It’s said that patience is a virtue… and The Last Guardian has made its fans incredibly virtuous. The game has been in development for nearly a decade, and just when a release date was set at this past E3, a recent delay to December 6 is making gamers wait just a little more. I recently went hands-on with the game, playing a new portion that takes place right after the E3 demo. Fittingly enough, I discovered a game experience that also requires patience, but not in a frustrating way. Instead it’s more serene as you slowly discover how to get around in this strange world with your only ally, a mammoth beast. The Last Guardian isn’t a game that you just tear through without a second thought, and that’s what makes it special.
If you’re familiar with director Fumito Ueda’s work (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus), you know there’s a minimalist approach to the storytelling; it’s up to you to discover what’s at stake. In The Last Guardian, you play as a young boy who wakes up next to a legendary creature named Trico. Trico is half-bird, half-mammal and is a sight to behold. Your eyes can’t help but be drawn to Trico as he moves around the environment. Trico will often provide you clues to where you should go next by interacting with the environment. In my demo, he starts pawing at a chain hanging from above, which I immediately climb on in hopes I can open the gate in front of me to progress.
From what I played, The Last Guardian is a good mix of platforming and puzzle solving. I jump on high ledges to find levers or items integral to getting to the next area. I use the R1 command to call Trico to my side, using him as a way to jump to high points and also as a cushion when I need to get down. The controls take some time to get used to; they’re much more responsive and fluid than in Team Ico’s past games, but it’s hard to train your brain to use triangle to jump, and pointing Trico to an area of interest using the camera and holding two buttons at once can be tricky.
Trico is an animal and he acts like one. Sometimes when you call him, he comes straight to you; other times he’s distracted by other things in the environment and you need to keep calling him. The only issues I encountered during the demo was triggering Trico to come my way and help out consistently. You need to be patient, and sometimes it requires multiple requests or certain positioning to get him to him to come to your aid. Still, every time Trico comes my way, he astonishes me with his presence. Climbing up and staying on his back as he takes me to new places is always exciting. The best moments come when things get dire. In one portion of my demo, the ground starts crumbling and I have have seconds before I fall to my death. I see Trico on the other side of me on a strong structure. The jump looks tricky. Can I make it to him? I get a running start and take a death defying leap, it looks like I might have misjudged as I just miss Trico and the platform. I quickly descend, and just when I think I’m a goner, Trico’s tail comes swinging my way – sweeping me up in the nick of time. These intense moments are a rush.
During my demo, I also notice Trico is fearful of certain things. There are stained glass windows that have creepy eyes painted on them, and Trico won’t move forward if he sees them. I find rubble on the ground and hurl it to smash them. These eyes appear again not too far away, but this time they’re tied down on big structures. Throwing an object won’t reach them or be enough to take them down. I must push mining carts off ledges to bring them down, using Trico to help me as the platforms break before me.
This world is dangerous yet beautiful. Solutions are around every corner. Most of them involved Trico to some degree, but often he’s helping you as much as you’re helping him. For instance, at one point I push a huge barrel off a ledge as a way to prop open a gate so Trico can get through. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I figure out ways to get through every plight, and Trico is there at every turn. As you fly through the air on his back, it’s just like echoes of Atreyu riding Falcor in The Neverending Story. I can already tell this is the start of something special, and can’t wait to see what’s in store when I can play the entire game.