More often than not, video games are dismissed as childish toys, made for teenagers with too much testosterone. This assumption, of course, is completely wrong. Sure, the likes of FIFA and Call of Duty appeal somewhat to this market, but they’re just one side of the industry: the equivalent of superhero and action films compared to other Hollywood flicks. Yet, unlike video games, a huge proportion of films are viewed as works of art.
For lack of space within this review, the idea of video games being an art form will be cut short. However, one such work that is often cited as showing the true artistic capabilities of gaming is Shadow of the Colossus. Released in 2006, the game acted as a spiritual successor to Team Ico’s previous game, Ico, and saw players attempt to take down 16 massive beings - the colossi - in order to resurrect a girl named Mono. Just over 10 years later and its sequel, The Last Guardian, has finally been released, once again stirring up conversation about video games as an art form.
Having been one of those gamers eagerly awaiting The Last Guardian since 2007 when it was first announced, I had questions about whether the game could really live up to the fanfare. It will doubtless satisfy some, while for others, the game's clunky controls will make it a frustrating journey.
The Last Guardian pits you, as a young boy, into an attempt to escape a castle with a Griffin-like creature named Trico. Everything is shrouded in mystery. How did the boy get into this castle? Where did his tattoos come from? Why was this beast chained up? To find these answers, the pair must work together, traversing various challenges while staying alive.
I won’t go into too much depth story-wise, as unraveling the secrets of The Last Guardian is a unique and rewarding experience not often seen in blockbuster games (but more so in independent games such as Firewatch, Journey, or Inside). What I will say is that journeying alongside these two companions is an emotional adventure featuring multiple heartfelt moments, all of which make for an unforgettable experience – as was the case with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
Unfortunately, though, it is the gameplay that, at times, lets The Last Guardian down. Much of the game concerns getting barrels filled with a silver liquid to Trico for him to consume, each one helping him grow stronger, and therefore allowing you to continue past certain obstacles. With awkward controls that take a while to get used to, the challenge is often not necessarily working out how to pass these challenges but just navigating them in the first place.
Then there’s Trico’s inability get into position: like a stubborn cat, the beast refuses to move at times, blocking the way, and not coming when called. There’s a certain charm to this, but often frustration as you’ll need to climb Trico – using similar mechanics to how Wanda climbed Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus – to access certain points. These puzzles are relatively simple to start with and become progressively harder, but are never insurmountable.
Regarding the game’s visuals: where many thought they would falter, due to The Last Guardian originally being designed for PS3, the art style is often stunning, only let down by frustrating camera angles and the occasional drop in frame rate, something that happens reletively often on the regular PS4 console.
Despite all these nitpicks, though, there’s something more to The Last Guardian than mere puzzle solving: there’s an emotional core, one only seen in the best games. These two unlikely companions both want different things, leading to some miscommunications between them, but there’s something much deeper than just kinship here: as an onlooker, you cannot help but fall helplessly in love with their story. Only the best games have you this involved in their story – The Last Guardian is a true work of art.