THE LAST GUARDIAN Review

OUR INTERACTIONS WITH TRICO ARE BOTH STUNNING AND AWKWARD.

ETA 9 DEV

PUB SONY / DEV GENDESIGN/SONY JAPAN STUDIO

After years of waiting, we’re finally let loose in PS4’s most enigmatic game

There’s a certain sense of irony in The Last Guardian’s opening credits. As a camera pans across pages of an illustrated bestiary, beginning with familiar animals before moving on to unicorns, griffins, dragons and, finally, the dog-cat-bird Trico, we can’t help but smile. Of course it should begin like this; given its protracted development time, the game itself feels every bit as mythical as these legendary creatures.

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And then we’re in. Almost a full decade after work on the game began, and seven-and-a-bit years after its first announcement back on PS3, we’re exploring the follow-up to cult PS2 favourites Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus. Within seconds of our journey’s start it’s abundantly clear it shares DNA with those titles: soft, painterly visuals; loose movement mechanics; awe-inspiring environments; and the cute yells our small, defenceless boy belts out with a tap of CD all combine to open the memory floodgates.

EYES ON THE PRIZE

Our first interactions with Trico are both stunning and somewhat awkward. As we begin to befriend the beast by removing a spear lodged in its flanks and then feeding it barrels of white gloop to help it recuperate, we find ourselves battling with the camera and the controls. It’s an uncomfortable dance at first until we familiarize ourselves with the boy’s I handling — it’s just like steering Ico back on PS2, I which, it turns out, is a less refined system than I we’re used to on PS4 — but once it clicks and we’ve I rewired our brains we begin to feel the magic.

It’s Trico’s eyes that capture us. As we slowly win I the hostile colossus over we feel ourselves genuinely I starting to believe that we’re interacting with an I animal, not a pile of computer code wrapped in fancy I textures. Those giant pupils convey more emotion I than we ever thought possible. We can feel its pain.

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Then its curiosity. When the saucers turn a pinkish I purple colour at the sight of the totems that have I been erected to keep Trico trapped in its prison, the I sense of fear is palpable. And that’s just from the I eyes. Trico’s realistic movements, not to mention its I yelps and yowls (sounding remarkably like Jurassic I Park’s velociraptor calls), have our hearts melting as I if they’ve been carved out and stuck in a microwave.

TOWERING ABOVE

I Fast-forwarding to a never-before-seen area, we see I the pair after their uneasy alliance has grown into a I friendship. We’re in a huge, naturally formed open-I air basin, with manmade towers stretching upwards I and out of the hole. We’re also riding atop Trico’s I head as it leaps between thin pillars… until another totem stops it in its tracks. Seemingly trapped on a finger of stone pointing upwards out of a deadly drop, it takes us a while to realise that carefully crawling over Trico’s back and down its tail (the controls are sensitive, and it’s worryingly easy to go wrong and fall to our doom) lets us hop off and use a tightrope to reach another tower.

A bit of clambering up some emerald green ivy later and we’re above the pesky totem, able to uncouple its moorings and push it into the maw. It’s a move that lets Trico jump off its perch and to the next ledge, directly below our position. Dropping back down and clinging onto its fur for dear life, our journey up the tower resumes.

GUARDIAN ANGEL

Though we can suggest where Trico should head by pressing CO and pushing the left stick to point the way, in this area our steed has but one way to go: up the staircase that spirals around the tower. But huge gaps in the stonework means it’s a route we can’t explore on foot; we must cling to Trico’s back (an automatic action rather than the tense, grip meter-fuelled challenge in Shadow Of The Colossus’ boss-broncoing exercises) when it’s leaping upwards. This climb’s effectively an on-rails ride punctuated by the occasional need to hop off and clear the path ahead.

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Above As you climb the tower, you’ll need to make leaps of faith across large gaps, hoping and praying that Trico catches you.

Our demo ends when we’ve scaled the tower, which begins to topple under Trico’s weight, prompting a cutscene where the beast leaps off and lands in the path of another Trico(!). It’s far from the only scripted scene. Cinematic snippets cut in a few times during our playtest: a snapping tightrope which the boy auto-grabs just in time, or a mistimed leap of faith over to Trico where our companion fails to catch us with its mouth but reacts by swinging out its rope-like tail to spare us from going splat. It points to a game where we aren’t always calling the shots, and that’s okay with us — one look into those kitty-birdie-puppy-dog-eyes and we’re total mush, willing to do whatever we’re told. With a smile.

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Above The mirror shield (there on the boy’s back) lets you point out objects for Trico to zap with its lightning tail.

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A guide to the world of The Last Guardian

1 The game’s set inside a massive basin formed of rock; a giant, walled protrusion rising from the ground that few dare enter and none can escape.

2 Peek over the green rim and you’ll see the tops of towers. Inside the volcano-like shape is a mass of delicately-constructed towers and bridges.

3 Ancient ruins are home to switches and puzzles. Protected by magical suits of armor, they’re also filled with giant totems to ward off Trico.

4 And deep down at the very bottom of the basin, Trico lays injured and chained up. That is, until you wake up next to the creature and set it loose…
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Trico can’t move past these hexagonal totems, so you must find ways to destroy them to progress.

The plot’s narrated by the protagonist, who adds subtle puzzle hints into his retelling if you’re taking a while to work things out.

“TRICO’S YELPS AND YOWLS SOUND REMARKABLY LIKE JURASSIC PARK’S VELOCIRAPTORS.”

Above Made a jump and Trico hasn’t caught you? All’s not lost – it might well swing its tail round to double as a handy rope…

FACTRICK

1 . GOLD STANDARD Once a long-running “it’ll never happen“ joke, TLG has ‘gone gold’, meaning that development has finished.

2. TRI’ AGAIN

The game’s original code name, Trico, is the official name of the central dog-cat-bird beast.

3. EXTRA SPECIAL

The collector’s edition of the game comes with a statue of Trico. We want it more than anything in this world.

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