Fumito Ueda’s first game, Ico, was a beautiful, moody masterpiece. Its spare depiction of a boy attempting to escape from a vast castle with the help of a mysterious companion discarded the gameplay and interface conventions of its day, delivering an almost meditative sense of immersion. Ueda’s next game, Shadow of the Colossus, added the bare minimum of status indicators to the screen to support its complex boss battles that required the player to clamber up and onto a succession of giant creatures.
In terms of both gameplay and mood, Ueda’s latest game, The Last Guardian, is a straightforward combination of its predecessors. It features a boy attempting to escape from a mysterious castle with the help of a giant creature. Like Ico, it eschews a conventional HUD, save system, inventory management, power-ups, and nearly every other modern gaming convention. And as in Shadow of the Colossus, players will find themselves scrambling up the back of a large, often uncooperative, incredibly life-like beast (cheekily named Trico).
Ico was able to deliver on the promise of its design by reducing complexity in other areas. It’s set in a largely rectilinear castle that the player navigates on foot. It has a small number of enemies. Its environmental puzzles are mechanically and conceptually simple. Similarly, Shadow of the Colossus manages to pull off its extremely ambitious boss battles by removing nearly everything from the game except those creatures.
While The Last Guardian attempts to combine the strengths of its predecessors, it’s burdened by the combination of their features. The environment and the player’s movement through it is far more complex than in Ico. The puzzles play fast and loose with their own rules at a few critical points. The giant creature, no longer confined to a limited engagement in a boss arena, sometimes pushes the game mechanics past their limits.
Nothing kills immersion more than an acute awareness of the game engine itself. In The Last Guardian, the camera often gets stuck on walls or briefly shows the view from inside Trico. (Spoiler alert: like all your favorite 3D-rendered characters, he’s hollow.) Arguably, Shadow of the Colossus had an even more frustrating camera and control scheme, but that game was released eleven years ago on a far less powerful console. The Last Guardian has made tremendous strides since then, but it’s still not quite enough to avoid illusion-breaking lapses.
These shortcomings are compounded by an uncharacteristic lack of faith in its design. Traditional (read: oppressive) on-screen prompts describing the control scheme mar the opening of the game and are impossible to completely banish. A voice-over extends beyond its narrative role to provide a dynamic hint system that is often too quick to reveal solutions. Several brief cutscenes in quick succession at the start of the game undercut player agency. It's tempting to attribute these lapses to Ueda’s departure from the project several years before its release, but the reason is less important than the result.
Castle in the Sky
All of that said, it’s important to remember the context of these criticisms. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are two of the greatest video games ever created. Both pushed the limits of the hardware they were released on, and both have influenced video game designers, filmmakers, and other creative professionals far out of proportion with their modest sales numbers. That The Last Guardian fails to resoundingly best its distinguished parents is only disappointing because of how close it comes.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Last Guardian is a gorgeous game. The world design is in line with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but the increased fidelity of the PlayStation 4 really makes it shine. (PlayStation 4 Pro running at 1080p is recommended for best frame rates.) Lighting effects that Ico could only dream of add a poignancy to already majestic vistas. At so many points, I wished this game had the photo mode from Uncharted 4.
Trico is an amazing achievement: a building-sized NPC that truly feels alive. Its animations rarely feel canned or repetitive. Its behavioral inscrutability is completely in keeping with its character. Learning to read Trico’s moods and signals is a core part of the game. The experience smoothly transitions from frustration to a deep, intuitive understanding by the end.
Anyone who has finished Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will have no trouble completing The Last Guardian. I found the environmental puzzles a bit more challenging than those in Ico, but I never had to go to the Internet to look up a solution. Anyone who got stuck in Ico will almost certainly be even more stymied by The Last Guardian, however. The hand-eye coordination required is substantially lower than in Shadow of the Colossus, but the camera management and overall control-scheme finesse is much more demanding than in Ico.
Also keep in mind that these are comparisons to the difficulty of two much older games. The Last Guardian has a significant skill-barrier to enjoyment when compared to contemporary console games, especially those with such an artistic bent. Inexperienced gamers looking for a better match for their skills should try Journey instead.
Longtime console gamers who have never played Ico or Shadow of the Colossus should definitely do so, preferably before playing The Last Guardian. High-definition remakes of both games are available for the PlayStation 3 on a single game disc for a combined price of $25. If your taste in games is anything like mine, it is absolutely worth buying or borrowing a PlayStation 3 console just to play these two games. (Plus Journey for just $15 more.) [Update: Both games are also available on the PS4 and Windows PC via the PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, though I have not tried playing them this way.]
