The Last Tinker: City of Colors

UPDATE: When I played the Last Tinker, after completing the two tutorial tasks, I didn’t have enough money to advance the plot of the game and had to grind money for thirty minutes. It turns out, I had triggered a rare glitch that led to me not having enough money to proceed. The guys at Loot Entertainment and developer Mimimi Productions finally were able to replicate what I had unwittingly done. I have an uncanny knack for finding the worst glitches in games. Because the slow pace of the game was unquestionably my biggest gripe with the Last Tinker, and the pace I played was dictated by the extremely slow start (caused by a glitch), the Last Tinker has jumped over 100 spots on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

As a kid, Banjo-Kazooie represented a defining moment in my life. While the original PlayStation (and Crash Bandicoot specifically) was the first game that I wanted, Banjo was my first gaming obsession. I received it on July 11, 1998, and I could not put it down. I bring this up because I think there’s a strong possibility I would have had the same reaction to The Last Tinker: City of Colors if I had been a nine-year-old when it released. It’s a family friendly adventure that parents can safely let their children play without warping their minds. Then again, my parents banned me from playing most M rated games, and I think I might be a certifiable psychopath if the way I treat my Sims is any indication. Plus I use the word “fuck” so much that my dog thought that was her name for the longest time.

Actually, the comparisons to Banjo probably aren’t good ones. In terms of gameplay, Tinker reminded me a lot more of another Rare title: Star Fox Adventures. All jumping is done automatically, combat is button mashy, you rely on semi-controllable AI helpers to solve puzzles, and the pacing is so slow it can be measured by the cycles of the moon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least if you’re a young’in without the accumulated experience of dozens of games that do what Tinker does, only they did it better. UPDATE: the rest of this paragraph is not accurate, as I had triggered a glitch in the game that caused these pacing issues. However, I fully expect the speed of progression to test the patience of anyone older than, say, twelve. The opening bits of the story and tutorial can take hours to get through. It simply shouldn’t take so fucking long to get into the meat of the game. And the way it feels artificially padded only serves to frustrate more. Initially, your goal is to raise money to enter a race. Players are led to believe that completing two “learn the mechanics” tasks will earn them enough money to enter. It doesn’t. Not even close. Instead, you have to walk around smashing crates and jars. I actually had smashed every crate up to this point and it still took me an extra thirty minutes of walking back and forth, smashing the same crates over and over again until I had enough money. It’s completely unnecessary busy-work and it’s incredibly boring. What were they thinking?

Update: The two tasks described above should be enough money to enter the race.  I had triggered a rare glitch that caused me to not get the money for completing one of the tasks. They are correcting the glitch. It’s almost impossible to accidentally recreate it. Ain’t I lucky?

I swear, this is NOT what it looks like.

I swear, this is NOT what it looks like.

I wasn’t sure if Tinker would recover from the disastrous opening. The only shinning spot early on was where it really did manipulate my emotion by having your best buddy, a mouthy little critter that looks like it was lifted from Viva Pinata, get punched in the nose. The game transitions to night, where you watch it lay in bed, having an unhappy dream and quivering. Then a little ghost color spirit thing talks about how your buddy isn’t doing so well. Then they show it quivering while it sleeps again. Hold on, there’s something wrong with my eyes. They appear to have some kind of leak. Wait, am I crying over this? Just a few minutes ago I was pissed that the game was dragging its ass like a dog with worms, and now I’m genuinely saddened by this little paper mache goat thing getting a little smack in the nose? Hell, I spent the last hour punching every friendly NPC way harder than that, just for the lulz. Now, I’m shedding actual tears.

Well played, Last Tinker.

And really, from this point forward, the pace does pick up. Not that it gets off to a great start. The first real stage takes place in a fortress where you have to sneak past guards, in a scene that feels as if it was lifted directly from the opening stage of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In fact, it’s so close to that game that it feels awkward. Forced stealth sections are the kidney stones of gaming, in that it feels good once you pass them, but only because enduring them is pure agony. Thankfully, that’s the last section where the tedium outranks the enjoyment. While nothing after this will surprise you or leave you thinking you’ve played something truly inspired, Tinker is an overall very decent game.

