ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are two of my favorite games amidst an incredible lineup of classics on the PS2. While most would agree that Shadow of the Colossus is a monumental title both in concept and execution, I would argue the same for ICO.
The reason for that is a simple one- the relationship that grows throughout the course of the game between Ico and Yorda. Without uttering a single word of dialogue, their bond was expressed through action, primarily through the act of holding hands.
Yorda herself was a curious one, and even though the majority of the game was spent trying to help her go around obstacles she couldn’t cross, in the end, it became evident that Ico needed her just as much as she needed him.
It’s a subtle realization that builds throughout the experience, and it’s one I’ve never forgotten.
Since then, many games have tried to foster similar relationships, but I feel they have all failed in one aspect or another, and I have not been able to grasp the same emotions I felt during the last few fading moments of ICO.
That is until I was finally able to play the Last Guardian.
Played on: PS4 Pro
PS4 Pro enhancements: Improved framerates stability on the PS4 Pro and higher resolution support
Length: 14~ hours
First and foremost, the most important element that this entire experience hinged on was the mysterious creature, “Trico”.
If Trico was uninteresting, robotic or a nuisance to deal with, everything else would’ve fallen apart, but luckily, Trico is hands down the most fantastical creature I’ve ever encountered in a video game.
From its striking visual design to the immaculate animations that always managed to look completely natural, it’s a marvel of design and will no doubt go down in the books as what developers should strive for when creating a brand new creature.
The way it would shimmy its back slowly before preparing for a long jump or seeing how it watched with utmost attention, whimpering in concern as I made my way through some truly perilously obstacles- a thousand little moments like these made Trico feel truly alive.
In order to allow Trico to shine, the levels and puzzles themselves needed to be implemented in a way that would make good use of its immense size as well as its peculiar nature, and luckily, they’re all expertly crafted exactly so.
The vast majority of the obstacles presented came with a simple but elegant solution, and I never found myself stuck for more than 15 minutes in any given area, making sure that I felt challenged but never overwhelmed by some obtuse puzzle solution.
As the story progressed, the bond between the two unlikely companions grew, and showed not only in how they displayed concern for one another but also in the gameplay itself, where Trico was more willing to listen to direction and work together.
Even though there are many gestures I could show to Trico, it’s never plainly stated what they meant to Trico and what they would have it do, leaving me to experiment and put my own interpretation on them, which made their relationship feel even more intriguing.
I felt like I was back to a time years ago on a sunny afternoon, out in the yard with my dog Happy, attempting to teach him a trick and being frustrated as he didn’t quite understand what I was trying to get across to him and loving every minute of it anyway.
I would often find myself in awe of Trico’s various actions and behaviors, trying to figure out what it wanted me to do and even though my interpretation was oftentimes the wrong one, it felt wondrous trying to figure it out all the same.
In fact, I sometimes found myself a bit lost in a situation not knowing what I should do next as Trico wandered about trying to figure it out as well, and would sometimes find out exactly what needed to be done by itself before I could.
As a person who loves animals, to think that I could have such moments inside a videogame makes me hopeful for the future of AI in gaming.
While I found the core components of the Last Guardian to be impeccable, that is not to say that the game is without any faults.
Most notably, the camera would often go out of control, especially in the tight corridors where I was riding Trico as I was too close to the ceiling.
I would also find myself clinging to Trico under its belly or some other weird location where I struggled to find where I was. There were some issues with the context-sensitive buttons where there were multiple things near me and it would pick up on the wrong object, forcing me to throw the needless objects away from that location just so that I could pick up the right thing.
Lastly, I found that there were some issues with the framerate, which dipped significantly for about 10-20 seconds in certain areas of the game, many of them involving a great deal of physics objects, but luckily those moments were few and far between.
Saying that the wait has been long to finally get our hands on the Last Guardian is the understatement of the century, but I can state without hesitation that the wait has been more than worth it. The awe-inspiring living creature that is Trico carries this title, which would have otherwise just been a good puzzle platformer into an instant classic that I’m sure to visit time and time again, just to say hello to my new best buddy, one more time.
Fun Tidbit -I’m officially bestowing the title of the developer that can do no wrong to Team ICO. You had a good run, Platinum.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.