That’s the first word that springs to mind after loading up the preview build of The Last Tinker by Mimimi Productions, set to be released this summer. Described as The Legend of Zelda meets Jak and Daxter, the game is a sprawling adventure which has you traversing a vibrant world, attempting to reunite various warring factions and bring hope back to the world again.
However, other games come to mind too – Tearaway, for instance; the world of The Last Tinker is one created with paint, cardboard and glue. While the papercraft aesthetic isn’t the dominant style in the preview demo, certain objects in the world certainly do look as though they’ve been cut out of cardboard and hastily colored in with crayons. The characters, meanwhile, look almost to have been constructed from fabric and clay.
Another game that springs to mind is de Blob, Blue Tongue’s criminally-overlooked color-em-up series. In The Last Tinker, everyone is aligned with a different color – some people are red, some are blue, and the city that they inhabit reflects that. Having descended into petty bickering, each faction has restricted itself to settling in a single district. The only place left unaffected by this multicolored politicking is in the outskirts of the city, where residents of all hues continue to co-exist relatively peacefully.
This is where you come in. Playing as Koru – who looks a bit like Journey to the West‘s Monkey – it’s your job to embark on an adventure and reunite the people. On your way, you’ll gain various abilities that will allow you to inflict various emotional states on your enemies – Red inspires aggression, Green inspires fear, and Blue inspires grief. While the preview build is brief and doesn’t show off much of the game’s combat, this manipulation of people’s emotional states may make for some interesting strategies.
What we did experience, however, shows plenty of promise: a simple combo system is in place, one that allows you to roll-dodge and chain together strings of attacks, bounding between groups of enemies; and there’s a pleasing sense of weight behind each attack. Thankfully, the camera performs an admirable job of keeping up with the action as we leaped from one foe to another.
Movement is fluid both in and out of combat; as Koru, the preview build has us bouncing around the game’s opening town with casual abandon. While there’s no jump button in the game, holding down the right trigger (using a gamepad) allows to you to hop across obstacles and clamber up vines in a light facsimile of Assassin’s Creed‘s free-running mechanic. The world here isn’t quite as open to you, however; you’re not able to climb any surface you choose, but some clever level design provides you with multiple routes through the environment as you work out how to reach your objective.
Early into the demo, we were introduced to another of The Last Tinker‘s mechanics. Paired with a giant, sentient yellow mushroom, we were tasked with asking him to follow us so that he could activate a number of pads around the landscape. Whistling to him provokes him into following you, but he isn’t as agile as Koru, so we needed to lower bridges and even shrink him to help him along his way.
Later, we took to grinding across a number of rails that litter the world. While first appearances suggest that these trips could be entirely linear, you’re later given the ability to jump over obstacles – a possible hint that the finished game could have you zipping between numerous different rails and allowing you to gain access to hidden areas.
We’ve already mentioned that the game is gorgeous – just look at the screenshots accompanying this article for further evidence of that – but we haven’t yet mentioned the game’s audio. Like Link from The Legend of Zelda, Koru and other characters are mute. Dialog is relayed entirely via text in cardboard speech bubbles above their head, and their only utterance tends to be the occasional grunt, gasp, or chuckle. It’s not bad, but full voice acting would be nice if the developer is able to find the budget to accommodate it.
The music is pleasantly chirpy, with an Eastern flavor coming from extensive use of a sitar. It’s an interesting choice but it soon becomes a little repetitive; hopefully the final game contains more variation in its soundtrack.
We came away from our time with The Last Tinker thoroughly impressed. With production values outstripping many big-name releases and visuals rich in color (in contrast to a medium familiar with drab grays and browns), it’s hard to believe that the game is being created by just a small indie team whose work so far has been restricted to a handful of mobile games. There’s a huge amount of imagination on show in what we’ve experienced, and everything suggests that it will be an accomplished and enjoyable title.
No firm release date has been set for the title, but a window of Summer 2014 has been announced, with the game releasing for Windows PC, Linux and Mac. Intriguingly, a console version is also cited, though specifics have yet to be revealed.
This certainly isn’t the last we hope to see of The Last Tinker. We’re looking forward to putting the finished game through its paces later this year.