SHORT REVIEW: PS4 VERSION (No, not the ps4 pro)
Much like the game, this review has been fermented and released at exactly the right time. No, it’s not late!
ICO was interesting wasn’t it. A whole game of dragging a useless princess around…. I’m not sure we could make that game now. In this new age, the horned-boy would have to worry about what he’s grabbing. Blimey, was that really a game from 2001… Bloody hell everyone.
Shadow of the Colossus arrived in 2005 and has received enough praise it’s now on the cusp of becoming self aware. No, really. It’s dangerous to mention it more then once.
In the years of technical advancements since that game, how does the generation-dodging spiritual successor fare?
Yes, you heard right. The Last Guardian is beautiful broken.
I love the main characters run! What distinctive animation, it practically drips in character. It’s also a tad janky, with all the hallmarks of an early 2000s control scheme. In many ways this perfectly encapsulates the game. Those accustomed to slick experiences will quickly grow impatient. But you learn to cope and this becomes less of an issue. Don’t worry, it’s all for a good cause, as we get to befriend the giant beast (formally) known as Trico. I renamed him Bob.
The relationship between boy and beast starts with a position of mutual mistrust. Which isn’t a great start as the creature wilfully ignores you. Again, this could test your patience and I worry a fair few people will fall by the wayside before things really get interesting. This is a coherent journey, but demands player investment. The worst kind of investment, you lazy sods.
I have sat in awe of the mighty beast, the mannerisms, the design. The illusion. I could only imagine the nightmare of trying to twist this concept in a playable game. Relics of the nightmare persist as we witness obvious AI fumbles. Watching your companion lock into a series of jumps in the wrong direction threatens to break the spell. Thankfully the missteps are minimal and for the most part, Trico is every bit your monster buddy cop.
The game stutters and coughs, heavy with the weight of an overreaching design. The game engine shows signs of a disjointed development period of .. what… 9 years? Thankfully the architecture and puzzles more than makes up for this. Trico himself is a fine payoff for engine difficulties and dropped frames.
In the age of perma-generated seeded content The Last Guardian feels wonderfully handcrafted.
Despite this homemade feel the camera goes on its own wild adventures. Climbing Trico can become troublesome as the camera has the potential to drunkenly swing around. Sometimes it decides to zoom in on unmentionable animal zones, or strangely locks-in to strange angles, that utterly ruins the view when Trico walks through tight areas. As the game is mostly a sedate series of figuring out where to go and how to get there, this never truly ruins what you’re trying to achieve. Not even the light jumpy, jumpy sections. But this is an unwelcome distraction.
To compliment the thrills how many games employ that sweepingly epic orchestral score? You know the one, all strings and drums. How easy it is to ignore in most games? How quickly it fades from your memory? No so here. The Last Guardian uses restraint masterfully. Not every occasion requires that epic music, but when it hits… It really hits. The games pacing is near perfect.
Even with the above issues my time with the game had not been ruined. I’ve been happy to sit back and watch Trico for a spell. It’s almost like watching a living painting, even with frame rate hiccups. Yes, I’ve mentioned him a lot throughout this review, but it’s impossible to get away from. Trico is the game. With the authenticity of the creature and the expertly designed trials, it never feels like a tedious escort mission. In fact, you feel indebted to one another in a way that few games ever achieve.
This is completely different from what anyone else is doing, so, it might not be for you. Even so, it is to be applauded. I wish more big-budget games would push this hard into the unknown. The Last Guardian doesn’t have you hanging off mighty creatures with murderous intent, as it connects in a different way. One in which you may grow to care about a giant cat-thing. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.
A game in which the vision is the dominant force, for better or worse. In time you’ll forget the technical problems, to be left with the breathtaking memories of one boy and his monster. Looking forward to those remasters.