If you loved Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian is well worth playing, but it bears the scars of its nearly decade-long development. Like The Force Awakens, there’s almost no way The Last Guardian could have lived up to the expectations accumulated during the long wait for its release. In the end, its reach exceeds its grasp, if only slightly. But, oh, what a reach it was. Like its star creature, The Last Guardian occupies a lofty perch—defiantly idiosyncratic and occasionally inscrutable, but a towering achievement nonetheless.
These are the canonical bagel flavors:
- Cinnamon Raisin
- Egg Everything
Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote my first review of Mac OS X for a nascent “PC enthusiast’s" website called Ars Technica. Last fall, I wrote my last. Though Apple will presumably announce the next major version of OS X at WWDC this coming June, I won’t be reviewing it for Ars Technica or any other publication, including the website you’re reading now.
Those who listen to the ATP, the weekly podcast I host with Marco Arment and Casey Liss, know that I’ve been contemplating hanging up my OS X reviewer’s hat for some time now. Producing thousands of words (and hundreds of screenshots) about each major release of OS X was my first real claim to fame on the Internet. The prospect of stopping has made me reconsider my public identity and sense of self. Who am I if I’m not “that guy who writes those OS X reviews”? But when I finally decided, the relief I felt let me know I’d made the right choice.
There is no single, dramatic reason behind this. It’s an accumulation of small things—the time investment, the (admittedly, self-imposed) mental anguish, the pressure to meet my own expectations and those of my readers year after year—but it all boils down to a simple, pervasive feeling that this is the time to stop. I’ve done this. It is done.
When I started, I was at the forefront of long-form nerd-centric tech writing. Today, the world has moved on. I might have stopped with my OS X 10.9 review in 2013 if not for my love of round numbers and my expectation that OS X 10.10 would bring a complete interface overhaul that I really wanted to write about.
While OS X reviews were my public debut, the Hypercritical podcast brought me to a new audience starting in 2011. Hypercritical ran for 100 episodes, and in the years that followed I’ve recorded at least one podcast every week. (I’m currently a co-host of the weekly Accidental Tech Podcast and a regular guest on The Incomparable.) The one, long article I wrote about OS X for Ars Technica every year or two has long since been dwarfed by the volume of my audio output.
I still love OS X—and I still have many complaints about it. I will certainly talk about OS X 10.11 (whatever it’s called) at length on ATP, and I’ll read the many great reviews written by others when it’s released. But neither podcasting nor writing have ever been full-time jobs for me. I’ve always had to fit them into my life alongside my actual job and my family. Right now, I’m looking forward to my first summer in many years that won’t be dominated by stolen daytime minutes and long, sleepless nights in front of a screen with a noisy air conditioner blowing behind me. I’m content to have reviewed 10.0 through 10.10. Someone else can pick up the baton for the next 15 years.
- OS X 10.10 Yosemite – October 16, 2014
- OS X 10.9 Mavericks – October 22, 2013
- OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – July 25, 2012
- Mac OS X 10.7 Lion – July 20, 2011
- Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – August 31, 2009
- Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard – October 28, 2007
- Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger – April 28, 2005
- Mac OS X 10.3 Panther – November 9, 2003
- Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar – September 5, 2002
- Mac OS X 10.1 (Puma) – October 15, 2001
- Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah) – April 2, 2001
- Here’s to the crazy ones: a decade of Mac OS X reviews – May 12, 2011
- Five years of Mac OS X – March 24, 2006
- Read it for free on the web
- Buy it from Apple’s iBookstore for $4.99
- Buy it from Amazon’s Kindle store for $4.99
- Subscribe to Ars Premier for a month for $5 and get all of these options:
- Read it on a single, ad-free web page
- Download an iBooks-compatible EPUB file
- Download a Kindle ebook: two versions, one made especially for iOS
Here are my thoughts on the various reading options. This is mostly a repeat of last year’s post about Mavericks, with some text carried over verbatim, but there is some new information.
The Web Version
The web version of my review is the canonical version. It has the best formatting, the biggest images, and includes mouse-over image toggle effects that can't be done in an ebook. It's also the most up-to-date. I believe that good writing for the web includes many links. A web browser is the best place to inspect and follow those links.
All the images in my review are Retina resolution. To see all the detail in the images, read the review on a screen with at least 1,920 “native” pixels of horizontal resolution. Most images are 1,280 pixels wide (presented to the browser with a width value of 640), but the “full-width” images are 1,920 pixels wide (presented to the browser with a width value of 960).
The free web version has ads, and it’s split up into multiple “pages” (which are usually much longer than a single printed page). This kind of pagination annoys some people. I actually like it for very long articles because it helps me keep my place across multiple reading sessions. I can remember I was on page 8 instead of remembering the exact point in a very long, scrolling web page.