It’s also worth noting that the graphics are striking. When I played The Last Tinker on Indie Gamer Chick TV, a lot of people commented on how damn colorful the game is. Perhaps it’s because we’re used to indies being painted so bleakly that they’re responsible for a 20% increase in cutting among gamers, but seriously, The Last Tinker really stands out. It’s been a while since a game has come along that’s so cheerful that you can’t help but notice it. Yet, this is exactly the kind of game that Rare would have put out during their Nintendo 64 heyday. The story (a thinly-disguised tale about racial tolerance), characters, and setting all would feel at home on Nick Jr. or PBS, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I can’t pretend I’m The Last Tinker’s target audience, but I liked it enough for what it was. It does a LOT wrong. The pacing is horrible, the controls merely adequate, the combat is repetitive, the enemies can be too damn spongy, and it’s even a bit unstable. They had to include a respawn option in the pause menu because it’s possible to get yourself stuck in some sections of the game, like in the screenshot below.

I have no idea how I got here, but I'm stuck. For what it's worth, this is the only time I need to use the respawn option.

I have no idea how I got here, but I’m stuck. For what it’s worth, this was the only time I needed to use the respawn option.

I don’t know if The Last Tinker’s mistakes completely off-balance what it does right. I can only speak for my own experience. And I liked it. It didn’t make me revert to a giggling, happy-go-lucky child like Super Mario Galaxy did, but it never really had the potential to. And again, this game wasn’t made for cynical gaming veterans. I suspected The Last Tinker would be an excellent “ease into gaming” title for younger children. But, I wanted to know for sure, so I secured some copies to hand out to parents with children aged 5 to 12.

My hunch was correct. Reader John Berger‘s kids (a ten-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter) enjoyed it. I included the full text of his mini-review below the trailer, but here’s the paragraph that mattered the most.

“As I type this, my son has beaten the game and is going back through it to get all of the upgrades and do everything to get all of the PlayStation trophies. And even though my daughter was with us and hasn’t played it (we let my son play it while we watched and helped), she wants to play it on her own.  Each time I asked them what they thought of the game up to that point, her response was an enthusiastic, “I LOVE IT!”

Fellow-critic Brad Gallaway wasn’t as forgiving towards the gameplay as I was, but his five-year-old son also loved it.

“The action is simple and straightforward enough for him to grasp, and the basic tasks weren’t a deterrent to him at all. While my eyes were glazing over with boredom, he’s so new to gaming that he has no idea how rote and uninspired the game can feel at times. And really, that’s just fine because it’s clear to me that Tinker was not aimed at the experienced gamer, and I’m quite happy to have age-appropriate software available for the young ones.”
It's also a great way to expose children to the horrible way adults endlessly run pop-culture references into the ground.

It’s also a great way to expose children to the horrible ways adults endlessly run pop-culture references into the ground.

I don’t base my reviews on how anyone else feels about a game, and I’m not starting here. The Last Tinker: City of Colors has more problems than a math quiz. For me at least, it was never better than decent. However, it was consistently decent enough to earn my Seal of Approval. But, if you have young kids? This is probably the type of game that you would have played as a kid. The type of game that can lead to your children being confirmed gamers for life, and I can think of no more powerful a statement to make about a game aimed at that age group. Use the Last Tinker to hook ’em while they’re young. Hey, it works for the tobacco industry!
$14.99 ($19.99 without a PlayStation Plus subscription) lost count of how many times I accidentally typed “The Last THINKER” in the making of this review.
The Last Thinker Tinker is Chick approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.
Here’s John’s full review.
Just for reference, my son is 10 and my younger daughter is 8. All three of us were playing/watching at the same time.
In short, the blending of the game styles of “Ratchet & Clank”, “Banjo Kazooie”, and even “Okami” — with the color brilliance of all three notched up quite a bit — made it a fun game to watch. (I let my kids play it while I sat with them.)
For the most part I let them try to figure out how to progress, although there were a few times where I basically had to order them where to go. (“No, dad, that’s not where we have to go!” “Yes, it is, so do it!” “Oh, you were right.”) A few of the solutions weren’t very obvious, even to me, to where I had to find a “let’s play” video to find out how to progress.
But otherwise, my kids love it.  As I type this, my son has beaten the game and is going back through it to get all of the upgrades and do everything to get all of the PlayStation trophies. And even though my daughter was with us and hasn’t played it (we let my son play it while we watched and helped), she wants to play it on her own.  Each time I asked them what they thought of the game up to that point, her response was an enthusiastic, “I LOVE IT!”
Just to try to get some balance, I asked if there was anything about the game that they didn’t like, and I told them that I need them to be honest about that. Neither of them had anything bad to say about it. So, it was definitely a hit with the kids.
I do kind of agree with you that it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for adults. But considering that it’s along the same gameplay lines as “Ratchet & Clank” and “Banjo Kazooie”, I think this is good enough for adults who just want to wind down and play something that’s not too demanding. After all, you could argue that the LEGO games aren’t really geared towards adults either, but I’ve bought every single one of them.

