- Spoiler: show
01/05 - The Last Guardian
Had this game on the mind lately (mostly thanks to Jacob Geller
) so I decided I would do another playthrough of it. It's still just as magical, frustrating, beautifully touching, and infuriating as ever. It tests your patience to the absolute limit, but still delivers something special that makes it all worth it.
My main problems with it are still the same as they always were. It controls absolutely terribly, the camera is god awful, and at times it is woefully bad at communicating what it wants you to do. I think the obtrusive tutorial boxes that come up are meant to be there so mitigate that issue, but they rarely ever help. All they do is ruin the minimalist visual design of the game, which is disappointing. At least they do ease up somewhat as you get later through the game, but they never go away completely. As for the controls, I really do think they are worse than previous Ueda games. All of them have this loose, floppy feel to them, lacking precision, but there was a certain logic to how they worked in Ico and SotC that meant they were totally sufficient to do their job. So they got across the feeling of powerlessness they were trying to convey, but without actually getting in the way of what you were trying to do with them too much. TLG fails at this in a way that makes it feel like you're hardly in control at all, and that a lot of the fumbling and failure that happens is not your fault and there was nothing you could do about it.
My theory for why is how this game uses a different logic to the older games, in a way that just doesn't work. In Ico and SotC a lot of your commands were treated very manually. If you asked your character to do something, they would just do it. In the case of SotC, those controls were often quite complicated, but that allowed a sense of clarity to what you're trying to input. But in TLG, a lot of those controls are simplified, and the game tries to work out what you want from context. So you can't really directly issue commands, and it often gets confused about what you are intending with inputs. It's also pretty ambiguous on the other end, not knowing exactly what input you need to do to get the game to interpret what you want. Then also I think there might be a layer of environmental complexity causing problems too. Environments in this game have way more detailed collision meshes compared to Ico/SotC, so there's a lot more for the IK system to get caught up on, and it leads to a feeling that you never know quite how your character will react when you push the stick. Not to mention how Trico is always moving around all the time, so trying to climb over a constantly changing collision mesh is quite the headache. It's like the wrist of the last boss in SotC, but for the whole game, where you can't tell the game to grip or let go on command.
But anyway, despite all that, there's still a lot about this game I love that nothing else out there can match. Despite the similarity in premise this game has to Ico, I'd even say that TLG has that beat too. The way this game cultivates a relationship over time is brilliant. Trico is the star of the show and bonding with him is a joy, which takes a long time to build, and absolutely pays off by the end. The way he behaves is so lifelike that it's uncanny. The little movements and quirks, how he eyes up a situation before deciding what to do that convey a sense of an inner consciousness, how he will go off sometimes and investigate something he's curious about, how he reacts to being petted or nudged, or even just the adorable way he looks at you with those big sad eyes. I love that weird huge dog/cat/dodo/griffin thing. And you get a genuine sense that he cares about the boy too in the scenes where things look grim and Trico is the one that has to help him. No other game comes close to creating the vivid illusion of an independent thinking, feeling creature like this game does. And that ending still hits so hard as well. So bittersweet, but moving and emotionally resonant. For all the times the game drove me up the wall, that ending still makes it all worth it.
So after playing it a second time, I think I probably like it more than previously, although the bits that grate are still as bad as ever. Thankfully this time around I was able to get past some of the worst puzzles with much more ease, as I could remember the solutions thanks to them sticking in my mind for bad they were... This is a game that requires an absolute mountain of patience. Partly for very good reasons, partly very bad reasons. But in the end it's all worth it, and I really enjoyed going through that experience with Trico again.
(Also this is my 2000th post!!! Hooray! Fitting it was used to talk about such a special game.)