Community Review: ICO And Shadow of the Colossus Collection

Please don't kill me. I have a copy of Batman: Arkham City at home, and it remains in its cellophane. I wanted to play it, I really did, but I got distracted - by a five year old game. What the hell is wrong with me!

In case you haven't read the headline, I'm talking - of course - about Shadow of the Colossus.

I had some spare time on Saturday afternoon, and with lots of people coming in and out of my house all day long, I didn't feel like starting a new game I'm genuinely excited for. I wanted to light some candles, put on the comfy pants and get loaded up with pringles for Batman: Arkham City. That's not really possible with a horde of family and friends chattering in the periphery.

Enter Shadow of the Colossus, a game I had already played, but really wanted to experience again. It seemed like the perfect choice - the equivalent of putting on a familiar movie to fold laundry. Just something to distract me.

Surprisingly, within an hour, I was completely engrossed. I think, more than any other PS2 game I can think of, Shadow of the Colossus was really deserving of a HD upgrade. The PS2's architecture struggled with the game originally, with chuggy frame-rates, and bugs galore. This remake, with its sharp visuals, really utilises the PS3's grunt to real effect. The game feels transformed.

Shadow of the Colossus was always one of the most aesthetically pleasing PS2 games available, but unlike other titles, the move to HD doesn't age the game - it adds a whole new dimension. Wander's character model, in particular the face, really benefits from the upgrade. It could hardly pass for a next gen title, but it comes closer than most.

Plenty had complained about the controls - but I continue to be a fan of games that work their control systems outside of the box, instead of defaulting to a set of control that have become ubiquitous. The controls match the game. It makes sense within the whole stamina/risk/reward matrix that makes climbing atop the colossi so engaging.

And the game still works as a spectacle. The scale of Shadow of the Colossus remains completely startling. It's the consistency of the design, the variety, the sheer size of the beasts, the reward of working out how to take them down, the thrill of edging up the fur on their back, the twinge of regret as they come crashing down to earth. Shadow of the Colossus is timeless.

Has anyone here picked up the collection? Or does anyone simply want to wax lyrical about the original games? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    Bought it a couple of weeks ago, but am yet to play it. I never actually got to play Ico and spent very little time with SOTC back in the days of the PS2. Looking forward to correcting those mistakes at some point in the future.

      Same, except inverted: never played much of Ico and missed SOTC completely on PS2. Will definitely pick this up on PS3.

    I recently received a copy of the original, having played a borrowed copy closer to release, and tried plugging my old PS2 into my big flatscreen.
    The graphics promise something the system can't deliver.
    I struggled through, still enjoying the early gameplay, but I coulcn't maintain my enthusiasm for the rest as the graphics were too distracting after the next-gen smoothness.
    I still don't own a PS3, but this, combined with the Uncharted series, God of War, Heavy Rain and others are making this a cosole increasingly difficult to avoid.

      Bought my PS3 2 months ago after 5 years of umming, arring and price drops. I got it with every game you mentioned aswell as Demon's Souls and RE 5 with the move controllers. Good times!!!

    During the PS2 era I spent very little time gaming, instead spending all that time on Uni work, girlfriend, and hanging out with ma pals so I completely missed both games first time round. I have since picked up the HD collection to rectify that, but god knows when I'll have to time to play them.

    Never had a ps2 so I've been looking forward to this. My copy arrived on Friday from Ozgameshop. Had a few hours to spare saturday night, fired up ico, but after about 30 minutes I was bored and went back to dark souls. I was pretty tired so that might also be why I didn't have the patience for it.
    Might have a bit more time to spare to have a good go at sotc this coming Sunday though.

      Ico is a slow burn because the first hour just offers you no guidance whatsoever. It just laughs at you.

      Once you get past that, however, it's so compelling.

      I actually think it may be the better of the two games.

        I agree Mark. It's not a polar opinion, but there's something about the way the relationship develops between the two that elevates it for me.

        Thanks for the heads up Mark, I'll give it another run on Sunday. Should hopefully have the time and attention span to do it justice.

    Didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would - I don't think I have many good things to say about Ico. The puzzles were easy, the controls poor, the camera hated focusing on what was happening, and the aesthetic was... brown.

    Shadow of the Collosus is great - taking down huge colossi is awesome. I don't understand why its held up as an example of art in games. It feels pretty run of the mill aesthetically to me. The plot is still mostly told through traditional cut-scenes and dialogue, even if its quite minimal. The sparsity of the fields is quite cool, though doesn't feel all that different to Zelda: OoT to me.

    In summation: I'm not sure what a good example of art in video games would look/feel like, but I don't think this is it.

      This is the mistake most people on the "Games cannot be art" camp fall into.

      You're not supposed to evaluate a game on aestetics. That's like saying "I don't like this piece of music, the colors are all wrong".

      Its about the mood it conjures.

        Perhaps aesthetic was the wrong word to use, but I'm just not getting why this game is singled out as an example of art. I see art it lots of games (including this one), and I don't think this particular game does an exceptional job of it.

      the 'art' as in 'games as art' has nothing to do with the visuals, its the genuine emotions that SotC creates that very few other games have ever been able to.

      Also, the art style of SotC is absolutely incredible :D

      No - you've misunderstood. The art in this game isn't the visuals. It's experiential - it elicits genuine emotion through storytelling, mood and sound - the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. This game has been lauded as art for many years now by many people - the reasons for this go deeper than the visual treatment. The music is in the space between the notes, as they say.

        I think people need to look up what aesthetic means, because it isn't just visual.

        From wikipedia: "scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature."

        Regardless, are you really going to accuse someone of misunderstanding art, because thats just begging for a post-modernist flame-war.

          Also, whilst I don't understand why SotC is singled out, I don't accuse anyone of being wrong in their interpretation of the experience.

    Blew through ICO in about 6 hours (every bit as brilliant as I remembered), and am up to Colossus Number 7. I am playing them in 3D, and these games are the first time I have been impressed with the 3D on my Bravia. Just fabulous games that deserve a wider audience, even though I always liked selfishly having them as a bit of a gaming secret from my friends who were always too busy with Need For Speed: San Andrews Wars 6 or whatever it is they were playing.

    Graphically both look great, 3D on or off, and the soundtracks are every bit as effective as ever. I still have that genuine sadness every time a Colossus falls to the ground, and the loneliness and isolation of the environment magnifies the forlorn tone. I'm trying to play through Rage at the same time, and this is like watching Synecdoche, New York after watching Fast and the Furious.

    I picked this up eagerly, having played SOTC on my ps2 and looked forward to Ico.

    Played through Ico in a single day, loved every minute of it. The best part was reliving the games that it inspired; prince of persia and assassins creed and the like.

    The gameplay within that influenced these, the camera work that made them possible and the effects that have added to elements of games of future generations is all a part of what makes Ico a great of it's time.

    I really enjoyed Ico but much like Deus Ex: HR felt like homage to the past, I feel I have Ico to thank for the recent games I've loved.

    And I do.

    Normally I don't write anything in these because I haven't started the game even though it's been out for a week! :p Though I'm gonna copy and paste something I wrote on a forum I frequent.

    End result, there be minor spoilers... also for the tl;dr crowd - Team ICO are magicians!

    Re: ICO
    For me there are 3 things in ICO that still blow me away today, even with all the pretty games out there today.

    1) Atmosphere, the sense of being alone in this giant castle/prison, running around on top of buildings, seeing the vast world outside those walls as the wind howls at the same time. Later when it starts raining in the final Act, there are some amazing camera angles to show your path.

    2) The Castle, it's kinda like a Rude Goldberg device, do this to trigger that, etc... but it works, not only have all the rooms been carefully crafted individually, but then interlocking them like they were a giant jigsaw puzzle was an incredible effort, it still feels like this castle could exist and function like a real building.

    Again it's a brilliant achievement that allows the player to be at the East Gate for the first time and allows you to see the Prison, Windmill, Cart and other places you've just past to get to where you are. The game does it again with the West Gate and it reinforces this long journey you've taken is still in such a confined space.

