18 February, 2017

The Last Guardian

I had no intention of writing this, but felt the burning need when... oh man... I wish I could give spoilers, but suffice to say something I thought would involve trickery and logic turned out to need only a simple hug. Hugs and wugs. I nearly cried, because the game had done such a great job of making me think the problem was something else, when all I needed was love.

Honestly, if you're looking for a typical gaming experience, this might not be for you. It's evocative, and beautiful, but I wouldn't say it's particularly fun. Art isn't always supposed to be fun, and that's just it: this is art, not a game. This is what you show your elderly relative when they tell you video games can't be works of art. Or if you're of my generation or younger, this is what you'd like to stuff down Roger Ebert's grave screaming, "Look, you old coot!  We always told you!" Ahem... Perhaps that's a bit harsh, but he did say games would never amount to much artistically, and they have, and The Last Guardian is a beautiful testament to that achievement.

The controls are difficult, I'll grant. I've more than once shouted, "I said run left you little jackass!"  But you know what? I'm not sure an early pubescent little boy running around a castle scared out of his wits would control his body that well either. I'd even say it's part of the experience, and the whole game is so beautiful I've never actually gotten mad. I could certainly never say a bad word to Trico. Not without feeling guilty. Trico feels real, which in itself, given how primitive AI is at present, is a truly remarkable achievement. That's like painting the Mona Lisa on an etch-a-sketch. If Trico obeyed your every command, he wouldn't feel real. You genuinely feel like a team through the entire thing, and Trico is adorable, majestic, and sometimes scary as hell.


It's noteworthy here that The Last Guardian is easily the most visually stunning game I've ever played, and as a lifelong gamer, that's saying something. I can pause the game at literally any second and the image would make a beautiful painting on my wall.

... griffin. Here’s an interesting screenshot from the Last Guardian
The Last Guardian - Screenshot-Galerie | pressakey.com
Kotaku Timeline: The Last Guardian | Kotaku Australia

Those are freaking screenshots. Even writing about it now, it blows my mind.

And again I point you to the game's humanity, and Trico's reality. Those beautiful pause button paintings are of a creature you'll fall in love with.

When I saw IGN's 7/10 review, I wondered if I'd made the right decision in buying the super deluxe version, which came with a statuette.

Shuei Yoshida Spacchetta Per Voi La Collectors Edition Di The Last

Would the statue forever remind me of a disappointment?

But no.  I wish it were bigger. I wish it dominated my back garden and the game had come with a painting too.

If I were reviewing this as a "game", I'd agree with IGN. The controls are fuzzy, the replay value is mostly aesthetic, the trophy hunt (if like me you're into those) looks fiddly and frustrating to me, the play time is short. But this is not a game. I doubt it was intended as one. If you want a game, get something else. This is a work of art.

Imagine you're in a bookstore and you're choosing between The Hogfather (Terry Pratchett, and awesome. Amazon link if you haven't read it and... do.) and To Kill a Mockingbird. There is little doubt that, if you're in the mood for something fun, you should choose The Hogfather. If you want something deep, that will haunt you for years to come, and that is a perfect showcase of just how beautiful and significant a work of art can be, then you should get To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought about choosing a more esoteric, arty book there, like Catcher in the Rye, but no--To Kill a Mockingbird is fun.  It's just not made to be fun.  In terms of fun content, easy 7/10.

The Last Guardian is, equally, not made to be fun. It's still fun. And I am not deriding other games.  I love video games. They've influenced my writing every inch as much as books. I'm saying The Last Guardian is an anomaly. The industry, even when telling a great story, rarely places the "game-ish" side of things in the background. I'm saying I understand the 7/10 review, but it's not judging The Last Guardian for what it attempted, but for what they expected. It is impossible to give an accurate impression of this kind of art (not level, but kind) when just measuring how much you think people should buy it. If you want nifty fun, I'd say only buy it if you have a good amount of cash to throw around, and feel like trying something unique. If you're looking for a fun puzzle platformer and have never tried, say Portal 1 or Portal 2, get those. They're awesome.

If you want to see just how beautiful a game can be, and how much it can evoke, The Last Guardian is an easy 10/10, and a must have.

Know what to expect. Don't judge it as a game, but as a work of art, and I promise, if you're in the mood for something deep and beautiful, you will fall in love with Trico, and you will be very glad to have experienced The Last Guardian.

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