What is The Last Guardian?
The Last Guardian is a puzzle driven adventure that follows an unlikely pairing of a young boy, and a giant cat-dog-bird-griffin beast called Trico, who develop a surprising friendship as they work together to escape the strange ruins they find themselves trapped in. By exploring, solving puzzles and combining the skills of both boy and beast, you'll be able to uncover the mystery of how they became imprisoned, and eventually get the boy back home to his village.
How do you play The Last Guardian?
Playing as the unnamed boy - with Trico in tow - you'll come across various road blocks as you try to find your way out of the ruins, be it a chasm where a bridge once stood, a locked door or a boarded up doorway - and it falls to you to figure out how to proceed. Agile and small, the boy can shimmy along narrow ledges, leap from rocky outcrop to rocky outcrop, or crawl through small gaps, perhaps letting him find a way around to a switch that opens a door, and lets Trico in. Trico, meanwhile, is big and powerful, and can be used to give the boy a sizeable leg up to a hard to reach platform (he makes a great climbing frame), act as a counterweight to catapult the boy high into the air, or channel lightning to blast away wooden boards. You'll generally need to combine both Trico and the boy's skills to proceed, with Trico gradually learning to obey the kid's commands as the story progresses - by combining a call of his name with a point, or an order to jump, you'll be able to get Trico to help you through all kinds of puzzles to escape the ruins.
Combat does crop up from time to time in the form of faceless armour suits - haunted beings who will chase the boy down, and try to carry him away. The boy himself doesn't really have any attacks, either, so you'll generally just have to try and avoid the enemies, mashing buttons to escape if any manage to grab hold of you. Trico, however, will swipe at the enemies on your behalf (assuming he's within reach), and save you from their evil clutches. Some sections require you to be somewhat stealthy, like when the game asks you to avoid some enemy searchlights, and sneak to a door switch to let Trico in. Get caught, and the enemies will attack - and with Trico separated from you by a sturdy door, it can be a bit of a game to both avoid the enemies, and operate the door at the same time. It is possible for the boy to die, either by being carried off by the armours or by miss-timing a jump and falling to his doom - at which point you'll be restarted back at the previous checkpoint.
How easy is The Last Guardian to pick up and play?
As a game about solving puzzles, The Last Guardian has a fair few brain teasers. Your progress through the game relies on you being able to figure out where to go, and what to do - and with little in the way of hints or markers, it's largely left to you to experiment and figure things out for yourself. There is a hint system, with a narrator that chips in if the game detects you've been stuck for too long, although the hints are often quite vague, meaning you're still mostly left to experiment and explore until you've worked out what to do.
Likewise, giving Trico commands is an acquired skill, and while he will mostly do as you tell him, if your directions are a bit imprecise, he may do something you didn't quite expect - for example, he might choose to perch on a nearby rock column instead of leaping over a chasm, which may make you think he's not capable of the latter.
However, The Last Guardian is fully voiced, meaning a solid reading ability isn't strictly necessary to play the game.
On the whole, The Last Guardian is pretty light on mature content - there's no bad language, no sex scenes and no bloody violence to speak of. Enemies consist of haunted suits of armour, who simply collapse into their constituent pieces of armour when defeated, and while you can knock their helmets off, there's no gore from this at all.
The most significant acts of violence and gore in the game generally involve Trico, your giant griffin-like companion. Enemies may throw spears at him, which lodge in his side, surrounded by a small staining of blood. The boy can pull the spears from Trico's side following battle, with Trico shows no signs of lasting damage. The opening scene, however, does show Trico with spears in his side, lying in a pool of blood.
Violence towards Trico, especially during the scenes in which he appears visibly injured or unconscious, may distress or upset some players - although Trico himself never actually dies, thankfully.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4