The lights are on
Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are two games that are always
mentioned when discussions about whether gaming is an art arise. They were both well received when they
first released on the PS2 and continue to be praised by the gaming community
for their originality. Team Ico
has done us all a favor and combined both games in an exclusive PS3 title known
simply as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection. The
games now support 3-D and have also been updated with HD visuals and framerate
improvements. I was one of the gamers that missed BOTH games when they were
first released so my review will be one that won’t be swayed with
nostalgia. Let’s see if the games
actually stood the test of time, shall we?
I get it, I really do.
Gamers always make a fuss about Ico and I finally understand why. This game is truly one of a kind and
playing through it will broaden your horizons in terms of what you expect from
a game. It has a very minimalist
approach to pretty much every aspect of gaming: storytelling, gameplay, audio,
character interaction, etc. You
would think that this would provide for a boring experience but in turn it
actually makes you appreciate other aspects that are easily overlooked in other
games. You won’t find millions of
collectibles or side quests that constantly drag you away from the main
quest. Far too many games are
loaded down with with these nowadays and are
even praised for it because it extends playtime and adds more bulk content to
the game, but not Ico. The game is
focused on the mission at hand with no distractions, and this ends up adding to
the charm and originality of the game.
The story focuses on young boy who has been banished from
his village and locked away in a castle.
Apparently that’s what they do with young boys who are born with horns
on their head, who knew? After
discovering a young girl trapped in there with him, he makes it his mission to
get the both of them out of there.
And thus, the game begins.
The gameplay revolves around completing puzzles and guiding
the young girl, Yorda, around the castle.
Puzzles range from the basic box moving and switch pulling to other more
intricate puzzles that require you to put your thinking cap on and contemplate
for a minute or two. Yorda’s
inability to swim or climb rope really plays an important role in the puzzles:
you’ve got to find other ways to get her to where she needs to be. There’s also shadow beasts that come
after Yorda and try to pull her into shadow vortexes and it’s up to Ico to
protect her with whatever fancy weapon he’s currently wielding.
Even considering that Ico’s ten-year anniversary was this
year, it’s still not without its faults.
The lack of an autosave feature could possibly have you pulling your
hair out: there are times when the
camera can cause an error in judgment and Ico will fall to his death, forcing
you to go back and re-do a puzzle you already figured out simply because you
forgot to save. This can be
especially cumbersome as some puzzles can take some time to figure out and
complete. It can also be very
frustrating whenever Yorda decides to climb half way to the bottom of a ladder
before turning around and going all the way to the top, and pulling herself up
before deciding to come back down again.
Even after it’s faults, Ico still delivers an experience
like no other game. Elements in
this game are stripped down to the very basics and so you learn to enjoy such
things as the connection between Ico and Yorda, the terrific castle architecture,
and the intriguing art style. This
game is definitely one that every gamer should experience at least once to
understand that there’s more to gaming besides killing as many beasts as you
possibly can or collecting as many items as fast as possible. I think we all once understood this but
merely forgotten, Ico does a great job of bringing this aspect back to gaming
and it helps us understand that you don’t need those things to have a great
Shadow of the Colossus:
Shadow of the Colossus is a very unique game and like Ico,
it has a minimalist approach. The
story quickly unfolds as Wander travels to a forbidden land and is given the
task of defeating 16 colossi in order to revive a young girl known as
Mono. There are no other enemies
to defeat in the game other than the colossi, and each one requires a different
strategy in order to defeat it.
Often times the environment plays an important role in discovering the
weak points and strategies for defeating the colossi. This varying approach to
the puzzles gives the game variety and provides for unique experiences during
The forbidden land is a very large one and Wander must
travel to the very ends of it in order to defeat all of the colossi. Even though the game is six years old,
the environments still provide plenty of beautiful scenery to view when
traveling to the next battle.
Throughout the journey, there are plenty of scenic views of waterfalls,
city ruins, elaborate temples, forests with sunlight beaming through the trees,
sand dunes, and erupting geysers.
Viewing all of these scenic areas, and even battling colossi in the
majority of them, was one of my favorite aspects of the game even though at
times there were large amounts of popup.
Battles with colossi are puzzle focused, but balanced with
action and strategy. You won’t be
mindlessly swinging swords or button mashing, Shadow of Colossus is all about
finding your enemy’s weak point and figuring out how to exploit it: each colossus has a certain point (or
points) that you must find and thrust your sword into repeatedly. There are certain areas on a colossus’
body that are climbable; it’s then a struggle between climbing the beasts,
managing stamina, and thrusting the sword into its weak points. While the strategy for each colossus is
different, variety in each individual battle doesn’t change and a lot of the
times the same strategy is used over and over until the colossus’ health bar is
depleted. This requires some trial
and error, which can prove to be boring and tedious; the game would’ve
benefited from having more than one way to take down the colossus and giving
the gamer the option of choosing which method.
Following in Ico’s footsteps, the mysterious, solitary
atmosphere is prevalent throughout Team Ico’s second PS2 gem. Wander travels
the land and all you hear are sounds of his horse, Agro, galloping along with
rushing water over waterfalls and birds chirping. It’s a very lonely game and the lack of music makes it even
lonelier, adding to the feelings of despair that Wander must feel concerning
Mono’s death. During cut scenes
and battles, large orchestral arrangements can be heard which come in right on
cue as the excitement begins to pick up.
Minor details like these are really what set it apart from other games;
they add to the uniqueness that Team Ico is known for.
Despite a few
minor graphical problems and dated controls, Shadow of the Colossus has aged
well. Being my first time playing
through this game, I was not swayed by nostalgic eyes that may have changed my
review had I played it when it first came out and so I can say I completely
enjoyed the experience. It’s an
incredible adventure that has its pros and cons, all the while still providing
uniqueness not found in many other games.
There were times when I felt extremely frustrated (not being able to
mount Agro successfully, for example) and times when I was completely blown
away by the visuals, gameplay, and overall experience. All in all, Shadow of the Colossus
still provides a great gaming experience even six years after its original
release date and it does a good job complimenting Ico, as the two games make up
a collection you don’t want to miss.
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