PLOT The love between a boy and his dog/bird-like creature.
RATED T for Teen
DETAILS PlayStation 4; $59.99
BOTTOM LINE There’s beauty in this beast.
Few video game designers are as artistically renowned as Fumito Ueda. Ueda’s first two games Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005) were, for years, the go-to examples connoisseurs used to argue that games could be more than soul-sapping entertainment.
His latest creation, The Last Guardian, tells the story of a boy who awakens in an underground chamber close to a mythical-looking beast named Trico that looks like a dog spliced with a bird. The boy helps the beast, who lies wounded and chained to the ground, and they form a bond as they thread their way through an arduous labyrinth. Assuming the role of the boy, players must rely on Trico to solve puzzles but this is much less straightforward than it sounds since the beast often seems to have a will of its own.
The most daring aspect of the game’s design is that Trico doesn’t respond with alacrity to all of the player’s commands. Sometimes the creature hesitates before acting, as when it focuses its gaze elsewhere before jumping in a different direction. This builds a tension in the player who wonders not only if the beast will obey his command, but if his strategy is the correct one for the situation.
Both the boy and Trico are beautifully animated — seeing Trico ruffle its feathers in the warmth of the sun is but one of the many low-key moments that gives the The Last Guardian a poetic aura.
The Last Guardian is all about a collection of small and large gestures that expand, enrich and end a relationship. You’ll easily get lost in Trico’s plumage. You’ll want nothing more than to experience the game again. You’ll also be left wondering how such a great work of art all came together.