Yes, often dogs will lose their minds, and still do what they want - especially if there's food involved - but you only have to look at them a certain way, or use a particular tone of voice, and they'll slink off to their bed with their ears plastered against their head.
I used to own a lurcher called Finn, who was the most neurotic animal I've ever known. He seemed to exist in a constant state of neediness, always looking to me for reassurance, as if he was worried that he'd done something wrong. His almost constant anxiety-induced flatulence was something I'd never want to inflict on another human being.
Nonetheless, I love a bit of neediness, so consequently I loved Finn, and I'm very much a dog person. Unfortunately, I also really hate faeces. Call me weird if you must, but I hate picking it up, I hate smelling it, and I hate treading in it. If you're a dog owner, these three things are unavoidable.
It's different with cats. I get absolutely no love from either of mine, let alone acknowledgment that I even exist most of the time (unless it's time for them to be fed). But at least they do all their shitting in next door's kid's sandpit.
In The Last Guardian, you play a nameless boy who - echoing the famous parable about the guy who removes a thorn from a lion's foot - rescues a giant cat-bird-dog-dragon-thing, called Trico, from near-death.
The pair almost immediately become inseperable - Trico acting as your companion and protector, as well as the device you must use to solve the game's puzzles.
While there are elements of platforming, that is what The Last Guardian is at its heart: a puzzle game. Trico's weight, his lightning bolt-firing tail, and hunger for barrels of glowing stuff, are utilised in various different ways to keep you moving forwards.
At other times, it's up to you to clear a path for Trico to reach areas otherwise inaccesible to a massive wild animal, or remove obstacles which stop him in his tracks with fear.
Beneath the actual videogame-y aspects, this is as much about the relationship between the player and Trico. It's a beautiful game, but that beauty is never more evident than in how real Trico feels. He seems aware of the world around him, veering from gentleness to aggression like any animal. And he cares about you, the player. The relationship develops from wary interest, to inseperable bond, and it - along with the art design - is The Last Guardian's most successful element.
Also: Trico has a surprisingly detailed anus.
Here's something I need to confess: I don't share everyone's love of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (the two previous, much-lauded, games from the same team as The Last Guardian.
I get that they're unique, beautiful, works of art... but as video games they were hobbled by awkward controls and a dodgy camera.
For me, a game works best when you forget about the controls altogether, and you don't have to think about them. If you're constantly being pulled out of the fantasy because you're wrestling to understand what's happening, or getting frustrated by what you're trying to do, then that pulls against any amount of artistry. It stops it being immersive.
Unfortunately, The Last Guardian suffers this very same issue. Coupled to that, not only are the controls leaden with imprecise momentum, but much of the game is about trying to solve puzzles, while attempting to get a giant cat-bird-dog-dragon-thing to go and do what you want. And often I'll have solved a puzzle - after much irritation with the camera and the controls - and the giant cat-bird-dog-dragon-thing still needs all manner of coaxing to follow me.
And by "coaxing" I mean "swearing impotently and waiting until he decides to be where I need him to be".
The Last Guardian is one of those games that I feel - as someone who loves video games - that I should love.
I had the same issue with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; beautiful, singular, experiences quite unlike anything else, with an atmosphere of melancholic isolation, which for me verged on being a bit dull.
The Last Guardian completes a trilogy that is linked stylistically, if not in terms of its shared world.
I just wonder how much more would I have loved those games if they'd made a few more concessions to accesibility? Imagine an Ico or Colossus with Nintendo's guiding hand. There are things wrong with the gameplay here that would never have made it past Shigeru Miyamoto's quality assurance tests, and - I believe - shouldn't be present in The Last Guardian.
Say what you like about the art design, the concept, the relationship between you and Trico... but those flaws make this a less good video game than it could've been. Hats off to them for making a video game creature which feels real. Fewer plaudits for Trico always being off shitting in next door's kid's sandpit when I needed him to be jumping over a chasm.
SUMMARY: Animals and videogames aren't always a good mix.
SCORE: Four legs out of seven, whatever that means.
THE BEST THINGS I EVER GOT FOR CHRISTMAS - BY MR BIFFO
2016 IN REVIEW PART TWO: NINTENDO
2016 IN REVIEW PART ONE - VIRTUAL REALITY
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