The Last Guardian is a third person adventure-puzzler, which follows the story of an unusual friendship between a boy and a giant cat-dog-bird called Trico. The unfamiliar premise of the game was the winning factor which pulled me in and ultimately, made me fall in love with it.
The Last Guardian arrived as a PS4 exclusive in late 2016 with big boots to fill thanks to its most excellent predecessors Ico and The Shadow of The Colossus. With nine years between its announcement and release, The Last Guardian was a game that I was super-intrigued to play. And one that I’m very glad I did.
This beautiful tale of friendship is a unique and compelling story. In fact, I’ve never experienced such companionship in a game before. Trico acts as both your faithful friend and your protector as you make your ascent to the top of the Nest (an interlocking mass of ascending towers that seem to rise into the sky) in what is essentially a lengthy escape attempt.
The game’s opening sets a beautifully melancholic tone. Awakening in a cave alongside an unconscious beast, you’re given no instruction on how to proceed and you must rely solely on your gaming instincts to investigate and conquer the cave. Once Trico has been fed and released from his chains he becomes affectionate towards you, and you can finally progress. Trico’s behaviour is extremely animal-like to the extent that he’ll sometimes ignore you and, at times, refuse to obey your commands entirely. Although slightly frustrating to start with, this aspect pleased me because it added a level of authenticity to the game. It made Trico more lifelike and therefore even more lovable.
Unlike other games on the market, you have prolonged periods of gameplay where you have no means to protect yourself. In these areas, you depend solely on Trico and you have no choice but to run around helplessly hoping that you aren’t caught by the demonic suits of armour or Trico’s unpredictable attacking sweeps. At times Trico will even overcome his own fears to save the boy from these ghostly knights, proving his loyalty to the boy. A feature that made the developing relationship between giant bird hybrid and boy even more authentic.
Puzzles in the game range from simplistic to frustrating with innovative touches that make you scratch your head in confusion and feel elated when you finally solve them. Using Trico as a tool to help you move forward is a vital dynamic, and something that strongly enhanced my gameplay experience, especially when the beast is just innocently exploring the environment. Unfortunately, by this point in the game, the famously iffy controls and annoying camera angles became a problem. Thankfully there were wonderful cutscenes that helped me forget about my loathing of the control system and allowed me to engage once more in a story I loved.
As I neared the top of the nest and the end of the game I hesitated to proceed. My journey with Trico had been a seesaw of emotions. When the boy and his beast were separated I felt vulnerable and small, and when we reunited it felt like we genuinely depended on each other. I just didn’t want the emotional roller coaster to end. Flashbacks gave me a greater understanding of the mysterious storyline and enhanced the conclusion’s emotional sucker punch. It left me with tears in my eyes and hopes for a future game just as captivating as The Last Guardian.
Overall The Last Guardian is a must-play masterpiece. One that pulls in its audience and holds their attention for the duration of the game. A story so beautiful and endearing that the negatives of the controls are easy to overlook. One that every PS4 gamer should add to their library.