The PlayStation 4 is an impressive feat of engineering. It’s outclassed by higher-end gaming PCs, sure, but it’s still a powerful piece of tech that can do some pretty cool things. This is a big part of why I was so confused when The Last Tinker: City of Color started experiencing painful framerate dips within the first minute or so of giving me control.
It’s not like the game doesn’t look good – it totally does! Ape-like hero Koru, his sidekick Top and the other characters they interact with have the cartoonish charm you’d expect from this sort of platformer. The papercraft-styled environments are as lovely as those in the PS Vita hit Tearaway. The problem is that while everything is gorgeous, it’s not gorgeous in a way you’d expect would tax the PS4 as it does, so in motion the game feels tacky and unfinished. Naturally, this is practically the player’s first experience with the The Last Tinker, so it leaves a bad taste that persists throughout.
Anyway, The Last Tinker is an action/adventure platformer where Koru needs to gather the Color Spirits of Tinkerworld to battle the color-destroying Bleakness and reunite the City of Color. This plays out pretty much exactly as you’d expect; Koru runs, jumps and punches his way to victory for the majority of the game. You gain access to some color-related powers like a stun and a fear-inducing strike that mix things up a little bit, but The Last Tinker never does much to shake up the tried-and-true formula.
“Tried-and-true” really does sum up most of what you get with The Last Tinker. Combat feels like a neutered version of the Batman Arkham games, with the player being able to dodge and punch (and very little else) in any direction to deal with foes surrounding them. There’s plenty of collection to do as well, but few items are hidden to any significant degree so this is also a letdown. The main innovation it offers actually feels like a bit of a step back. See, this is a platformer without a jump button. Instead, you’ve got Assassin’s Creed-style sprinting and automatic jumping. Jumping puzzles, in turn, rely on properly timing your leaps instead of judging distance or angles. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does make the game feel even more like a linear path with the odd tiny branch to grab a collectible.
There are also segments where Koru needs to lead a giant mushroom man around in order to solve puzzles. These offer the most interesting part of the game…yet still manage to feel like a chore because the mushroom is dumb as hell. Later puzzles involve charging him with various colors and changing his size to address obstacles, but it never feels like much more than busywork. At around seven hours, The Last Tinker can be completed in an afternoon if you really get a hankering to do so, but you still probably won’t.
I know it sounds like I’m down on The Last Tinker: City of Color, but it’s worth mentioning that kids might enjoy the game because of how colorful and friendly it is; they seem to be the target audience here, after all. The graphics really are very nice when they aren’t slowing to a crawl and the art and sound direction are top notch. Still, I can’t see most gamers outside of that demographic caring for it. The absurd framerate issues and repetitive been-there-done-that gameplay won’t do much to endear players looking for something more. Skip this and try one of the Lego games if you’re after a platforming romp.