Kairi on E3 2012: Sony Edition

Tell me I’m the first one to say “J.K. Rowling cast the Avada Kedavra Killing Curse on Sony’s E3 press conference.”  I’m sure I’m not, but I just thought of it all on my own, and that counts!  Actually, it really is kind of funny how Sony can have such a well done press conference, but you have one little brain fart like a ten minute session of J.K. Rowling sitting oblivious to the fact that we would have rather seen J.K. Simmons and suddenly everything is less than hunky dory.  By time the conference was over, nobody was talking about all the fucking awesome videos of games.  They were making Harry Potter jokes.  Smooth, Sony.

I thought it was a good conference.  Besides WonderBook, they hit all the right notes.  No 3D bullshit (maybe the billion dollar bath they just took on 3D televisions had something to do with that), not a whole lot of Move, minimal talk about non-gaming applications, and a whole lot of major titles with actual game footage.  Not all of them interested me, and I’m sure not all of them interested you.  But there really was something for everybody here. Especially if you’re eight-years-old or stupid, because that’s all WonderBook can appeal to.

Either he’s playing WonderBook or he got into the medicine cabinet.

WonderBook was bad.  Like “why are they showing a tech demo for the PlayStation 2 Eye Toy like it’s 2003?” bad.  Just to point out how off base Sony is, they spend ten minutes pimping the game like it’s a child’s toy, complete with footage of elementary school kids hoping like hell Sony wasn’t lying about giving them free games for taking part in this ad.  And then what other game besides Book of Spells did they talk about, albeit very briefly?  A game called Digg’s Nightcrawler that has a Film Noir theme to it.  Way to nail down that target demographic, Sony!  Why, not a day goes by where a six-year-old doesn’t ask me if I’m a fan of the Maltese Falcon.

Otherwise, the conference was swell.  God of War is targeting other creatures of myth, which I assume means the Last Guardian will be one of the bosses in it.  Sure, it pretty much is the same old shit that we’ve had shoveled at us since 2005, but hey, God of War!  Look, Kratos killed some dudes by dismembering them!  Haven’t seen that before!  Actually, Kratos does have a new gift: he can rewind time to create platforms to hop on.  So you guys are grifting from Lego Star Wars now?  If  you had to do that, you should have just made this Lego God of War.  At least that would have been funny.

The highlight of the show was The Last of Us.  Like everything else shown at E3, the game’s pitch boils down to “It’s Uncharted, but..”  Resident Evil 6 was Uncharted, but with zombies.  Tomb Raider was Uncharted, but with boobies.  In this case, it’s Uncharted, but set in post-apocalyptic America.  It actually looked decent though.  Ironically, it had more stealth stuff in its footage than stealth-series Splinter Cell’s trailer did.  Of course, there were still moments of mind-numbing stupidity of design.  After all, we can’t venture too far away from Uncharted.  The scene that sunk the trailer for me involved a shoot out where people were using couches as cover.  Couches.  Things made of foam, cotton, and tiny little springs.  I kept thinking “shoot the fucking couch!”  Maybe the dude thought he would accidentally shoot the tag off and get arrested.

At least it looked like a game I wanted to play.  I can’t say the same thing about Beyond: Two Souls by Quantic Dream.  I thought their previous effort, Heavy Rain, was a boring piece of shit.  I think most people probably feel the same way as me about it, but won’t admit it because then they become “anti-video games as art” people.  I feel no shame when I say that I want to be a gamer, not an art connoisseur.  I also don’t feel I should have to volunteer to be bored for hours while waiting for the quote “good stuff.”  Yet, that’s what the argument for Heavy Rain is.  It starts slow, but a few hours in it gets better, so just wait for it.  Why should I?  Unless the good stuff will undoubtedly be the greatest thing EVER, wouldn’t that time spent being bored be better spent not being bored?  I know, crazy talk.

“Quick, before you die, where are the fire extinguishers again?”

Hold on though, they got Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page.  Great!  And then they showed it off by cutting to a cinematic where her character didn’t speak a word for five minutes.  When you actually got to hear her, she wasn’t really any better than 90% of all game voice overs.  Which is to say she totally phones in every line of dialog.  Money well spent, Sony.  Next time, do what Capcom does and just hire Sally from accounting to do the acting.

And no, I have nothing to say about the Vita.  I’m just like Sony!

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