The concept of a combination of Link to the Past, Minecraft, Secret of Mana and Terraria sounds like a match made in heaven to many gamers, including myself! Headup Games certainly seems to agree and as such have created Tinkertown, an ambitious game that tries to tie together all of these concepts. However with the game now out on Early Access does the game match up to expectations? Time to find out!
The story of this game is very similar to Minecraft in that… there isn’t one. You create a randomly generated island and are spawned in the middle with the simple goal of making your way up the tech tree, building up your home base and adventuring to the furthest parts of the island. Very similarly to most recent exploring and crafting games you essentially make up your own story and focus upon building up your abode which is a system that you will either like or hate depending on how sick of the genre you are at this point. It’s a shame that no real narrative or lore is built up to at least give you an understanding as to the world you are in but perhaps that is something that will be added in future content updates, after all Minecraft never had a semblance of a world until later patches.
The presentation is probably the best aspect of this game as it looks absolutely gorgeous with it’s pixel-style retro aesthetic and nicely framed perspective which really reminded me of A Link to the Past. Everything is nicely detailed, sprites are colourful and easily recognisable and all the terrain you encounter is distinct and different enough between biomes. The lighting and slightly blurred effect also reminds me of the equally gorgeous Octopath Traveller in that they both remind me of a virtual diorama of sorts helping to make the game’s aesthetic more unique. The music too is nice and cheerful and while it does only have a few music tracks (so be prepared to hear the same song over and over and have it get stuck in your head) it’s still nice enough and fits the situations of their inclusion appropriately. I also like the UI as it clearly labels things and helps immensely in the building mode as it makes it far easier to build structures in this game than in most other crafting survival games. I will say however that there is a bit of a lack of animation from both the player character and enemies which is a shame as it might help to make them more distinct but regardless this is certainly a very pretty experience that had me smiling at the screen when I saw the lovely castle I created.
Gameplay is your standard fair of exploring, gaining resources, crafting items with those materials and venturing out to more difficult areas with the better gear you craft. The game also boasts the fact that it wants to aim for a more RPG type of character progression as you can choose from several character classes and abilities solely dependent on what gear you have equipped. While you always start off hitting things with sticks you eventually can progress to sneaking with daggers or even using magic. Sadly unfortunately during my Early Access period these systems did not seem to be fully integrated yet as while you can indeed craft and equip these unique sets they don’t seem to really do anything aside from offering different stats. The biggest letdown for me was the lack of a magic system in the game as even the banner for the game proudly shows this to be a thing. Luckily after talking with the developers they have confirmed that this system will be added down the line and just the basis of the system has been added right now but it’s still a shame. Unlike other similar games the world is also a set limit due to it being an island and as such once you have explored the boundaries that’s essentially all you can see. I even tried to build a massive bridge out to the world border but that ended up causing some issues so I quickly returned back to land. This means that essentially once you have reached the highest equipment tier and seen all the land on the island you are left to essentially just build whatever you want in order to keep yourself occupied. While this is indeed fine as Minecraft thrived off it’s creative community I feel as though the gameplay here needs to emphasise the exploring more in order to make itself distinct from other games in the same genre. Tinkertown does also support multiplayer which was a smooth experience for myself once things were initially set up and I really feel as though the building aspects when playing with others might be the strongest gameplay draws at the current moment.
This all brings me to my main criticism of the game at the current moment which is that it really does feel like an Early Access title. The game is very clearly just been released at it’s base amount of content and I am certain that the game will develop and gain all the extra features and systems that the developers talked about but for a current purchase you have to be aware that you are buying a fairly simple and short experience and that it will mainly be developed over time in order to make it a much better and longer game. I also am not a fan of the combat system as most weapons feel fairly similar and the enemies barely register as a threat due to simply being a case of hitting and backing away when they turn red for an attack leaving no real way to plan a strategy or feel in danger at all. This also compounds with the fact that most enemies fight in the exact same way with just a couple exceptions which is a real shame for enemy variety and as such I just chose to run past enemies after a certain point as you don’t gain experience from fighting them and the loot the dropped ended up not mattering to me once I reached the highest tier of materials.
Ultimately Tinkertown feels like it has good potential. The aesthetics are gorgeous and the gameplay systems most definitely are there and the way the game controls makes the building system feel like one of the best of it’s kind however at the current moment that’s pretty much all there is to the game. If you want to jump on early and help this game down the journey to being a truly incredible experience then you certainly can buy it now and try it out as it’s fairly cheap however do keep in mind that this game will most likely last you around 5-6 hours of normal content before you essentially just use it as a fantasy building simulator. However there very much is something special here so I wish the developers the best of luck in making Tinkertown the best experience that it can be and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for it down the line.