PAX Online: Tinkertown
At some point we have all tried out one of the adorable life/farming sim games like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, Story of Seasons, or so many countless others. We are drawn to titles like these for the idea of time management on a day/night cycle, exploring a new world, and honestly the simplified versions of tasks that would be just too difficult to enjoy in real life. This in part is why Minecraft is so successful, as the limits are only your creativity, and we thrive on the chance to build something of our own within a game world. This year at PAX I had the pleasure of checking out Tinkertown from publisher Headup and I quickly found myself entranced in the game loop these sort of experiences intend to catch you on; just one more step, one more ingredient, one more item.
Tinkertown – much like the other titles previously mentioned – doesn’t rely on a sprawling, overarching narrative of character development and epic tales of glory. No, the goal of Tinkertown is summed up in a single word: Survive. Presented in an absolutely beautiful 16 bit-style graphic, you are plopped down into a randomly generated world with literally nothing – not even clothes – and asked to survive. With no instruction to be had, it became a matter of trial and error, yet the controls and commands were very intuitive and mostly easy to follow. Mostly.
Friends who Craft Together, Laugh Together
You’ll start out with only your bare hands to hit shrubs for food, sticks, and leaves, as well as striking rocks for stones. Gather enough of these and you have an axe to chop down trees and open paths. With enough wood you can build bridges across water or even make a home to keep you safe. These discoveries continue to snowball without any fuss. Build an anvil? You can make metal tools now. Made a furnace? Raw ore can be turned into bricks. Soon enough I was carving out my own little slice of the island and I actually felt really, really good about it. The game hands you nothing but it isn’t difficult to grasp. What did bother me was the few questions I had with no reference to look up.
I placed a bed which functions as a respawn point, but I couldn’t seem to turn it; can it only be placed one way? I crafted a copper pickaxe making my old one useless; can I throw it away? Disassemble it? Let it rot in my inventory? I ended up tossing it into a storage chest I made but I would much rather have a way to get rid of it. Maybe I just hadn’t found it yet? That is incredibly possible given the length of customization options and menus you can go through. Want to tackle some goblins or go into a dungeon? Get enough steel and you can get a full suit of armor. Just want to make a nice garden near your home? Craft a shovel and some work clothes and have at it. I really found myself falling into that trance of “I’ll just do that one more thing” and I’m not even mad. It did an excellent job of making me feel proud of my accomplishments and figuring out the next step.
Where Tinkertown particularly excels and will undoubtedly be its most popular function is the multiplayer. You can begin a multiplayer game with other players and work together to craft your little town and continue to spread out. Build homes, roads, decorations, bridges, you name it. It almost becomes the perfect little social getaway as you and a few friends can create a life in this wholesome little getaway. Someone struggling to clear a dungeon? Go work together to clear it out. Is one person just obsessed with building a gorgeous garden? Go help scavenge supplies. The trailer alone does a fantastic job of showing some of the creative possibilities with this game, and at least for me, this is a great example of a game that lets you cool down and get lost after a long day without getting frustrated.
Tinkertown is charming, adorable, and unassuming, with a wholesome feel and absolute buckets of fun to be had. The crafting is simple and easy to learn and encourages you to go exploring so you can get that shiny new helmet or build an amazing little town with your friends. The music is relaxing and the gameplay is easy to pick up even for casual gamers. I can’t recommend this game enough and I hope it launches sooner rather than later.
Tinkertown is set for release in Fall 2020 and will be available exclusively on PC. For more information check out the game’s official website, and for all things PAX Online be sure to keep it locked on COGconnected.