    3) Lighting Effects, mainly when you have completed the East and West Gates, with the strong beam of light running through the Arena to the main gate, you can see the light beams flicker and shine and when you stand inside them you see the light bend around you and Yorda.

    Also finally and my favourite in the game, the Queen and the final fight. The Queen for the most part is black in design, but with any movement there is a blue-green bleed on the character graphics and I've always thought it looks fucking awesome as it fits with the shadow character designs.

    Onto the final fight, which uses those bleeding effects when the Queen attacks, but it's when you have the sword or stand behind the safety statues and they shield you against the attack, there is this particle effect that happens on the shielded parts that bend and move over it. It just looks spectacular and I can't fathom how they pulled it off all these years ago, especially when this game started out on the PS1.

    Re: Shadow Of The Colossus
    I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted on the game and only just finished off the 4th. I'm really looking forward to the 5th one, as it was one of my favourites first time playing it.

    The game is a amazing though, that screenshot posted in the article is just glorious, it simply shows how you have this Colossus coming towards you and your task is to bring it down.

    The controls do take time to get usd to, but I think it's more to do with the Bow and Arrow weapon that is what gets most. For example, you might be running along side a Colossus and you've either moved the camera to the side, or you are using the look button, then you go to pull out the Bow and Arrow and the camera snaps back to the exact direction the character was facing. So then you have to manually aim back where you were looking.

    Most games accommodate for that now, showing the character transitioning their movements to where you were originally looking, so it's a wake up call.

    Really looking forward to #13 and also the final Colossus, that final bastard took me about 2-3hours first time through as I had trouble working out one part of that fight.

    Both games are easy enough. Ico can be completed in <4hrs and Collosus <8hrs. both are excellent games and well worth any serious collection. In fact, a lot of gaming "hipsters" will use these games as evidence as to why your favourite game sucks ass.

    Never played either ICO or Shadow of the Colossus, but I've heard good things. Honestly it's not really on my must-play list right now (Zelda! Zelda! Zelda!), but I'll probably go get it later on for cheap.

    I can always count on the mini-reviews in the comments to tell me what games to play. xD

    Bought it the other day, haven't played either game before so been looking forward to it for quite some time, haven't found a spare hour to put it in yet though.

    Nothings wrong with you Serrels, your a gamer. It doent really matter if you dont play a game as soon as it is released! There's still 8-bit/16-bit games that Im still yet to play/finish and they're good games no matter when you play'em! As long as you put yourself into the "mode" of what system you are playing on at the time, the graphics/sound are great - like PSone looks like shit nowadays though its "style" is still appealing (and also blows your mind on how those systems used to wow us graphically) Or something, anyways...

    I've played and finished both of the games in the collection a couple of weeks back. Both were still brilliant.

    Having SotC with a solid framerate makes it feel lik a brand new game, and the HD makeover they've done for both has them looking absolutely beautiful.

    It takes a little while to get used to Ico due to the camera which is only partially user-controllable. I'm so used to most/all games these days letting me put the camera wherever I want that it felt a little constricting at first, but I got used to it.

    But the game itself... even after nearly 10 years there's still nothing out there quite like it. The amount of characterization it manages with practially no dialogue at all is just extraordinary. So much is conveyed just by tiny little touches in the animation. Yorda is this delicate, ethereal creature... shimmering white and softly spoken. So much is conveyed just by the way she flinches in surprise if Ico hits something near her, the way she'll chase after the birds sitting around if she's waiting for you to do something, the way she looks fearfully at a drop, shaking her head refusing to jump over until repeated urging finally convinces her to leap across and trust Ico to catch her. Meanwhile, Ico is this clumsy, awkward boy... running along tugging the slower Yorday stumbling along behind him. Flailing his club/sword at enemies - this isn't some Kratos-esque killing machine, it's a young boy with no idea what he's doing except desperately trying to protect his companion. You get the impression he's doing his best to show off for Yorda's benefit at times, too :P

    What really hit me about it, though, is the noise. Or, rather, the lack of it. With most games seemingly trying to beat the player's senses into submission with enormous orchestral soundtracks, massive explosions, rattling gunfire, screeching tyres etc, this one is very quiet. The sound of the wind when you're outdoors, fluttering birds. Very little music (although what is there is used perfectly). Other than that it's really just the voices of Ico calling to Yorda and vice versa. While most games these days are like having somebody screaming in your face from 10cm away, Ico is more like a quiet converation over a quiet dinner in a quiet restaurant. Something where what people are saying actually might be worth listening to.

