Patience needed in quest with a dog-cat-bird creature

You and Trico, the awe-inspiring beast, have to solve environmental puzzles to advance through the valley you are trapped in.
You and Trico, the awe-inspiring beast, have to solve environmental puzzles to advance through the valley you are trapped in.PHOTO: JAPAN STUDIO

The Last Guardian is an exercise in patience, a trial that those who have been waiting for its release would be familiar with.

Originally pitched as a PlayStation 3 exclusive, the third game from the now-defunct Team Ico - the creator behind Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus - went through a decade of development hell and launch delays before finally seeing the light of day as a PlayStation 4 title last month.

You play an unnamed boy who wakes up in a pit next to a giant animal named Trico. The creature - which looks like a cross between a dog, a cat and a bird - is chained and wounded. How you and Trico ended up here is a mystery for now, but it is clear that the two of you need to work together to escape and find a way home.

You have to solve environmental puzzles to advance through the valley you are trapped in. These call for slow, leisurely exploration through the game's detailed environments - from immense, sun-drenched plateaus to claustrophobic, dank catacombs - and all to a lush, cinematic soundtrack. Regrettably, you can't revisit previous areas as you have only one save file and there is no level-select screen.

Sometimes, you might need Trico's help to fight enemies or to reach high places by climbing onto its back. Hints are offered via voiceover narration and onscreen prompts, but these break the immersive experience and can't be turned off.

  • 7/10

    RATING

  • PRICE: $72.90 (PlayStation 4)

  • GENRE: Action-adventure

The fickle third-person camera doesn't allow you to admire the postcard scenery and obscures your view during the vertigo-inducing, Uncharted-like platforming moments, where one wrong move can be fatal.

It also doesn't help that your character often stumbles and has a feeble grip. A few times I would fall to my death after slipping off a ledge or getting thrown off Trico's back when it makes a jump.

Trico is an awe-inspiring beast, a marvel of character design and animation. Pet owners and animal lovers will see some of their furry friends' mannerisms in the creature; whether it is batting the barrels of treats you offer it and nuzzling against you like a cat, or bounding across a meadow and shaking water off its feathers like a dog.

However, like a real animal, Trico is temperamental and doesn't always respond to your commands. This is an honest portrayal of what is supposed to be an autonomous being, but it can also be exhausting when you know how to solve a puzzle yet you can't progress due to its disobedience.

But just when you think you've reached the last straw with Trico, your strange companion and guardian gazes at you with its sad, soulful eyes, and all is forgiven.

• Verdict: If you can endure the wonky camera and controls, The Last Guardian's heartfelt tale of a boy and his adorable monster is worth the 10-year wait.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Patience needed in quest with a dog-cat-bird creature'. Print Edition | Subscribe