Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Review: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection

An admission to start this off: while I owned a PS2 back in the day, along with many games for it, I never owned either Ico or Shadow of the Colossus when they came out. Both games were seen as classics and must haves for the system, so I missed out on something pretty big it seems. With this re release of them, it seemed worth giving them a try, and I can say that I'm glad I finally got round to playing both of them.

Ico follows the story of a young boy, called Ico, who has been imprisoned on a castle island due to the fact that he has horns on his head and is therefore cursed. Shortly after being imprisoned, he manages to escape from his cell and stumbles across a tall and glowing white girl called Yorda, also imprisoned on this island. Together, they have to try to get off the island and escape. It's not a quest to save the world or defeat some great evil enemy, just a simple story of a boy and a girl trying to get off an island.

The game play is rather simple and yet unlike any other game from it's time. You control Ico, who can move and climb and swing a sword (though he starts out with only a stick), a press of the R1 button will have him hold Yorda's hand, if she's not within arms reach, he calls out to her. You are generally faced with puzzles and climbing challenges though there is a little combat in there too. Most of the gameplay works around the idea of having a clear objective or place to get to but the challenge lying in how you and Yorda get there. This is very reminiscent of the old 90s point and click adventure games in that the challenge is more thinking about how you do something rather than the act of doing it. This makes it really fun to play with a few “Aha!” moments when you finally understand how to do something, though there are some puzzles in there that have obvious solutions.

Between most puzzle sections, black shadow like creatures will appear and come after Yorda, this is where the combat kicks in. Combat is incredibly simple with just the square button used to swing your weapon. When fighting, the idea is to just defend Yorda from the shadow monsters, as they will try to capture her and if they do, it's game over. These sections aren't much fun unless you have a super powerful weapon, and considering you only start out with a stick, they aren't much fun for most of the game.

There is something that has to be said for how the developers make you care for these two characters though, there were many many times that I could have just left Yorda by herself while I went off to solve a puzzle or leap across a gap, but each and every time I felt the need to have her come along. That kind of thing where you feel the need to do something even though you don't have to in a game means the developers have done something right. There is also a great sense of lonliness in the game, with Ico and Yorda as pretty much the only two characters in the game, coupled with a soundtrack that is almost non existent, it makes for a sense of solitude that can you don't see in many other games.

Shadow of the Colossus, while being the later game to come out, acts as a prequel to Ico, though much like Ico, very little is told in the game. You play as a young man travelling to a forbidden land and enacting a forbidden ritual which involves the killing of 16 colossi, all in and attempt to resurrect a girl that he loves.

You play as the fore mentioned man, going around the massive open world, looking for each colossus, transported around by your trusty steed Agro. The basic idea of the game is simple: fight and kill each of the the 16 colossi, but like Ico, the challenge is in thinking about how to do it rather than actually doing it. Each colossus has a weak point that you need to climb up to and stab with your sword in order to kill it. This could be a challenge in how you get to that weak point or exposing the weak point, each colossus is a puzzle in itself and there is always the brilliant moment of realisation once you work out what to do.

Each colossus varies in size, even though the name implies that they are all massive. A couple are about as small as a horse while some can be the size of a multi storey building. Not only this but each one is completely different in how you approach them, some will ignore you until you attack, others will go in for the kill immediately and every single one is unique in how you kill them. You can never apply the same tactic to different colossi.

Since these are remakes of PS2 games, you can't expect much technically from either. With that being said though, both games have been re mastered really well. They both look really nice in HD with no framerate drops seen. This is especially noteworthy for Shadow of the Colossus as the PS2 version was well known for having an atrocious framerate. It's probably due to this fact that Shadow of the Colossus also had me quite stunned by it's graphics, many scenes in that game look like something that I wouldn't be shocked to see in PS3 or Xbox game.

Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are great games that I personally feel bad for missing out on originally. However, now that I’ve played them both in this HD collection, I'm happy to say that I enjoyed both immensely. There is little to find that I did not enjoy overall, though some puzzles did require me to search online for help. Fans of the two games will love this re master while new comers will love the new experience.


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