That said, I also really like how an Ars Premier subscription eliminates all ads from the Ars Technica website and gives me the option to view any article on a single page. I use single-page view on very long articles when I’m searching for some text using my web browser’s “Find…” feature. I use it all the time on short articles.
Some people think Ars Technica forces me to break my article up into many tiny pages. That’s not the case. I choose how to paginate the article. I like to break it up on logical section boundaries, which means that the “pages” vary widely in length. I do try to keep any single “page” from being too short, however.
The Kindle and iBooks readers for OS X and iOS have their own strengths and weaknesses, but I think the iBooks version of my review has a slight edge over the Kindle version. Amazon adds a “delivery” charge of $0.15 per megabyte (varying a bit for different countries). This can really eat into the price of a $4.99 book. Like the web version, both ebook versions include Retina-resolution images, making them quite large. To control the size of the Kindle ebook, I used JPEG images throughout.
Unlike Amazon, Apple does not charge a per-megabyte fee in its ebook store. Since both ebooks are the same price, this means I make slightly more money from each iBookstore purchase than I do from each Kindle purchase. But there’s something in it for you, too. The iBookstore version of my review uses lossless PNG images throughout. (Kindle version: 5 MB; iBookstore version: 25 MB.) In practice, I doubt most people will be able to tell the difference between the JPEG and PNG images, but I know which one I’d choose.
I've tried to make both ebooks available for purchase in as many countries as possible, but there are some limits on this that are beyond my control. If the ebook is not available in your country, remember that you can get both versions of the ebook by subscribing to Ars Premier.
- 26,485 words.
- 113 images (54.3 MB)
- 479 original screenshots (3.56 GB)
- 8,283 words of research notes.
- 2,534 lines of Perl code across 12 scripts to generate three different formats from the canonical HTML source: Ars CMS, EPUB, and Kindle.
- All three formats were generated 171 times.
- I saved the document 3,525 times while writing it in BBEdit.
- The article content was constantly backed up onto 7 different hard drives on three different Macs in two different locations (thanks to Dropbox, Time Machine, and SuperDuper), and pushed up to two different online backup services (Backblaze and CrashPlan).
- Applications used: BBEdit, Dragon Dictate, TextEdit, Simplenote, Photoshop CS6, VMware Fusion, xScope, Xcode, Yojimbo.
My sincere thanks to everyone who reads the review, in any form, in whole or in part. You’re the reason I’ve been doing this for the past fifteen years.
Most of the nonfiction books I read these days fall into two broad categories: books about people I admire and books about the creation of things I admire. Good books about the latter often turn into the former by the end.
The book I just finished, Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, had a head start on both counts. My love of Pixar is not surprising or uncommon. As for Ed Catmull, I’ve been aware of him and his contemporaries for decades (I had an Alvy Ray Smith quote in my .sig for a while in the 90s), but my nerd crush really stepped into high gear when I saw a video of Catmull’s talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2007.
It’s difficult for me to describe my reaction to that talk—and to his new book—without sounding absurdly self-aggrandizing, but I’m going to give it a shot. Saying what other people are thinking is a proven formula for mass-market appeal employed by everyone from talk radio hosts to stand-up comedians. But as someone whose thoughts and interests have always been outside the norm, I’ve rarely heard excerpts from my own inner dialog voiced on a broader stage.
Ed Catmull does that for me. If you’ve listened to my Hypercritical podcast or read the article that inspired it, you will find many familiar topics and themes in Creativity, Inc. Now, believe me, I harbor no illusions about this overlap. I am not the guy who hears Louis C.K. tell a joke and thinks he could be just as funny because he had a similar thought once. But shared values and the fulfillment of common aspirations are at the heart of all hero worship.
Ed Catmull’s dream was to create the first fully computer-animated feature film. As a child, I also dreamed of such a thing; Catmull and the rest of the people at Pixar actually made it happen. Similarly, as an adult, I’ve clung to the notion that critical thinking can be both useful and powerful. Creativity, Inc. explains just how powerful it can be when practiced by a handful of the most brilliant technical and creative people alive today.
Ay, there’s the rub. It’s so easy to hear the vaguest echo of your own thoughts expressed by someone fantastically smart and accomplished and view that as a cosmic endorsement of your approach to life. But that absolutely would not be in keeping with the message of the book—a message Catmull tries again and again to communicate to readers he knows will resist it.
