Man at His Best

Wayne's World: An Honest Review Of The Last Guardian

Esquire's Head Writer, Wayne Cheong, reviews things. This one is a tale of a boy and his cat-bird thingy.

BY Wayne Cheong | Dec 24, 2016 | Technology

For a moment, it looked like another video game could have gone the way of vapourware. Designer and director, Fumito Ueda, wanted to further develop the “subtractive design” process (the removal of extraneous features that doesn’t contribute to the gameplay or story) that he applied on his two previous games, Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005).

That led to The Last Guardian, a story about an unnamed boy who rescued Trico, a griffin-like creature and the burgeoning relationship between the two as they escape their captors.

The game started development in 2007 and its many starts and stops did not inspire confidence. Many games stuck in development hell did not fare well (see: Duke Nukem Forever; Aliens: Colonial Marines).

And it was eventually released this year and, we’re glad to report, it is also good. Oh so good.

 

 

It’s beautifully rendered—the interior of the ruins and its shadows that envelop with a sense of menace; the bloom lighting that almost makes you squint at the verdant hills, the open blue sky. Trico moves like what you’d expect a monster-size animal would maneuver. It galumphs and, yet, leaps with such alacrity; it can be docile to the boy and still viciously paw at the enemy.

In short, Trico behaves very much like a cat and as a person who has experienced raising a feline, the beast’s attitude to your commands tend to be a tad mercurial. Sometimes, you ask for it to jump and there’s a delay in the action. If there is ever a virtue needed in this game, patience will be it (then again, if you had the willingness to hold out for a game that took nine years to be made, you’ll already have the waiting down pat). But that unpredictability is what makes Trico feels so real (it even poops!) and when you gain mastery over the beast’s action that feels like a victory.

The same can’t be said for the boy. His movements are not as immediate. Sometimes, it feels like he’s struck with an indeterminable palsy. Frustration creeps in as I’m trying to get him to elude his captors. Move left, I loudly expositioned, as I move the joystick left and still his feet stumbles in a drunkard’s turn and falls into the open arms of the enemy.

Still, this is a welcome departure from your genre video games—the FPSers, the beat-em-ups, the RPGs—it’s a game that requires you to get away from the noise and get acquainted with your giant monster.

The Last Guardian is out only for the PS4.