Achievement junkies rejoice! Games on Demand for Windows Live has finally made its debut. In an attempt to oust Steam as the king of PC digital downloads, Games on Demand is offering a ton of new blockbuster hits, and one oddly free previously released (on Vista Ultimate editions of Windows) puzzle game: Tinker.
Tinker very much dons a minimalist approach, and has a visual style that is strikingly similar to one of your grandparents dusty old board games.
The object of the game is simple: move your robot through a series of obstacles to a spinning disc goal at the end. As you progress, the disc gets harder and harder to reach, and new mechanics, such as colored switches and elevators, are introduced. If I had to compare it to something, imagine The Incredible Machine mixed with Q*bert. If you’re curious as to how the game operates, feel free to check out the expansive online FAQ.
The premise makes the game seem relatively simple, but the huge catch is every form of movement like walking, grabbing, or even turning, takes one “battery charge”, forcing you to think out your actions before being too hasty. Casual puzzle-goers will be excited to know that Tinker includes a very robust and welcoming tutorial mode (solutions are even given), so nearly everyone will be able to learn the ropes. Hardcore puzzle-nuts will also love the later level sets, as they’re borderline impossible.
To the delight of console fans, Xbox 360 controller support is built into Tinker, which means you can simply plug in your 360 controller, and everything will take care of itself. Add that functionality to the fact that nearly any computer on the planet can run this game, and you have a recipe for mass appeal. Sadly, however, you can’t customize the controls, so I would highly recommend plugging in a controller if you do have one, due to the fact that turning with the arrow keys and rotating the map with “+” and “-” isn’t the most intuitive scheme ever.
In regards to turning, the “up” direction is always used to walk forward, but sometimes you’ll want to press “left” to move “left”, only to turn in the opposite direction. You will get used to the Robot’s movement controls over time, but an alternative control scheme wouldn’t have hurt. Additionally, even though Tinker’s gameplay is more than serviceable, it would have been nice if the board rotation mechanic wasn’t as delayed.
Tinker’s soundtrack is very reminiscent of Toy Story; it gives you a “Midway” twangy type feel. Thankfully, the game’s music doesn’t repeat itself constantly, and, if you fail, the track will change. In terms of sound effects, Tinker offers the stereotypical pushing and zapping noises, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but I do feel like they missed an opportunity for some “trademark” sounds that would help give the game more personality.
As previously mentioned, Tinker has its own set of 200 achievement points, in addition to eight sets of 20 levels each, which will take you around five hours to complete. In fact, inexperienced puzzle-goers will probably be hacking away at the later challenges for months at a time. Strangely, the Vista Ultimate Tinker Level Editor is missing from this version, which will cut down your replay value a bit.
Tinker came out of nowhere to surprise puzzle fans with an original and heartwarming graphical style; it’s also extremely challenging to boot. So what are you waiting for? You’re probably reading this with a Tinker-capable PC!
Simply put, Tinker's style is beautiful. The constantly changing paper cutout backdrops and colorful "board game" playfield all paint a very nostalgic, familiar picture of childhood.
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The game uses a "less is more" approach, and, essentially, just requires you to turn and move your robot. While it's a shame you can't change the controls to your liking, you'll get used to it.
You'll feel right in the middle of a carnival (in a good way), with the game's soundtrack, but the sound effects are forgettable.
For a free game, Tinker takes quite a while to master. While it will only eat up an evening to finish it, you'll be spending multiple evenings mastering your scores. Why the previously included level editor is missing is beyond me.
Tinker is a very simple to learn, yet difficult to master, puzzle game triumph. Given the fact that it's free, you really shouldn't pass this one up.