Indeed, Catmull most often uses himself as an example of someone who has failed to see through to the heart of a problem. This is the true strength of the book. Unlike so many other tech-industry memoirs and business books, Creativity, Inc. is not an abstract exploration of a philosophy, nor is it a list of accomplishments interspersed with bold commandments. Instead, it is a deep, thoughtful investigation of a never-ending series of failures—and the reactions to those failures that eventually led to success.
Think of it: the man who invented texture mapping, made computer-animated films possible, and led his studio to release a string of amazing, Oscar-winning examples of the form decides to write a book…and then builds it around an examination of his own mistakes. Ed Catmull may not be your kind of hero, but he sure is mine.
It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, I guess in general, but also a blog post about video games. Video games are probably the single thing most attributable to my career as a programmer, and everything else I've done professionally after that. I still feel video games
We've read so many sad stories about communities that were fatally compromised or destroyed due to security exploits. We took that lesson to heart when we founded the Discourse project; we endeavor to build open source software that is secure and safe for communities by default, even if there are
When I wrote about The Golden Age of x86 Gaming, I implied that, in the future, it might be an interesting, albeit expensive, idea to upgrade your video card via an external Thunderbolt 3 enclosure.
I'm here to report that the future is now.
Yes, that's right, I paid $500
Google Fuchsia OS With Armadillo UI Now Runs On Pixelbook
Google's Android dominates the global smartphone market with more than 80% market share. The company also has Chrome OS. But having two operating systems under its belt hasn't stopped Google from developing the third one. The Google Fuchsia OS has been ...
See What Google's Secret Fuchsia OS Looks Like
Google's Experimental Fuchsia OS Seen To Work On The Pixelbook
Google's Fuchsia OS That Could Eventually Displace Android Captured On Video
Your monthly Amazon Prime service is going to cost you more than before
Get ready to pay more for free shipping. Amazon Prime, that service that allows us to click a button and receive anything from cat food to cheeseboards to, well, cheese in two days or less is getting more expensive. Rather than paying $11 a month for ...
Amazon Prime Subscription Increases to $12.99 a Month
Amazon is raising the price of its monthly Prime membership from $10.99 to $12.99
FYI: Amazon Prime Monthly Price Raising From $10.99 to $12.99
How a Government Shutdown Would Affect NASA
With the U.S. government just hours away from a potential shutdown as lawmakers struggle to agree on a new spending bill, more than 18,000 NASA employees around the country are bracing for the agency to temporarily shut down as well. If Congress does ...
Astronaut Jeanette Epps bumped from space station flight
Astronauts reassigned in surprise crew shuffle
Let's talk about NASA's latest commercial crew delay
After That Cash Windfall, Where Is Apple's Second Campus Going?
As Amazon closes in on the location for its second campus, currently codenamed HQ2, is Apple planning its own search for Apple HQ2? The tech giant on Wednesday announced plans to invest billions of dollars in the U.S. as part of a broader effort to ...
Apple to decide location of new campus without public bidding process
Where Will Apple Build its Second Headquarters? Tim Cook 'Narrows the List'
Apple to Begin Paying $16 Billion to Ireland Around March Amid Legal Battle With European Commission
Google is patching a bug that slows down Wi-Fi networks connected to both Android and Chromecast devices
Google is rolling out a patch today which will fix a bug that slows down Wi-Fi networks connected to both Android and Chromecast built-in devices. According to a blog post, Google said a bug in its Cast software on Android phones may incorrectly send a ...
Google releases fix for Chromecast WiFi bug
Google tackles Chromecast wi-fi blasting bug
Google rolls out fix for Wi-Fi bug linked to Chromecast and Google Home devices
OnePlus says up to 40000 customers were affected by credit card security breach
OnePlus has announced that up to 40,000 customers were affected by the security breach that caused the company shut down credit card payments for its online store earlier this week. The information is the result of an ongoing investigation with a third ...
OnePlus targeted by credit card hack that went undiscovered for two months; 40000 potentially affected
OnePlus confirms up to 40000 customers were impacted by credit card hack
OnePlus says up to 40000 customers affected in credit card breach
Key Takeaways From IBM's Q4
IBM posted its Q4 results on January 18. For the first time in several years, IBM's revenues grew as its systems division reported excellent growth amid the shift to cloud computing services. During the quarter, the company's revenues grew by 3.5% to ...
IBM Turns A Corner With Results, But Concerns About Profit Arise
IBM slides despite reporting its first profit growth in almost 6 years (IBM)
Is the Curse Broken? IBM Reports First Revenue Growth Since 2012
The Nintendo Switch Has Likely Outsold The Wii U In Just 10 Months
Paul Tassi , Contributor News and opinion about video games, technology and the internet Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch. Nintendo predicted this would happen, and it seems likely it may be a ...
