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Video Game Review

The Last Guardian

By: Ganja Gameboys

You woke up in a dark cave, covered in mysterious tattoos. Looking around, you can make out the shape of a giant wounded creature. It’s part dog, part bird. Your companion, Trico, is an extraordinary feat of animation, AI and creature design, and an astonishing companion for the next 12 hours of adventure.

The Last Guardian is a co-operative third-person puzzle platformer. You and Trico must work together to escape the dark and climb the vast, crumbling structures of the city. The city’s pale towers are linked by half-shattered bridges and haunted suits of armour guard the city’s huge torchlit atriums. The whole area is bathed in a beautiful white sunlight. As with all of Fumito Ueda’s games, The Last Guardian has the quality of an ancient fable, albeit one with a lot of switch puzzles.

Most of the puzzles rely on the size differential between the boy and Trico. You climb through small gaps to pull switches, and Trico can reach high areas and swat at any soldiers that might chase you. You can grab onto Trico’s feathers and crawl on him, which is a useful way to reach high ledges. Sometimes you leave the beast behind for a short time to jump, climb and shimmy your way to a switch that opens a gate and lets the monster through. The puzzles are simple and exist largely to facilitate the relationship between boy and beast. Trico is happy to follow you around, but soon he learns to interpret gestures you make by holding R1 and indicating directions and actions. You might point at a collapsed wall high above and press R1-triangle to mimic jumping, for example, and Trico will look up and judge for himself whether he can make the leap.

This is a collaborative process. Trico possesses a degree of independence and animal instinct that allows him to act free from your commands. He will sniff and paw at objects that prove to be useful, and in some areas it’s best to simply hold onto his back as he vaults magnificently between distant platforms. This is not a story of a human and his pet. It’s a symbiotic partnership that invites you to respect the monster and to earn its respect in return.

The Playstation 4 can barely handle the vastness of The Last Guardian at some points. When outdoors the framerate frequently drops, and in some sections absolutely tanks trying to render vast amounts of crumbling architecture. With the controls already being clunky and imprecise, this makes them feel terribly sluggish in these sections. The boy you control is an unwieldy avatar, bumbling in a charming sort of way, but irritating in perilous jumping sections. If the game wanted me to make sudden reactive movements or engage in combat the controls and framerate dips would be a functional problem rather than, as it is, an aesthetic one.

The Last Guardian is a fulfilling and emotional adventure, and while framerate problems do subtract
from the otherworldy experience, there is nothing else like Trico in games. I wish I could wake up in that cave again to experience the journey fresh. Treasure those first moments, they are the start of a beautiful friendship.