There is so much wrong with The Last Guardian.
The controls are stodgy, the camera’s a pain in the backside, and as for getting your huge, feathery companion to do what you want it to do - well, that’s like trying to get a cat to do what you want.
And no, that’s not the whole idea, but I’ll come back to that.
The point is, The Last Guardian is seriously flawed and often seriously frustrating, and as I lay out those flaws before you you’re going to think I’m an idiot for awarding it five stars.
But here’s the thing: I don’t care what you think. Because I love Trico, and I love this flawed, frustrating game.
Best in show
Trico is a cat. Or maybe he’s a dog. And maybe he’s a she. Whatever it is genetically, story-wise it’s your giant, feathery, winged companion.
Awakening in some sort of pit alongside a huge beast that seems as wary and worse for wear as you are. It doesn’t take long for the young protagonist to establish a bond.
Trico is keen on barrels full of glowing, green stuff and of not being chained up, and you’re able to help him with both. Sorry, to me Trico is male and that’s just the way it is.
These two characters have the same general aim - to escape the place they’ve been left in which, it turns out, is a deep bowl surrounded by mountains and with ancient, towering ruins rising from its centre.
I’d love to say that the alliance between these two characters is uneasy, hard-fought and fragile, but actually Trico is your best friend almost instantly, like that cat you once stroked on the way to work and you’re pretty sure would’ve boarded the tube with you if you’d let it.
There is, eventually, a sort of answer for Trico’s willingness to buddy up with this particular little human, but to be completely honest it doesn’t particularly matter that this is a gaming relationship that you haven’t had to work very hard for - Trico is just that darn lovable.
It’s the way he moves and the noises he makes. All uniquely his, but also instantly recognisable, and the way he relies on you and responds to your kindnesses creates immediate affection that’s impossible to resist.
If your heart doesn’t break a little as you see him get more and more battered and bruised over the course of your journey together, you have no heart at all. You monster.
The boy with the glowing tattoo
Trico isn’t the only character to have been lavished with attention. The boy that you play is similarly, gorgeously animated, from the way he runs ungainly down stairs, to the way he hops on the spot when he’s nervous.
He feels organic and analogue, and that’s a surprisingly rare thing, even in these halcyon days of next-gen gaming.
The presentation is beautiful throughout, particularly if you’re playing on a screen that supports HDR (high dynamic range). This is a soft, watercolour-inspired aesthetic, and as you watch Trico’s feather’s shimmer in a bright light or take in one of the many vertiginous vistas, there’s nothing to do but marvel.