    Same with the lighting effects... they're not flashy, but every now and again you'll go past a window and just the right angle and the sunlight will come streaming through in a way that just takes your breath away. They're not the greatest lighting effects ever made from a technical viewpoint, but in terms of the way they're used in conjunction with the rest of the game's art, they're brilliant. And it's just a fraction of a second as you move past that window or whatever, then it's gone again. Like the rest of the game, it's just a small detail that is there for a moment then gone rather than being over used. Again, it's a subtle approach rather than screaming "LOOK AT MY FUCKING LIGHTING EFFECTS AREN'T THEY AWESOME!".

    Don't have time to go into depth on SotC as well, but suffice to say I loved that just as much as Ico if not more, and it's even better on PS3 than it was back on PS2 thanks to the improved frame rate and the HD makeover helping it look lovely on a modern TV - the PS2 version looked pretty ordinary when played on an HDTV.

    What really struck me after playing both these games again was that even after all these years, nobody has really come close to doing what they do. And, in fact, very few have even tried. In an industry as rife with blatant rip-offs, copycats and "me-too" games, it seems bizarre that 2 games as widely acclaimed and loved by those who have played them still stand pretty much on their own with no imitators. Memo to the games industry: You've spent the past 5-10 years copying the wrong games.

      Oops... that post was longer than originall intended. Sorry :(

        Don't worry, it was brilliant. Great post. :)

      I haven't had a chance to play the SotC remake yet, but I've put in enough replays of Ico now to platinum the game.

      Totally agree with you about the game. There's nothing like hearing just the wind howling on the battlements, to add atmosphere to a scene. The call of surrounding wildlife also adds to that feeling that this is "a place".

      Then there's the interaction and reaction between Ico and Yorda. This is where the little things have the biggest effect. I've sometimes actually slowed down from running, while holding Yorda's hand, because I feel like I'm going to jerk her arm out of the socket.

      Great game. One of the most memorable I've experienced. Love the ending music and scenes. Possibly the most emotionally satisfying ending to a game I've ever played.

      It's extremely hard to copy a game like this, precisely because of the subtlety it has.

    Well, given they haven't released SotC and Ico for 360, I'll just have to quietly wish I had your unopened (and therefore unsoiled) copy of Arkham... let's hope it breaks street date, eh?

    This was my first experience with ICO and I have to say that loved every moment of it but especially the last 10mins. I did have 1 issue with it and that was the camera angles. I would line up the jump, run up to the gap and BAM! camera angle changes, I jump off target and plummet to my death. While a little frustrating at times it certainly wasn't enough for me throw my controller to the ground and walk out of the room... maybe just once. it is an amazing game tho and gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that only a Studio Ghibli film can give. as for SOTC, I have no words to describe how much I enjoy playing it. I too feel the sadness that comes when bringing down one of the great beasts, after all they were living happily until this young punk showed up with his can do attitude and sword of power... little jerk! however there is something satisfying about launching an arrow in to them and watching it stick, even if it doesn't affect their health bar all to much.

    Anyway! both amazing games! I also have a question though.
    Do both games take part in the same universe?

      "Do both games take part in the same universe?"

      Yep.

        Just further to this... the popular belief is that SOTC is a prequel of sorts. With the actions of Wander releasing Dormin is the reason for the Horned People 'curse', seeing as the game ends with a Horned Baby picked up by Mono. Hence why ICO is imprisoned in the first place.

        Though it's been stated by Ueda that his personal take is that SOTC is a prequel, but that's as far he has ever been "on record", it was left upto the player to decide how they believe the stories are joined, anything I've mentioned isn't the story canon, just what the majority believe.

