—it’s a colourful life—
The Last Tinker: City of Colours is one of those rare little gems that leaves you swimming in complete adoration and wonder, but most importantly, it’s a game that leaves you with a message. Reminiscent of old-school classics such as Banjo-Kazooie and Jak & Daxter, The Last Tinker’s deep and metaphorical storytelling and vibrant visuals make it an absolute joy to experience. You play as Koru, a funny little multi-coloured monkey who lives in the Outer District of Colortown with his buddy Tap. All the main districts have become divided by a terrible schism, and it’s your job to save them. However, you unwittingly assist an innocent-looking Purple Spirit to do just the opposite.The Purple Spirit calls upon The Bleakness-a white ghost-like spirit that completely strips Colortown of all its colour, which is also its source of life. Now the only hope left lies on the shoulders of Koru and Tap, who must cross the land in search of an answer.
One of the first things you will notice about this game is its use of colour. The levels and characters look like walking rainbows, so when you play in chapters from Dreamworld where everything is drab and lifeless, you really notice the difference. The second thing you might notice is the oddly lovable characters that you’ll meet on your journey-Biggs, the giant yellow mushroom that lumbers around sadly when you don’t look at him, Master Mi-a tiny rabbit philosopher who speaks in riddles, and the pessimistic General Bluebeard, who is almost defeated by a sluice-just to name a few. And the third thing you would probably be extremely pleased to see if you’re a Banjo fan like me, is the equivalent of ‘jiggies’ that you collect in each area-the floaty brushes. Aside from completing various tasks within each area, you must also scour each level (and sometimes in the most unlikely places) to find these golden beauties, which can be exchanged for a bunch of pretty nice cheats.
Controlling Koru is fairly intuitive, and the onboarding is extremely effective since it is always just in time. Catapulting yourself across a rainbow jump pad is undoubtedly one of the coolest things I have ever seen, but the cargo rail which feels very much like skating on a roller-coaster comes a close second. Another really memorable feature is Koru’s fighting abilities. Although you originally start off with just the basic punch, throughout the course of the game you upgrade to hard punch, and an uppercut that can defeat enemies in a single blow. But arguably the most impressive move is the time-freeze ability, in which you can not only knock out enemies while they remain motionless, but cross through geysers and lakes with sinking pathways.
Your resident bad guys are known as ‘bleakies’, ferocious little snow people that are generated by a bleak spawner. Variety in enemy design is always a good thing, but that still doesn’t make the shooters or the monster bleaky, who is decorated with shiny crystals, any easier to beat. What it does make it is enjoyable, and having a satisfying battle system is a really crucial part of any game, lest it becomes repetitive and uninteresting. Even the final boss, The Bleak Spirit, is the perfect balance of frustrating and pleasant, so your victory really does feel like you’ve saved Colortown from its demise.
PUZZLES & TASKS
The tasks you complete on your quest to saving Colortown are often unusual yet lovely-the simple act of activating mushroom beds, repairing a broken sluice, high fiving the sun, and retrieving lost sheets of music in order to make a giant blue flower sing. Some stages will require you to think outside the box, such as the Great Windmill where you have to discover a way to navigate some pipes in order to cross to the other side of the room. Other stages will be comparatively simple, such as infiltrating the Green District. And just a few, such as when you get to ride on turtleback as a musical beat plays in the background, are some of the most beautiful and creative things you’ll witness in a game. Having said all that, what will most likely always stay with you even after you finish The Last Tinker is its ending. It is extraordinary to witness the colours that were once divided based on difference become reunited in the face of adversity, and this is the part that I think also resonates deeply within our own world.
Organising each chapter by sections was good in terms of clarity, but I felt that one of the drawbacks was the save system, which meant some tasks had to be repeated several times. On the other hand, this feature was also useful as it allowed you to relive parts of the game as if you were playing them the first time, which isn’t possible in many other games.
Diverse and elegant. Each district had its own distinct personality, and even the battle music creates the perfect sense of tension when you are ambushed by some bleakies. Personally, Blue District-which seems to plunge you into a state of melancholy as if you’re dining alone under the moonlight in an old Parisian café-was the best of the lot.
- Conceptually brilliant story
- Unique characterisation
- Ingenious puzzles and tasks
- Haunting melodies
- Save system means repetition of certain sections
- Literally getting stuck in certain areas
- Inability to skip cutscenes
The Last Tinker: City of Colors makes a powerful statement with its original level design, its beautiful music, hilarious and unforgettable characters, and its final message to the player. Although the era of plot-driven action adventure games seems to have been in its peak during the heydays of Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation, The Last Tinker has most certainly raised the bar. After all, the world would be a pretty dull place without colour.
For a taste of the rainbow, you can purchase The Last Tinker: City of Colors on Steam for $19.99 (I recommend pitching in the extra $2 for the soundtrack version).