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    dkirschner's The Last Guardian (PS4)

    [October 11, 2023 12:50:40 PM]
    I finished this last night. Sasha watched the last time I played, got a little invested, and disliked the ending! It wasn't terribly satisfying, but I think it was hopeful.

    The Last Guardian is by the same minds behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which I didn't know until I finished, and makes total sense. I've been describing it to people since I started playing as a mixture of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; I'm impressed that I was so on point! You play as a young boy who wakes up in a strange ruin beside a giant chained beast. The boy befriends the beast, names it Trico, and the two of them journey together through these ruins, discover its secrets, solve its puzzles, and overcome its challenges to escape. There is some more story regarding why they are there, how they got there, and what the ruins are, but this is definitely not a game that overwhelms you with lore. You don't get shown much, and you can interpret a lot about what's going on and why. In fact, you don't get TOLD hardly anything. There is sparse subtitled narration, but all other dialogue is spoken in another language, and nearly all in-game communication between characters is non-verbal.

    Okay, so a lot of this game is fine, okay, frustrating, and at times borders on maddening. The boy's movement leaves so much to be desired. The "combat" (or, run away from animated suits of armor and mash all the buttons on the controller to squirm away when they catch you) is dreadful. The platforming on architecture is passable, while climbing on Trico is not fun. Some of the puzzles are alright. Trying to get Trico to do what you want can transport you to a personal hell. So you might think, okay, what's the point of playing this merely okay game? Well, here's the thing for me: the game's strengths are SO STRONG that its weaknesses, while significant, are overshadowed.

    And the main strength of The Last Guardian? It's the relationship between the boy and the beast, Trico. Playing this game is kind of like hanging out with the best pet you ever had. Trico is like part dog, part cat, part bird. Trico and the boy need one another to progress through the ruins. As their relationship develops, as Trico gains trust in the boy and as the boy feels safe with Trico, they learn to work together. The boy learns how to comfort Trico and give commands (come here, go there...), while Trico discovers some useful abilities.

    Trico itself is wonderful. It shakes off water like a dog after swimming; its ears twitch like a cats' when something touches them; Trico scratches itself; whines, whimpers, and howls; its feathers rustle in the breeze; it pounces and bats prey around like some sort of dog-cat. The way this creature is animated is beautiful. I would literally just sit and watch Trico sometimes. If I was stuck on a puzzle, watching Trico was like the calm that helped me think, as if I was petting a cat while thinking about a problem (and my cat was usually in my lap while playing, so I was doing that too). There are other stunning sounds and sights in the game too; the ruins are vast, and the way the game makes the boy look so small and Trico so big (but still so small compared to the vastness of the ruins), is incredible.

    But as much as I loved Trico, as I mentioned earlier, it could also be extremely frustrating to deal with (also like your pet!). Trico has a mind of its own. Sometimes it'll do what you command, but other times it willfully ignores you, scratching its ears, looking around, doing whatever it pleases. I would occasionally spend 10 minutes trying to get Trico to do something, like indicating for it to jump to a ledge, or swim through a doorway. Over and over and over pressing the buttons for "Trico, go there!" and Trico looking at me, wandering near what I was pointing at, considering it, laying down, looking at me expectantly. "Trico, go there!" Looking around, scratching itself, yawning. I totally understand that this adds to the realism that this is a great beast with agency, and I totally understand that this made me like Trico more. But on the other hand, there's a fine balance between realism and the fact that this is a game and players want to move forward. Spending 10 minutes trying to get Trico to jump to a ledge is inconsistent with responsive gameplay and could easily kill my motivation during a play session, especially if it happened during some of the more complicated puzzles:

    "Trico, my head already hurts. Don't make it worse. That's the only ledge in the room. I know we have to get up there. I can see the door above us. WHY WON'T YOU JUMP TO THE LEDGE?! Oh, what?! NOW you jump when I get off your back? Get back down here, let me climb on you, THEN you jump to the ledge. TRICO! GET DOWN HERE! Tricooooo!"

    But then you finally get up to that ledge and through the door, and there is some magical set piece and the game takes your breath away. It's definitely one characterized by highs and lows, but the highs are so high, and the game is so memorable overall. I really enjoyed it overall and recommend it despite its problems.
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    dkirschner's The Last Guardian (PS4)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 6 August, 2023

    GameLog closed on: Tuesday 10 October, 2023

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Love watching the animations of the beast. Very Ico so far. --------- Fantastic game, not without its frustrations.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See dkirschner's page

    See info on The Last Guardian

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