If you want to talk about gam development hell, you’re definitely going to bring up The Last Guardian . This game began its development on the tail end of Shadow of the Colossus ‘ release, around 2006. A few years later, it was showcased at E3 – and then promptly disappeared from the limelight entirely. Back then, it was set for the PS3, however enough time passed that Sony made it jump consoles to the PS4. It finally resurfaced with actual footage during E3 2015 and 2016. We’re all pretty excited, and when the gameplay demo came out at Sony’s Tokyo Game Show, expectations were high.
However, it seems that the demo reviews all said about the same thing: The Last Guardian demo is undoubtedly made for the PS3, glitches and bugs included. It looks like Team Ico is struggling to make their game look and feel like it’s supposed to be on the PS4. After so many years in the making, this is such a disappointing problem, but I imagine that there is a lot going on behind the scenes. My hope is that the feedback from this demo will provoke some last minute changes, but with the release only a month away, we might just be getting the game we always wanted for the PS3.
Now, let’s address exactly what those glitches and bugs are. Apparently, the controls have a slow and inconsistent response time. It’s triangle to jump and R1 to grab – but the game never really tells you this. The tutorial prompt shows nothing more than triangle and the left stick, R1 is shrouded in mystery until you make a mistake or ask someone. There are similar problems further along that leave even the most experienced players confused and frustrated. Inconsistency appears when sometimes the jump works perfectly, and other times you fail for no discernible reason. Indeed, “lurching” was a popular descriptor for the movements of the little boy the player controlled.
Perhaps these “glitches” are intentional. Perhaps The Last Guardian forces the player to learn in the same slow way a child would, in addition to coaxing a “puppy” (Trico) into doing what it doesn’t really feel like doing right that second. If you’ve ever trained a puppy, you know how much patience is required. Sometimes you’re going to call, yell, scream, and that sweet wiggle-bum is still going to be way more interested in where that leaf blew five minutes ago. Furthermore, Team Ico did explain in 2011 that Trico has a mind of its own – so maybe the lack of response from both child and bird-dog is about realism, not glitches. Teaching and learning are not always as fast as we want them to be, especially in real life. Perhaps patience is the key to this game.
That said, The Last Guardian still looks like it belongs on the PS3. The textures are definitely not what we’re used to in most AAA games. However, Team Ico seems more focused on art style than detailed graphics, so I’m going to let that one slide. Granted, after listening to Sony harp on about 4K recently, it may seem quite alarming how far behind The Last Guardian is graphically. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this game looks almost exactly like it belongs in the same world as Shadow of the Colossus and Ico . There should be no doubt that Team Ico has a distinct art style that doesn’t always look as crisp as the latest AAA game.
Despite these obvious problems, I do believe this game demo was there to test the waters (like most demos are). Some of these problems will be fixed, but I think others are supposed to be there. I hope this will lead to a new approach to video games, where the player is forced into a realism that might be quite frustrating and also deeply enlightening; or will we get a great game, but with the glitches that are usually forgiven for a now outdated console.