In a tiny, incredibly hot room at E3, I had the chance to play The Last Guardian. It was fitting somehow: the crucible of the game’s long and tumultuous development cycle, in physical form. It was strange though, too. The game has occupied such an immutable place in the gaming population’s consciousness that it’s taken on a mythical tone – something that was, for the longest time, only whispered about in hushed tones.
With a sense of trepidation, I started the demo. How would the game play? How would it look and feel? Would it live up to expectations?
I don’t know – those questions are too broad to be answered in the time I had with the game. But I can break down what I do know.
The demo covered the first 30 minutes of the game. If you’re sensitive about spoilers (however small they may be), you may want to skip to the end.
The game’s opening title crawl features multiple scientific drawings of creatures. Progressively, they go from the mundane to the exotic, ending with Trico – The Last Guardian’s mascot character, an amalgam of bird, dog, and whatever else you can think of. It then hard cuts to your character – a small boy covered in tattoos – waking up in a dingy cave.
Trico is next to him, bound in chains, hungry, and injured. Through tooltip hints, and contextual ones through your adult-self’s narration, you need to set about helping him. Getting near Trico angers him, but he will reluctantly let you clamber over him to remove the spear from his leg. He then kicks and screams, and knocks you unconscious.
When you wake the next day, you need to set about collecting food, which comes in conveniently sized barrels. Through simple jumping and grappling mechanics, I collected three from around the cave, and gingerly fed them to Trico. This gave him enough strength to shake off his shackles, and built up enough trust in him that he’d let me climb all over him.
After using Trico’s height to clamber up a cliff more easily, I found myself in a white, stone chamber, with a pool of water in the middle, and a sarcophagus with a mirror shield embedded in it. I grabbed the shield, which let me aim a beam of light at obstructions. Trico would respond by shooting red lighting from his tail at the target, clearing it.
Trico doesn’t seem to be a fan of water either. One puzzle had me coax him in to a lake, so I could use his body to progress over a nearby high wall. To do this, I had to throw some barrels of food in to the water. The animation work here is great, as Trico spends an inordinate amount of time wondering if he should jump in to the water, before gingerly clambering down.
The demo concluded with the boy escaping in to the world, and attempting to leave Trico behind. The giant, strange animal had a different idea however, and busted through a wall to follow. The boy thought his home would be nearby, but realised that it isn’t the case. The camera pans out to a desolate stretch of ruins, with your adult-self alluding to their purpose: to house dangerous creatures.
One problem I had was the jumping and grappling. It feels true to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus – but that also means it feels old. It was sluggish and slow. The game code wasn’t final however, with the producer telling me that the physics are currently being fine-tuned.
It’s strange, writing about The Last Guardian. How can it live up to the hype? I don’t know – but I am intrigued to see the final product, as well as the fans’ reaction to it.