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"The Last Guardian" (PS4)

Posted : 1 year, 9 months ago on 22 February 2018 12:15

The tale of a young boy's friendship with a griffin-like creature named Trico who escaped captivity.

I find one of AngryJoe's catchphrases relevant here: "You done fucked it up!" In theory, an adventure game with a lovable animal sidekick sounds right up my street, but ultimately this game's presentation really annoyed me. But everyone else seems to adore it, so, like my Red Dead Redemption review, I think I'll have to exceed my 250-word limit on this one, because I'll have to work extra hard to explain myself.

For starters, I never got into the story. Right off the bat, it provides no context whatsoever, right down to the player character being a personality-free blank slate (that's one of my biggest pet peeves). I wasn't invested in the journey because I had no clue what kind of world the game was presenting, how normal it was for people to see fantastical creatures like Trico, or why we were going to the places that we were; I immediately wondered why we were going towards the ruins instead of away from them and off into the wide world. The minimal narration did nothing to help; in fact, it was often downright useless. I think I would have preferred if there'd been no dialogue at all, so it was all left open to interpretation.

It was probably because of said lack of investment that I very often found the puzzles inscrutable. Again, I had no idea what the ultimate goal was, or exactly what the character and game mechanics were capable of. I had to keep looking up a walkthrough, and my response, more often than not, was, "How was I supposed to know I could do that?!" Compare that to my all-time favourite game, Portal: that too is all about puzzles, but the components and mechanics are introduced gradually, allowing you to grow accustomed to each one in turn and recognise which ones to call on later. The Last Guardian, on the other hand, has no such learning curve, so I was repeatedly left clueless about where to go or what to do. No one else seems to have this issue, though; I've since watched Let's Plays where the player immediately figures out everything that stumped me. So, once again, I think it all stems from my finding the story so unfathomable. I never got into the game's mindset because it didn't do enough to invite me in.

I had some major issues with the controls, too. Not only were the directional controls very floaty, making it hard to steer the character at times, but I found the button functions to be counterintuitive. I've been told that it uses the Japanese button mapping, and I simply never got the hang of it. I'm used to the circle button (or, for Xbox players, B) being the universal command for cancel. In the menus that was the case, but in the game, I kept instinctively pressing circle to let go of ledges, plus I sometimes pressed X to jump and ended up letting go by accident. And don't even get me started on climbing Trico and especially trying to jump off him!

Speaking of which, I didn't even like Trico, partly because of my overwhelming frustration with the gameplay and partly because I simply never found him cute (I'm assuming it's a male). He just doesn't have very expressive eyes. I know the idea was to make him seem like a real animal, but he's clearly a work of fantasy, so why not go all the way? (Not to mention, I found it hard to take him seriously as an adorable companion when he made the same sound effects as the raptors from Jurassic Park!) That and his reaction time to given commands is often so slow that, half the time, I couldn't tell if he was flat-out refusing or if the AI was just being difficult. Sometimes, I could swear the game was glitched, that the AI was just straight-up broken. And yes, that's all I saw him as: just an often uncooperative AI.

But, with all that said, it wasn't an entirely negative experience; I did enjoy parts of it. The graphics really succeed in making the landscapes look stunning; in fact, this was the first game to convince me to use the PS4's share function to post a few screenshots. :-) One personal highlight of mine was the first hanging eye section, which brought out in full the vertigo I get from looking up at high things; whenever I had to look skywards while climbing, I felt distinctly sick. I also liked when you have to avoid the gaze of the rotating suits of armour. …Actually, I've just realised something: all my favourite sections are when you get separated from Trico! Maybe it's because those parts are usually self-explanatory.

In conclusion, I'm sorry to say, I'm not a fan of this game. I honestly thought I'd enjoy it, but it turned out to be one of the least fun gaming experiences I've ever had. For me, it was a vicious circle: my investment was killed because it wasn't intuitive, and it wasn't intuitive because it wasn't engaging.

My rating: 45%

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