Action RPGs like Fallout 4 and Skyrim have gotten VR versions, as has Doom, but The Last Guardian demo offers a completely different sandbox in which to test the technology. No guns or dragons, just some kid playing in some ruins with some really funky looking bird-dog-cat. It’s also free. If you have a PS VR headset and any ounce of you is human and still has a heart, go try The Last Guardian VR demo right now.
The standalone experience came out today and doesn’t require the full game to try, but I’ll warn you it’s short. Really short. About fifteen minutes if you’re strolling along and maybe half an hour if you’re really just standing around taking in the sights. It lets you explore a single small area and solve a puzzle, which is at times a breathtaking experience in VR.
First there’s the beautiful world drenched in sunlight and stark shadows. The game’s impressionistic scenes looked occasionally chalky and blurred together when they appeared on PS4 last year, and this demo, which I played on a PS4 Pro, hasn’t changed that. But the aesthetic definitely feels like it works better in VR. Inhabiting the space, hearing the wind, and sensing the depth between where you’re currently standing and that next platform or area in the background simply does the art style more favors.
And if you were wondering, the game also only supports the Dualshock and not PlayStation Move, further simplifying things. You have very little freedom overall, but in the end I think it was a worthy tradeoff given how much it cuts down on the kind of motion sickness or frustration that might result from actually controlling the boy in a full, 3D space. Instead, you get to focus on the most important part: Trico.
When the creature first pops in, it’s equal parts mesmerizing and heartstopping. “Oh, that thing giant but adorable and acts just like my cat,” I thought, immediately followed by “Oh shit I’m gonna get squished by those giant chicken feet.” Like in the regular game, you can call Trico to get its attention, feed it barrels, and hop on its back to travel to new areas, but the relationship takes on a much more intimate feeling when it’s in VR.
The Last Guardian helped simulate the feeling of friendship and mutual-dependence through a series of puzzles and habitual gameisms (like constantly pressing “x” to try and get the damn thing to follow you). The VR demo achieves this simply by representing the creature in exquisite detail inches from your face. In the final section of the demo we walked along a stone bridge while the sun slowly sunk into the horizon. After decades of wanting to ride on a luck dragon’s back after watching The Neverending Story, I… still haven’t. But The Last Guardian in VR got me damn close.