The Last Guardian is a difficult game to love. The nine years it took to develop comes out in its many flaws, and you will deal with dodgy frame rates, a camera which makes the one in Dark Souls look genius, clipping, occasionally poor graphics, more than a few bugs and a rather stubborn dog. And yet despite every one of those issues I adore it and particularly said dog.
Team Ico’s third game is in many ways the culmination of the previous two. Like Ico, you find yourself lost in a mysterious place, not sure why you are there and saddled with an often reluctant companion. What stops is being identical is a big old splash of Shadow of the Colossus, for this companion just happens to be massive, and you will climb him and the landscape to unpuzzle the mystery at the heart of this game.
In case you’ve missed it, this companion is the aforementioned stubborn dog, Trico, an animal who to begin with is not at all impressed with you. That is until you give him some tasty treats. There’s a bit of cat, bird and dog in Trico but in personality, this is a pup through and through. It says a lot about Ico’s mastery of character that said stubbornness feels more like his personality that a flaw in the game. Yes, he doesn’t do what he’s told some of the time, and yes that can be annoying, but I think what stops it being infuriating is that you always get the feeling he knows what you want him to do, he just doesn’t feel like it right now.
Which, cards on the table may be because I adore dogs. Having grown up with a dog that was equally good at pretending it had no idea what you are talking about I see her in Trico and love him for that. Which also means I can understand why this doesn’t work for others. Not everyone is content to spend 5 minutes trying to convince Trico that yes he does want to jump across this gap and no he doesn’t want to howl at the sky.
If you can get past that frustration, Team Ico have once again build a relationship that you can believe in. It is the story of a small boy and his big dog and the further you get into this game the more you love that relationship. They are dropped into this terrifying valley where everything around them is bigger and scarier than they are and while the graphics won’t stand up in comparison to something like Uncharted 4 what they do accomplish is creating a beautiful world for you and your pal to explore.
The Last Guardian is a flawed game. More than once I groaned with frustration at its many faults, and unlike Shadow of the Colossus, it is unlikely to go down as an all-time classic because of that. If you can grit your teeth and find your way through those flaws, you will find an incredibly subtle and beautiful piece of storytelling underneath them. Team Ico may have taken their time doing it but my God, they’ve done it again.