A happenstance discovery has a young boy becoming best friends with a huge, furry, feathered creature named Trico in The Last Guardian for PlayStation 4. The game follows their legendary journey through ruins, adversity, where they forge a friendship that transcends language.
Launched in 2016, TLG was developed by SIE Japan Studio and GenDesign and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
In TLG, players experience their bond with Trico without words. There is no dialogue in the game, so environments must be navigated and puzzles solved using gestures and other controls that allow the player to communicate between the boy and Trico.
TLG is the spiritual successor to games such as Ico and Shadow of The Colossus, which also included action-adventure and puzzle elements alongside protagonists who used few, if no, words. They also presented sprawling worlds filled with mystique and majesty that used environmental design and non-verbal communication.
The Last Guardian is all about the beauty of friendship amid ruin
Visual and sound design dominates The Last Guardian’s gameplay with gorgeous environments that shift between indoor regions, within crumbling ruins, and wide outdoors areas to traverse. Many of them have some form of verticality or walls to enclose them to create environmental puzzles to progress.
The boy himself can move about the level and get between small spaces to get into areas Trico cannot due to the creature’s bulk. At the same time, Trico is able to leap or move through areas the boy cannot due to his small size.
As a result, the level design provides a sort of puzzle-solving element that requires thinking as both the boy – to reach smaller areas and set up puzzles – and how to communicate what is needed to Trico, who acts on his own accord.
A mixture of emotionally powerful design with a flawed system
Although the game’s premise and action are simple enough: solve environmental problems using both the boy’s abilities and Trico’s size. In the end there are some issues dealing with the camera and climbing controls that can become extremely frustrating.
Players may need to be patient with Trico, who isn’t exactly the most attentive subject, and being a huge critter can also be difficult to command. Since the boy doesn’t directly control Trico and must use gestures and other non-verbal commands to ask Trico to move or to operate certain puzzle elements. It might take some finesse to get some puzzles solved.
The camera controls can also be the worst enemy of the player given tight ruins and the presence of a giant bird-critter with them blocking the view.
Although these flaws are present in the game, there’s also a lot of growth that the player goes through with the boy and Trico. The controls themselves present a kind of learning experience that helps solidify the need they have for one another and with a little extra patience through the aggravating control issues can lead to come high emotional payoffs.
The Last Guardian landed with fur and feathers on the worldwide stage in December 2016 for the PlayStation 4.