The Last Guardian review

The long-awaited Sony exclusive finally launches to high expectations, but will it live up the staggering hype or will it fall victim to the Duke Nukem curse? Let’s find out as we review The Last Guardian.

Do you remember when ‘escort mission‘ wasn’t a dirty word, and ‘holding hands‘ had not yet been forever besmirched by a cackling Peter Molyneux? Yup, that was over a decade ago, and even though we have been treated to another remake of Ico, ( bundled in with the Shadow of the Colossus title ), we have still had to survive for a full ten years on promises, snippets and teaser trailers that The Last Guardian was indeed not just a whimsical fantasy locked away into the minds eye of Fumito Ueda.

( as well as enduring the ham-fisted and ham-laden performances and pitiful gameplay of Molyneux’s simply awful Fable 2 and 3 projects….how can we ever forget, let alone forgive,  that ‘Wheel of Fart-une‘ and the chicken kicking exercises? )

Far from being the dreaded ‘escort mission‘ we suspected what we have discovered instead in Sony’s gem is an outstanding tale of loyalty and companionship between a boy and his bird-thing that, in its purest form, sets out its stall early on and sticks with it with a vehement passion. But does it work? Well, that, good GiMP Army recruits, is the $64,000 question…and we shall attempt to answer it for you here;

Set in a fantastical realm with very obvious traits of both previous Team Ico titles, ( ‘Shadow of the Colossus‘ and ‘Ico‘), and employing the use of such familiar gaming stalwarts as the towering architecture that looms large in the background like menacing monolithic henchmen as well as the tried and tested formula of hulking monsters that strike awe and fear into both characters and players alike,  the studio’s earlier games have heavily influenced the environments of The Last Guardian with relish. However, that is not to say that The Last Guardian is merely some form of remastered homage to the titles of yesteryear, not by a long chalk. The Last Guardian may well have heavy influences plucked from Ico and Colossus but that is where the similarities end and, if truth be told, traditional Japanese franchises such as Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda come in.

The story of The Last Guardian is an interesting narrative described by an old man as he recounts his youthful exploits with what can only be described as a portmanteau of a creature named Trico. Half avian, half mammalian Trico is more akin to what we perceive as a ‘griffin‘ more than anything else, and it is from this viewpoint that we ask you to conjure your minds eye view of The Last Guardian’s winged beast.

The boy who befriends Trico, as yet unnamed by the developer, is an interesting puzzler all on his own. And as we hear his elderly self describe his actions all those years ago, albeit that these memories never quite explain such nagging questions as ” why is the boy’s body covered in tribal tattoo’s? “,  ” what do the tattoo’s signify? “and of course, ” who – and where – are his people? “, we are never given more than brief glimpses into the boys background and , as such, the intrigue this inspires only serves to keep players glued to the narrative as they strive to discover even the most meagre of morsels regarding this enigmatic character.

Naturally, and as such in a way that is a complimentary hand-in-hand of the ‘style by subtraction’ format of Fumito Ueda, these and other tantalising puzzles only serve to add to the mystique and attraction of The Last Guardian instead of detracting from it, such is the genius of the developer.

Yes, there may have been questions raised, and rightfully so, regarding some of the frame rate issues…but in the end these have no bearing on the game, such as they do not affect the players enjoyment of this highly anticipated title.  However, it must be conceded that clunky mechanics and baffling decisions by the games developers regarding some of the physics have left many players bemoaning the games controls and AI. In it’s defence The Last guardian displayed little of these problems during our own play through,, but nevertheless issues were undeniable, even if they were trifling.

The scale of the backdrops, the outstanding emotive expressions between the characters and the impressive scale with which the The Last Guardian is played out leaves no doubt that there is, to date, very little to even compare the title against, save perhaps From Software’s epic Dark Souls series or the wonderful Final fantasy franchise. It is when this fact is understood that the sheer magnitude of all that The Last guardian encompasses, from the dialogue which is, more often than not, unrequired thanks to the detailing contained in the emotive expressions on the main characters, right through to the expansive environments and the gargantuan architecture that festoon the beautifully adorned realm that players appreciate that even the power of the Ps4 Pro is undeniably stretched when it is tasked with recreating Ueda’s magical marvel.

In yet another nod to the salad days of gaming , before we have been spoon fed tutorial levels to acquaint us with control systems as a stuttering a spluttering NPC guides us all through yet another tiresome linear trailer and advises us how best to memorise the myriad of memory functions, The Last Guardian reminds older gamers and invites younger players to recall a time when gameplay did not require such ‘nanny state’  tactics. Nor did it need a menu or even the expected ‘levelling up‘ system that is inherent in just about every genre in the entire medium. The Last Guardian, instead, allows players to not ‘earn‘ XP, but rather to be rewarded ‘by‘ experience.

No Drip-Fed Fred character ticking boxes as they tour the tricks and trappings of their ‘digital gym’ building their ‘cyber muscles‘ to ever Schwarzenegger styled proportions, oh no! The Last Guardian seeks to grant the player a far more rewarding experience, and we mean that in every sense of the understanding.  A cut scene here, an interaction there. These are the very things that players shall strive to ‘unlock‘…not merely the next level of Magicka or Strength as do the majority of every other title post-Ico.

The Last Guardian is, almost certainly, a marmite game. Players will either love it or hate, but either way it is a game that should not be ignored. It breaks down traditional expectations that have been built up in this ever dumbing down generation where so many gamers simply want to point and shoot or hack and slash. Team Ico have instead offered a simply staggering beautiful alternative to those players looking for something just a little different to the normal fare at the Bland Buffet. So why not try the hot spicey chicken wings of The Last Guardian, who knows, you may even develop a taste for games outside your normal menu?

TITLE:                                                 The Last Guardian
FORMAT:                                              PlayStation 4    ( exclusive )
DEVELOPER:                                    Team Ico
PUBLISHER:                                     Sony

Pricing at Launch:                            £54.99 console


SCORE OUT OF 10:                        9 out of 10