The Last Guardian
From its opening notes, it’s tough to discern exactly what the designers’ intentions were. However, the game is clearly about teamwork and forming bonds. Its unique approach of interacting with a very independent beast is compelling in the extreme. Beyond that, it seems a slow and contemplative puzzle-platformer. Under that lens, The Last Guardian is far from unique – even from the creators who made it. While the ideas at play here are interesting and engaging, it’s admittedly a little thin on the ground. Its minimalism sometimes undermines it, while also being a credit to its approach. Essentially i’m in two minds, but the implementation of Trico, your wild companion, is too good to ignore.
It’s sad to have to give it such a low rating in this area. The actual mechanics of controlling your character are certain to be a let-down; a real shame for anyone who anticipated The Last Guardian‘s release. There are flashes of true brilliance, but it all too often relies on established tropes. Most of this brilliance centres around Trico, and the ways he helps you traverse the environment. The format beyond that is both stale and uncomfortably realised. Almost everything else in it is boilerplate by now. Even then, it’s quite woefully curated. Operating the camera simply shouldn’t be this big of an issue in 2016, for example. Everything feels awkward and somehow lumpy – far messier and more alienating than a £50 game should be. Trico slots beautifully into the puzzles, it’s just that everything surrounding that is painfully baggy.
The way this game looks is one of the strangest things about it. It’s, at times, quite staggeringly beautiful. Some of the incredible views, detailed interiors and Trico himself are all consistently impressive. Conversely, there are some really odd things about its aesthetic that constantly threaten to break immersion. Be it the low-res textures, or your character’s weird glow, there’s always something going on that doesn’t quite fit in. It, at times, feels more like a PlayStation 3 release. That said, Trico is an amazing sight. His movements are realistic and fluid, bolstering a design that’s already gorgeous. It’s clear where the effort has gone in The Last Guardian, bringing an obvious and jarring imbalance in its wake.
Unfortunately, nothing of this game’s sound design particularly stands out. That is, except for – you guessed it – Trico. All of the audio in The Last Guardian does its job pretty well, but never in a way that leaves an impression. Music, for example, should be an important aspect of the medium. While the music here is pleasant and appropriate enough, it’s all too standard for you to remember it even a second after it’s finished. Trico yet again pushes things into a higher rating by the sheer quality of his characterisation. His growls, mewls and howls are fantastically evocative. They’re able to carefully convey your virtual friend’s feelings and simply sound great. If other areas of sound design could match this, we’d be far closer to approaching the game this should have been.
I hate to do it, but at this early stage of the game it only really merits a six. Stodgy gameplay and apparently lazy design have left The Last Guardian a shell of its potential. It’s not awful under any scrutiny, but too average for its price-tag. Trico shows that the people behind this game are talented, as he’s one of the most interesting inventions in the entirety of the medium. It’s as if they spent all their time perfecting him while ignoring everything else. Bonding with him, and adventuring by his side, makes The Last Guardian well worthy of a play. There’s just no denying that the experience will be marred with awkward and tortuous controls. As a result, it sometimes feels like an advanced Tamagotchi. I hope the puzzles come to match the weight of its successes but, until then, there’s too much failure for the upper echelons.