The Colour of Magic
I’ve been following Mimimi Production‘s new puzzle platformer, The Last Tinker, since originally stumbling across a video for what was then called “Tink” on YouTube. Its bold visuals and quirky character design were a real eye-catcher, plus I’ve always been a sucker for a 3D platformer. It was a real treat then, when I was given the opportunity to play a preview build of the game this week.
The first thing that strikes you about TLT, is those visuals. Its world is constructed out of cardboard and paper, in a style that’s not a million miles away from Tearaway on the Vita, which is certainly no bad thing. The inhabitants and some of the larger buildings though, are built from clay, which lends a wonderful solidity to them. It’s artwork that will appeal greatly to kids (my son was glued to the screen) but also any adult who has childhood memories of building cardboard models and creatures in plasticine. All the inhabitants of Colortown, the game’s central hub, are charmingly animated and you get the sense the Mimimi are channelling the early spirit of Naughty Dog with a dab of Tim Schafer thrown in for good measure. Special mention has to go to the main character, Koru, who is a massive improvement on the protagonist shown in the original Tink demo. The star of the show though, is Colortown itself. Its name could not be more apt with Koru’s home utterly resplendent in its bold primary colours, gentle pastel hues and soft lighting. If it were possible to climb inside a rainbow I’m confident it would look like this game!
So far, so nice to look at then, but what’s it like to play? Well the demo we were given serves up a mixture of platforming, combat and puzzle solving along with a taste for some of the AI based puzzles that we’ll find in the full release. The platforming really took me by surprise though as TLT sidesteps the traditional “press A to jump” mechanics in favour of the Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia model of free-running. By holding the right trigger, Koru will leap nimbly from one platform to the next, climb vines or scramble up ledges. It’s a well implemented system at present but there were a few occasions where I found it unclear where I could jump to so hopefully this will be tidied up for the game’s release. That criticism aside, the level design is otherwise top notch with some well-placed “rainbow pads” that launch Koru across vast distances in order to avoid having you back-track, one of my pet hates. Sonic fans will also be pleased to see the levels have been furnished with excellent grind-rails that see you zip along in roller-coaster fashion to your next destination. It’s all a lot of fun and I’m eager to see more of this in the final game.
Combat is a little on the basic side unfortunately if the demo’s introduction to fights between Koru’s and the local bully are anything to go by. It feels a lot like a pared-back version of the fighting system from Arkham Asylum/City but without the counters. I’m hoping the fighting turns out to be deeper when you get further into the game but what we played so far won’t pose too much of a challenge to younger players at least.
Thankfully we find TLT quickly back on form again though as it introduces one of its puzzle elements. Koru is tasked with guiding a gigantic mushroom character around some of the local farmer’s fields in order to sprout new mushroom patches. The AI here seems to be up to a really good standard with our huge friend following our calls and never getting stuck. When he accidentally destroys a bridge that clearly wasn’t designed to carry his hulking frame, it only takes a quick trip to some nearby mushroom patches to summon him back to a safer location. We’re only given a quick glimpse of what sort of challenges might be in store for the full game but they seem very promising.
It’s that word, “promising” that best sums up everything about my brief time with The Last Tinker. Yes there are a few concerns over the potentially throwaway combat and whether the free-running platform style can maintain interest for the full 8 hours of playtime promised in the full game. But Mimimi have created a world that I’m already desperate to explore further and I can only wonder at what other magical ideas are hidden away in that colourful playground of theirs.