Never have I before been so frustrated writing a review. I don’t think I have played a game this year with so much promise to be a game of the year but has then fallen so far flat on its own face, it almost brought me to tears. But I digress...
Announced back in 2007, ‘The Last Guardian’ is the long awaited and hyped adventure plaformerish style game from Japan Studio the creators of the ever popular ‘Shadows of Colossus’. The story begins with a nameless boy waking up in some also unknown ruins with the mythical, hybrid type creature ‘Trico’. Bound in chains and impaled with spears, he is not a happy chap towards our young protagonist. Once the child has fed him with glowing barrels and nursed his wounds back to health, a relationship is formed that you just know is going to be the main driving force and draw card in this game. Trico needs the little boy as his wings are broken, and there is no way the little boy can traverse his way out with Trico’s help to higher places. In a very ‘Tomb Raider’ style you both must solve puzzles, climb, crawl and jump in the environment to further your progression to safety and freedom. The enemies (other than the world itself) are ill-omened samurai and are rare to come across, but impossible to beat unless Trico is by your side. This is an interesting element that really outlines the vulnerability of the little boy. The amount each character relies on each other, the bond they form is what keeps you engaged in this little world.
By far, Trico is the star. Such a well-developed, organic character, he moves like a cat, and is as playful as a dog. His movements are sleek and fluid and he feels as if he is your own to take care of and protect. His mannerism also reflects that of a creature in real life, as you will often find when you look back he is purring in the distance, rolling around in pools of water or simply scratching behind his ears with his hind legs, a spray of feathers floating in the air around him. I haven’t been this invested in a character since BT in Titanfall 2 (which wasn’t that long ago but investing in a character is rare). Like a real creature, he had a mind of his own, and this lead to one of the utmost flaws of the game.
The control mechanics of The Last Guardian are one of the worst, dated systems I have experienced in a while. The little boy was fumbly and tedious especially when climbing Trico’s feathers, but Trico was most the time just... diabolical. As I said earlier Trico tends to travel to the beat of his own drum, doing what he pleases, so when you eventually do get some sort of control system, commanding Trico is an absolute nightmare. The directional system is broken, with often pointing at a direction and commanding will literally have Trico walk back and forward or even away from you huffing and puffing as he goes. You cannot believe the frustration of knowing how to solve a puzzle but taking 15 damn minutes trying to get Trico to cooperate since you can’t get up without him to solve it. It just ruins the experience. This beautiful world has been created yet I (not even joking) threw my controller across the room, expletively yelling at the creature to do what I ask. Like a click of the fingers, just like that destroying the attachment I had for the characters developed during the rare times the game did what you wanted it to do. The moments it does work, you almost wish you really were the boy holding on to handfuls of Trico’s feathers on his neck as he makes huge leaps from one area to higher ground.
The camera controls are no better. Yes, you are given control of the camera, but you shouldn’t have to be constantly adjusting it nearly every action you do. Once is a tight spot, the camera frequently places you inside Trico, completely turning black or filling the screen with feathers. The camera has a habit of rubber banding away and disorientating the direction you were in.
Now visually, that is quite a debate. I love the aesthetic the artists and studio have created. It is clean and simple. Some would say it is dull and bland. I love the fact it almost looks true to the Japanese style and is reminiscent of a water painting. The colours tend to leak into each other, with pops of colour when something of importance is on screen. Some would say that is outdated and by 2016 the graphics should be crisp. Personally, I think the artwork is very true to the style of story the narrator is telling and any upgrade would devalue the tale.
The most disappointing part? That despite the awful camera angles and ghastly control mechanics, there is a beautiful story and a potentially very enjoyable experience buried deep inside. Some moments feel so intimate, it is just a pity so many are ruined in a split second. Trico is one character who will always be memorable. However in a time where we are spoilt for choice, it is going to be hard to tell if The Last Guardian is a success with the mixed efforts it showcases, because this fairy-tale of a boy and his creature is a story I would love to have even on my bookshelf to stand the test of time.
My final thought: I would already love to see this remastered... is that sad?