The Last Guardian proves that games that spend an eternity in development can actually turn out great after all – we review Team Ico’s latest marvel.
To illustrate how long The Last Guardian has been in development, the most striking remark is probably that it caused Team Ico to skip an entire generation of Playstation consoles. After Ico and Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2, the PS3 was never graced by a Team Ico game – bar the re-releases of their PS2 gems in an HD version. Of course The Last Guardian was once scheduled for a PS3 release, but after being pushed back and seemingly vanishing for a few years, it’s now out on PS4 instead.
Seeing The Last Guardian in action on a pair of PS4 console made us wonder how this was ever going to work on a PS3. It’s not that the audiovisual experience is necessarily ‘next gen’, but during parts of your adventure you’ll notice that a regular PS4 will have trouble keeping up. Framerate dips occur, and the game really needs a Playstation 4 Pro to be able to deliver the smooth animations this game deserves without dipping in certain scenes.
That’s not to say that The Last Guardian doesn’t look great – it does, but it owes the bulk of that to its excellent use of animation and its visual style. This is especially true for your companion Trico – a giant creature that reminded me a little of The Neverending Story’s Falcor but who is more like a hybrid of a bird, a dog and a cat – supersized. He’s not your protagonist though, as you assume the role of a young boy – reminding me of the original Ico. As this boy, you need to move past obstacles and solve puzzles – often with the aid of Trico, who will also keep you out of harm’s way when enemies come near.
As with the original Ico, delving into specifics regarding the story would spoil part of the experience for you, so we’ll try to stay away from that. Instead, we’d like to focus on how lifelike Trico is – despite being a giant fantasy creature. This isn’t just because Trico is wonderfully animated, it’s also because of his behavior. It’s possible (and required) to give Trico simple commands so he helps you out, but Trico also has a mind of his own. He might go off and explore for a bit, or might want your attention in the shape of a big hug. In some ways, Trico is just like having a real pet – or even a toddler – and it’s easy to build up a relationship and attachment to him.
You can’t just rely in Trico to overcome the game’s challenges – you’ll also have quite a bit of climbing, lever pulling and jumping to do yourself. Combining that with your cooperation with Trico makes for a creatively fueled adventure that at times feels almost like a fairytale playing out in front of you. The Last Guardian’s visual style helps a lot with this, as you can probably tell from the screenshots.
Team Ico has its own, very unique, blend of digital storytelling. The Last Guardian might not feel like the audiovisual leap forward that Ico did, but it does capture of lot of the magic that that game did all those years ago. Your interactions with your loyal companion are a key ingredient to that, and experiencing such a warm and mutual relationship makes this a perfect game for the upcoming holidays.