I notice that The Last Tinker: City of Colors is often compared to Banjo-Kazooie and said to be a platformer. I don't think this is an accurate comparison. This isn't to say that The Last Tinker is bad. Only that other games bear a better comparison. I think that a better comparison is to a game like Beyond Good and Evil, or perhaps 3d Zelda titles. I hope the reason for this comparison will become clear through the review.
First of all the platforming in The Last Tinker is context based and not free. You cannot actually jump at will in this game. You run at edges and leap to the next designated spot. The challenge is not based on jumping onto difficult platforms, but on timing your leaps between platforms. The platforming is more a puzzle than a test of dexterity. The platforms can be considered more a mode of transport than the main challenge.
What you do spend a lot of you time doing is fighting. The combat is basically puzzle based. You have a couple of unique strikes, which are useful against certain enemies. You often have to choose which enemy to defeat first, and use your skills to keep the other enemies off you. The combat feels a little strange. You can approach the same battle in slightly different ways, with one time earning your death and the next trouncing everyone quickly. I believe this may be the result of the puzzle emphasis on combat. If you abuse your somewhat very powerful abilities you will win. If you go in as a traditional brawler and don’t abuse your abilities, you won’t do well at all. What I mean is that the combat is not nuanced. You solve the combat, you don’t win through strength or dexterity. This would make it similar to the platforming in that the challenge is solving the situation. Enacting your solution is usually quite easy.
The checkpoint system is generous, and unlimited. So any frustrations that may be felt are reduced to very minimal levels.
Puzzles are the fundamental challenge of the game. This is experienced through both the above mentioned combat and platforming, and also normal puzzles you would normally encounter during an adventure game. Challenges are usually not highly dexterity based. You quite often interact with other characters to solve puzzles. The puzzles are quite varied. While no puzzle is particularly difficult, each puzzle meshes very well with the universe. In a sense, you learn about the world through solving puzzles.
The overall story is very important to the structure of The Last Tinker. Every level feels like it advances the plot, and feels like a natural extension of the previous events. The exploration is linear. There is no hub and there are no levels that branch off. There is a continuous story. The levels are chapters in a story. This means that the gameplay always feels wedded to the world you are exploring. I never felt like anything I was doing was game logic or ‘just because’ you needed something to be in the way.
You spend a lot of the game surrounded by other inhabitants, and this goes a long way towards making the world feel believable. You interact with, if not every inhabitant of the world, what feels like enough inhabitants to understand and care about the world. And the main character feels like his contribution to the world is defined by a heroism of spirit, and not of being the strongest person around. The other characters you interact with achieve a balance of being very defined, and in a sense extreme, but also being human and relatable.
The story is very well told. It has a fairy tale quality, which means that while the story is not complicated, it does demonstrate something fundamental about humanity.
I highly recommend this game to people interested in an adventure built on a fairy tale style story and immersion in a fantasy world. If you are looking for a intricate gameplay based game then it is better to look elsewhere.