The Last Guardian is a game that’s been a long time coming. Fumito Ueda’s follow-up to his classic PlayStation 2 games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus has been in development since 2007. It’s taken so long to finish that many thought the game would never see the light of day.
In The Last Guardian, Players take on the role of a boy who wakes up in a dank dungeon after being kidnapped. He finds himself covered in strange markings and in the presence of a huge griffin-like creature.
In helping the injured creature, and feeding it glowing barrels of food, a friendship is formed between the two of them. Together the boy and Trico must work together to survive in the strange land that they both find themselves in. What follows is a journey though huge ancient-looking abandoned stone structures that will require both the boy’s short stature and the help of the huge creature and his limited flying ability to traverse.
The creature, Trico, looks like a cross between a cat and some sort of bird. He is masterfully animated, the creature’s feathers moving about with amazing realism.It’s the quality of Trico’s characterisation that makes me wonder if The Last Guardian just demanded too much power from the PS3, with the game waiting for the technology to catch up. Even so, whilst I reviewed the game without faults on the PS4 Pro, owners of vanilla PS4’s are reporting some low framerates at times.
The Last Guardian is, at its core a puzzle game, one where your huge companion can boost you up to out-of-reach areas and fly short distances with his tiny wings. Solving the puzzles requires Trico’s help. Whilst you can call him and get him to do stuff, your feathered friend is, very much, his own man.
Whilst it’s amazing to watch the Trico sniffing around and interacting with the environment without prompting, it is bloody annoying when, despite your best endeavours, he just won’t do what he is supposed to do.The only direct control that you do have over the creature is a destructive beam that the beast fires from his tail (!?!). By shining the refection from the shield that he finds early on in the game on a target, Trico fires his tail beam. This is great for unblocking passages and clearing debris.
The game’s visual style is minimalist, but inspired. Taking a very similar approach to Ueda’s Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian certainly looks very unique compared to your usual gaming fayre. My no means photo-real, the excellent lighting and uncluttered environments give the game beautiful visuals that are a pleasure to look at.
The Last Guardian offers an original, kind of enjoyable, fantastic-looking, but ultimately rather bland experience. The clumsy controls and errant camera proving themselves to be a challenge in themselves and far harder that the game’s puzzles themselves. The Trico characterisation and animation is the star of the show and it is amazing, but, once you get over that, you are not left with much.
This is a game that would have blown our minds a decade ago, but unfortunately has lost a lot of its shine during the extended development cycle. I wanted to like The Last Guardian, and I do up to a point. I like the game’s originality, I like the unique visuals, I love Trico’s animations, but I found myself needing more. It felt like I was playing a remaster of an old PS2 game. And that’s a shame, as in spite of everything, The Last Guardian is a unique experience and the likes of which we seldom see that often these days.
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Released: December 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Genre: Adventure, Action
Developer: SIE Japan, Team Ico, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Gen Design