Back in 2001, development studio Team Ico released a self-titled game called Ico for the PlayStation 2 that won over critics and players alike with its endearing story and unique brand of puzzles. Ico was well received when it was released but its popularity continued to grow well beyond its debut, propelling it to cult status as years passed.
Four years later, Ico was followed up by Shadow of the Colossus, a game that many believe is the PlayStation 2's absolute best. Shadow delivered something no one had ever really witnessed before, giving you an incredible sense of scale and triumph as you took down larger-than-life colossi one by one.
With two instantaneous classics cemented on the developer's resume, the gaming world patiently waited for the next adventure from Team Ico. The Last Guardian was announced at E3 2009 for a 2011 release on PlayStation 3. But soon after that initial tease, Sony and Team Ico went radio silent. The wait became grueling, to the point of being downright laughable. The game itself became a piece of lore that the community fantasized about, with little hope it would ever actually see the light of day.
That changed in June of 2015, when from seemingly out of nowhere the game reappeared as a surprise announcement during Sony's E3 press conference, complete with a gameplay preview. The spot ended with a simple screen title: 2016. The Last Guardian had a date. Finally, 18 months later, it's arrived exclusively for the PlayStation 4.
Of course, a game with this kind of build-up has a disproportional amount of expectation attached to it. The Last Guardian isn't a result of a decade's worth of programming and finessing, it's just the result of the realities of the world of interactive entertainment, its politics and the fact that it is -- and continues to be -- very hard to make a videogame.
But even with that disastrous track record, remarkably, The Last Guardian is an excellent game and is certain to trigger the memories of those players who've had the pleasure of experiencing Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It's like stepping into a videogame time machine.
On its face, there are a ton of similarities to draw. You play as a young boy who meets and befriends a towering beast named Trico and together you must escape a desolate and massive crumbling world.
The Last Guardian has its own set of rules, and is cut from similar cloth to its spiritual predecessors. There are cerebral puzzles to figure out, strange items to use and the ominous feeling that you're about to slip and fall off a cliff or be abducted by a haunted guard.
The Last Guardian plays eerily similar to Ico and Shadow, especially the latter. In fact, the game is such a spot-on throwback to those earlier titles that it sometimes feels like you're playing an 11-year-old game.