The Last Guardian’s Trico is gaming's perfect pet and a truly smart piece of design

I love The Last Guardian. Specifically, I really love its dirty great cat/dog/eagle thingie. Trico is one of the most believable AI lifeforms I’ve ever seen; at once unflappably loyal, completely distractible, and incredibly prone to random bouts of adorable ear-scratching. PS4’s badass griffin is also pretty much a seven tonne version of my year-old labrador puppy. They both love to stuff their furry faces, they hate being alone, and they’re forever getting their heads stuck in places they really shouldn’t. See…

More than anything, Trico’s behaviour is gloriously random. Sometimes it listens to its kid companion, and will merrily carry him over precarious bridges, parapets and crumbling towers. Other times, it flat out ignores the boy, instead choosing to take a gigantic nap, go for a little wander or throw a hissy fit in the hopes of being fed. 

Naturally, not everyone is a fan of the creature’s unwillingness to play ball, with some interpreting Trico’s refusal to immediately obey commands as a design flaw or glitch. It’s understandable. After all, many modern games are so irrevocably tethered to the notion of making design decisions aimed at creating the path of least resistance for players that they’re desperate to assist you in the most hand-holding fashion possible. Viewed from this perspective, it’s easy to understand why some players view Trico’s stubborn, unruly behaviour as a mangled by-product of The Last Guardian’s tortuous development cycle. 

You know what I say to that? Poppycock. Well, I’d actually like to type something a good deal swearier, but Trico’s delicate Ratchet-esque ears need to be protected. The point is, director Fumito Ueda has admitted he deliberately designed the monster’s AI to be unpredictable. When the beast ignores your flustered calls it’s not the game bugging out on you. No, it’s a core thematic choice that’s absolutely crucial to the integrity of The Last Guardian’s central premise. Namely, bossing a big-ass monster about shouldn’t be a cakewalk. 

Personally, I love those times when Trico opts to ignore the boy in favour of lazily lounging around like the world’s largest poodle… albeit a poodle with talons that make the ones on Jurassic Park’s velociraptors look like blunt nail files. Anyone who owns a dog or cat (especially the former) can identify with those moments when their four-legged pal chooses to rebel against all those hours of training in order to steal scraps from your plate, lick their bits or get distracted inhaling the fumes of a shed-sized cauldron of magic green goo…

Alright, maybe that last one’s just Trico.

Pets can be stubborn so-and-so’s that often do what they like in spite of their master’s commands. This sense of pig-headedness, of continually displaying independent thought is what makes Trico such a disarming, ever fascinating companion throughout The Last Guardian. Every time it goes for an impromptu dip in a pool or decides to lie down because all this ‘let’s escape a giant fantasy sinkhole business’ is too much hassle, that’s the creature showing genuine autonomy. It’s in these moments, when the monstrous sidekick decides to do its own thing, that I truly buy into Trico being a real flesh-and-blood compadre, and not some soulless mass of cuddly virtual feathers.

During my first playthrough of The Last Guardian, I actually got pretty lucky. My enormous chum followed orders first time more often than not, and even when it didn’t a little gentle coaxing was usually enough to make him transport the boy to where I wanted. Even if you’ve not been so fortunate and Trico has acted like a spoilt kid being dragged around a supermarket during your time with the game, there’s no denying the creature shows the one quality that defines all good pets when the shizzle really splatters the fan: loyalty.

In a pinch, when the kid is threatened, Trico is always there. When its tiny friend is being kidnapped by possessed suits of armour it continually throws itself into the line of fire without a second thought for its own well-being. Pointy spears in the keester? Screw that, my tiny amigo needs me! A few dozen pesky lacerations by way of sword stabbings? ‘Tis but a flesh wound. Now move aside, the boy needs rescuing. 

This sort of unconditional love from an animal is something all good pet owners can relate to. When Trico swoops in to save the day, it reminds me of those times I’ve had a shitty day and Bunk will lovingly curl up at my feet to try and turn my frown upside down - yes, I named my labrador after a homicide detective from The Wire. What of it? 

Such loyalty and selflessness makes Trico the perfect video game pet, in the process strengthening The Last Guardian’s beguiling central friendship to the point where Ueda’s much delayed adventure is one of the most emotionally enriching games on PS4. Regardless of whether Trico is being a bit of a disobedient dick or if it’s instinctively saving the boy from peril, I’m always reminded of how much I love my real dog. 

Sure, he can’t lay the smackdown on reanimated suits of armour, conjure lightning from his tail or leap dozens of feet in the air, yet every time my pup decides to ignore my calls in favour of stealing a biscuit or whimpers when I leave his sight, Trico always springs to mind. The lesson: The Last Guardian’s massive cat/dog/eagle monster is basically a small black labrador at heart. Who knew?