These strange phrases will make sense when you play this game, and you should get used to hearing them a lot during your time with it, often accompanied with frustration. I guess this isn’t the best way to start a review for what is an amazing game, but nothing is perfect and that definitely also applies to The Last Guardian.
It’s hard to believe that I’m writing about a game that should have been out for the PS3, has been delayed numerous times, and at one point was even almost canceled. But here we are, in 2017, finally playing the 3rd installment from Team Ico, following Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005). You control an unnamed young boy who, in the beginning, wakes up in an unknown place with strange tattoo-like marks all over his body, next to a giant half-bird-half-mammal creature named Trico, who he later befriends.
Designed and directed by Fumito Ueda, the visuals have a vibrant anime feel and the character/level design is beautiful. I can’t imagine the game looking so good had it been on PS3 as originally planned, so I’m happy to see it on PS4, even at the expense of a 10 year delay! Aside from the visuals, the story, while simple enough, is super engaging and you get sucked into the mystery of who the boy is, why he’s there and where he’s going. Along with that there is a narrator that appears at key points during the game. He speaks only in Japanese while English subtitles appear, but this narrator helps to give the game a real story feel, he also appears as if to hint at what you should do next, if you’ve been stood still for a while or not made the required progress.
The sound, especially through external speakers, is beautiful. From the roaring of Trico to the shouts and commands of the young boy, the audio truly helps to immerse you in this adventure. It’s mostly a quiet game, while you navigate areas, solve puzzles and platform around, so when you experience a more action filled moment it’s audibly more noticeable.
Let’s talk about Trico, the half cat or half dog, half dragon, or whatever you see him as. Provided you become invested in the game, you will get extremely attached to Trico, as if he were a beloved pet. You just cannot be angry at him, no matter how many times he doesn’t do what you want (which is a lot). Very early on in the game, you begin to command Trico and this is where most of the flaws lay. He’s extremely random in what he should do/wants to do/will do. At the start it isn’t too bad, because all you can do is call him and when you do, he usually follows you. Later on however, you can issue more advanced commands that aren’t really explained well in game, but essentially you can make him leap to a new area, jump on the spot, walk in a direction you chose, and sit down/dive. It isn’t seamless when you put it into practice and you find yourself just mashing buttons, WISHING for him to do anything at all.
There was one area that brings on a migraine just to recall it. You’re supposed to command him to dive deep under water to pass through a tunnel while you grab onto him. It should be as simple as pressing a button and letting him respond. It took my wife and I half an hour of button pressing before he did what he was supposed to. After a quick Internet search, I found out that most people had this issue, especially in that area. I rarely rage quit a game, but we very nearly ended up with a PS4 controller shaped hole in our TV that day.
On a similar note, the controls can be a little clunky, or sticky, and the camera can also cause issues, especially on life or death jumps. You kind of get used to it the more you play but it always remains, it also doesn’t help that the jump button is triangle, rather than X. That never feels right!
Overall though, you get used to the controls somehow. And Trico’s stupidity, as frustrating as it can be, is always forgiven because he is just that adorable. If you are a fan of platforming, puzzles, or adventure games in any way, you can’t go wrong with this one. The game lasts a decent amount of time and does offer some degree of replayability thanks to collectibles and trophies. Hopefully in a future patch, the small issues can be solved, but despite those faults, this is one of the must own titles for the PS4.