to be good.
There’s more than just combat, too. In a section near the end, my job was to lead a character around by whistling so I could make him grow mushrooms on certain types of ground. It involved a mixture of platforming and clever movement, and the character I lead around was just so goofy looking that I had fun watching his face light up whenever I whistled. After that I got into a race with another character, one where choosing my route without making a single mistake was important to finishing with a decent time. Since the platforming is so simple, the devs could easily put some tight time limits on future races in the game, making a few missteps end in failure if they wanted to add challenge. I lost the race and the game continued, so I’m not sure if this will be the case going forward (I got a checkpoint afterwards and couldn’t go back, so I don’t know if I could have won).
The game really is about its look, though, and all things lead to that in some way. Movement isn’t about challenging players with hard platforming, but rather looking good while you’re in motion. The platforming was quite varied, taking me across mountains, streams, and rope systems that went for miles. It just looked good as I watched my character fly across these sections. When I was in a fight, the character was acrobatic, flipping around and hitting characters from my simple commands. Leading the other character around and racing were also built around exploring, taking me through a lighthearted walk through the countryside and then a high-speed chase through tight city streets. Through it all, you’re taking in the colorful world that the devs have built, watching it fly by or soaking it in on a quiet walk. This game is all about appearance and feel, and both of those things were great.
All of this wonderful stuff is accompanied by some really nice music. I mainly heard a single relaxed town theme being played on guitar that just helped keep the whole situation very mellow, creating the perfect backdrop for hopping across platforms in a peaceful, sun-drenched city. There were some other good songs that played, although the combat tune almost seems out of place with the rest of the game’s feel. It’s a hard rock song, feeling appropriate for combat or someone’s workout playlist, but it felt strange in this land. Then again, getting in a fight in such a peaceful place felt inappropriate too, so it does create an interesting sense of discordance with the game’s vibe. Maybe it’s supposed to feel out of place because of that, but overall, the soundtrack was really soothing and nice, and I look forward to hearing the rest of it.
Then again, other events seemed quite dark due to the game’s lighthearted nature. Someone gets hurt near the end of the preview, and I was genuinely shocked at how badly injured they were. I just wasn’t expecting any kind of serious injury in this place, and it made me take the whole idea of warring colors a bit more seriously. I was just so used to seeing everyone be happy and cheery that I wasn’t really expecting actual repercussions of violence in that world. Just like the one stray murder in The Sea Will Claim Everything, violence doesn’t feel like it belongs here, and its presence is hard to ignore or gloss over.
I want to make things right for these people in this world built by creativity. I’m intrigued by the power that spirits of colors were offering me at the end, and I want to fix this place’s problems. I want to spend more time taking it in, running through its wilds and soaking in all of the strange people and creatures in the world. I want to find out what’s making the colors rebel against each other while enjoying the fun, simple combat system. I just want more of this fun game, and I want to know where its story and characters eventually lead to. Through its elegance of control and its beautiful world, The Last Tinker: City of Colors was pure joy to play, and it can only get better once the full release finally hits.