Trico & The End of Year Rush

October! Games! November! Games! December! More games! GAMES, exclamation mark. Big games, small games, bang-bang games, cat-dog games and games about Cup Noodles.

I've been trying to cram in as many as possible before I write my Best & Worst of 2016 at the end of this month (2015 is here, including GOTY links going back to 2010). I bought far too much in the Black Friday sales, and have more games coming for Christmas. Forza Horizon 3, Titanfall 2, Mafia 3, Dead Rising 4, Ryse, Quantum Break, Rhythm Paradise Megamix, and an Xbox One, of course.

And then there's my big, winter three: The Last Guardian, Yakuza 6, and Final Fantasy XV. The plan was to buy one to play immediately, get one as a Christmas present from my wife and hold off on the other until January/February, but I'm still partially undecided on which is which. My love for Yakuza is well documented and I predictably got caught up in the FF hype, despite my initial reservations. In the end, though, I settled on The Last Guardian as my "now" game.

The Last Guardian is special, yet flawed. Trico is wonderful and thoroughly convincing as a living, breathing companion. I'm quite happy watching him/her/it for long stretches, marvelling at his reactions and body language, and how he gradually warms to the boy. I notice so many little movements and characteristics that I recognise from our family pets. I see more canine traits in Trico, but I'm sure a cat lover would argue that his is a more feline demeanour. Chicken fans would perhaps counter that there is more fowl about Trico, but they are idiots and best ignored.

This mishmash of animals shouldn't work. A cat-dog-chicken sounds like something straight out of Napoleon Dynamite's sketch book, yet it all comes together perfectly. He's completely believable as a real creature; when I'm playing, I have the overwhelming urge to scratch Trico's belly and call him a good boy. Ueda-san and his team created something special in Trico, and it's a crying shame that the rest of the game is nowhere near as impressive.

The camera is awful. I've seen some people claim that it's cinematic, but it's not, it's just shit. It is unresponsive, thoroughly useless in tight spaces and has a nasty habit of panning away at the most inopportune moments. Platforming is fairly dull and having to escape from the temple guards is perhaps the worst part of the game. If they catch you, you have to mash the face-buttons until you wriggle free from their grasp. I cannot comprehend how, after almost a decade in development, twatting buttons was the best mechanic the team could come up with. I'm no fan of QTEs, but they would have been a huge improvement over this inelegant solution.

Overall, The Last Guardian is so unique, and Trico so convincing, that it is able to overcome its faults. It might be the best game I've played all year, but it also might be the most frustrating.

When I'm not coaxing a dog/cat/chicken into giving me boosters, I'm racing around Australia in Forza Horizon 3. I was a little disappointed at first, as it's not quite the Burnout Paradise facsimile I was hoping for, but I've grown to love it. The map is huge and varied and this is one of the most forgiving racers I've ever crashed my way through, as it allows you to rewind time and dictate the car class and speed of almost every race. A great place to spend thirty minutes each evening.

I'd like to give Uncharted 4 another look in the coming days, and I'm sure I'll lose at least a few evenings to Burnout Paradise, which is available as part of Games with Gold. I probably shouldn't be this excited for an eight year old game! And then there are the games that I've missed completely and won't be playing anytime soon, such as Hitman, Thumper, X-Com 2 and Monster Hunter Generations. There's always next year, I guess.


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