Nintendo Labo Trailer Analysis – IGN Rewind Theater
11 Indie Games We Want To See On The Switch
Nintendo's new idea 'Labo' may sound strange, but it's actually a perfect fit given the company's 128-year history
Sky & Telescope
Hunters Recover Meteorites From Michigan Fireball
Sky & Telescope
A spectacular fireball seen by hundreds of people from Iowa to Ontario delivered precious samples from the asteroid belt to the lake country of southern Michigan Tuesday night. Fresh as the fallen snow. A beautiful, fusion-crusted meteorite fragment ...
Meteorite hunters find first pieces of the Michigan fireball
Meteorite hunter finds 3 rocks from Michigan meteor in Hamburg Township
Meteorite hunters find first fragments of Michigan meteor
Amazon is raising the price of Prime monthly memberships by nearly 20 percent
Amazon Prime memberships are getting more expensive for those customers who want the flexibility to pay for the speedy shipping and media streaming program on a monthly basis. The company is announcing on Friday that the Amazon Prime monthly fee is ...
Amazon Raises Monthly Prime Membership Fees By 18 Percent
Amazon boosts monthly fee for Prime by $2, maintains yearly rate
Amazon just made a major change — and it forced me to finally cancel my Prime subscription
Delta is cracking down on people who use fake emotional support animals to let their pets fly for free
Delta Air Lines is enacting stricter regulations on those who travel with service and emotional support animals. The new rules are in response to a rise in safety incidents involving untrained or improperly trained animals. Stricter standards will cut ...
Your Emotional Support Duck Is Not Welcome in Seat 15C
Sick of soiled cabins and biting, Delta wants proof that support animals are trained
Free checked baggage in basic economy may soon be a memory
This Will Be Where Amazon Puts Its Second Headquarters, According to Experts
By the end of this year, Amazon will announce a location for its second headquarters, bringing the tech giant's massive search for “HQ2” to a triumphant close. As of Thursday, 20 cities were left in the running, whittled down from 238 that applied to ...
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times journalists vote 248-44 to unionize
Los Angeles Times
Journalists at the Los Angeles Times have overwhelmingly elected to form a union, a first for the 136-year-old news organization that for much of its history was known for its opposition to organized labor. The union drive was launched publicly in ...
LA Times Employees Are Demanding Their CEO Be Fired After Misconduct Allegations Surface
LA Times Staff Votes to Unionize in Blow to Owner Tronc
Tronc That! Los Angeles Times Journalists Vote To Unionize
Trump misfires with claim that military would 'shut down' during government shutdown
“A government shutdown will be devastating to our military . . . something the Dems care very little about!” — President Trump, in a tweet, Jan. 18. “If for any reason it shuts down, the worst thing is what happens to our military. We're rebuilding ...
The biggest losers in Amazon's hunt for its second headquarters
Amazon's search for a second headquarters is like a reality show, only way geekier and with way higher stakes. And true to that format, dreams are already getting crushed. We feel for you Minneapolis. The online retailer was quite clear when it ...
Ranking all 20 Amazon HQ2 finalists, from worst to best
What's at Stake With Amazon's New HQ? Ask Newark
Entreprenuers and VCs chime in on Amazon HQ2 finalists, NYC and Newark
Coca-Cola pledges to recycle all packaging by 2030
Coca-Cola has announced a pledge to recycle a used bottle or can for every one the company sells by 2030. Calling it a "massive global ambition" the firm admitted its part in littering the environment and a responsibility to tackle the problem. The ...
Coca-Cola Wants To Collect & Recycle 100% Of Its Bottles, Cans By 2030
Coke: We'll Recycle One Can or Bottle for Every One We Sell
Coca-Cola promises to step up recycling effort
Trump appointee seeks $0 funding for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Q: When was the last time a federal agency director asked for no money to fund its operations? A: This week, when Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration budget director tapped as interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said he ...
CFPB To Reconsider Payday Lending Rules
In bizarre reversal under Trump, consumer agency reveals moves to protect payday lenders
BankThink Mulvaney, handpicked team in tow, ready to reshape CFPB
Snap is reportedly threatening employees who leak company information: 'The government can even put you in jail'
Snap sent employees a memo regarding the recent increase in leaked company information, according to a report from Cheddar. The memo — sent by Snap's chief lawyer and general counsel Michael O'Sullivan — states that employees caught leaking ...
Snap Inc. Threatens Leakers With Jail Time: LIVE MARKETS BLOG
Snap Under Fire In The Headlines; Investors Shrug
Why Snap Is Laying Off Two Dozen Employees as Problems Persist