        Thus how The Guardian fits into this world (again it's assumed that it does, based on architecture and the cat/bird thing) is anyones guess!

          Yes, the horned baby at the end was why my question came to be. as soon as started playing ICO and the horns were mentioned I instantly thought back to SOTC (having played SOTC first) but shrugged it off as a coincidence or continuous theme that the creator liked to carry over into his titles. after I finished ICO tho I payed a little more attention to the main titles screen where you select what you want to play and noticed that the worlds are connected and that only an ocean stands between the two lands. other than that I haven't picked up on any other references (except for the shadow people), have I missed anything else? I like the idea of all these incredible happenings going on in one universe, I appreciate them both even more so now.

          Thanks guys.

      But that's the tragic part of SotC ... it's not a young punk that is taking down the colossi. It's a young man determined to save his partner. The tragedy is that his love starts him on a dark road that leads him to such acts.

      Worst thing is, he (we?) possibly realises (realise) this is the wrong thing to do, but he is so far gone, he can do nothing but continue.

        oh yeah I totally got the story, I wasn't being serious about the whole young punk thing. I mean no offence. was just looking at it from the Colossi point of view... down. It is a very bittersweet ending tho, he doesn't even get to hold the one who he worked so hard to save.

    Wax lyrical?

    Played Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2
    At first didn't know what the hell I was supposed to do
    Took down the first Colossus and it was like WHOA
    Got to the bird Colossus and was fully enthralled
    One of the most memorable game experiences by the game's end
    As for Fumito Ueda-san I became a life-long fan
    Wanted to play Ico but never got the chance
    Found out about the HD release, preordered soon as I can
    Love the puzzles and exploration, scenery was amazing
    Not a fan of the battles though, damn shadows were annoying
    Most emotional moment by far was the bridge scene
    Cried during a game that's as close as I've ever been
    Back to Shadow now to re-experience the magic
    Seeing the Colossi fall is still so tragic
    What did they do to deserve their fate?
    All I can do is weep as I stab all in my way

    Argh if only I had my copy, its somewhere in the post between here and the UK. Darn Ozgameshop, wish they had overnight shipping.

    This arrived about half an hour before Dark Souls suddenly did, so I only ended up with time to beat the first colossus. No great loss, since I've played the two games to death on the PS2.

    I did however have time to notice how horribly stretched the menus and map are. Was it too much to ask that they update those?

    I've actually wrapped this up to give to the wife for christmas. Means I can focus on the holiday releases right now and enjoy a leisurely boxing day fighting off shadows and toppling colossi... or watching her do that. Hmm, I might not have thought this plan through.

    I hope people don't start with ico, get bored and never get around to playing SotC, that would make me sad :(

    I have them both on PS2 and finished them both. Tried playing SotC on my fat PS3 'cause I thought the increased grunt might assist the framerates, despigt the software emulation. It crashed a lot. So I'm really looking forward to the HD rerelease. It's somewhere between the UK and here...

    I think the comment above about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts is spot on. No individual element of either game was totally original, nor even the best of its type. But everything came together so well for me, and the games were emotionally captivating.

    Started reading all the comments then they became MASSIVE. It's all good. Big fan of Shadows, was too broke to buy it on PS2 until it was too late and it was no longer available through a local retailer. I was SOO happy to hear a remake. HD or no HD, it was destined to be in my hands. I got it the day it came out and fell in love all over again without falling out of love. The 3D is amazing, to put you in a world with these giants coming at you is bliss. I have a 50" which I play about a meter from with the intensity on high. My eyes were watering with it being so high mixed in with tears of joy. Never played ICO but will do, but Shadows will always be a game I will cherish, which with a lot of big sellers, it's fun, you enjoy it but will never give you the same feeling.

    Just bought the HD collection on friday and played each game on saturday for a bit. Both games are still just as engrossing as I remember them being... The included 'special features' were pretty neat too. It was cool to see the footage of ICO from when it was being developed for the Psx. It'd be hard for me to imagine playing Ico on a playstation...

      Also, the first thing I did was pull out the cover art and turn it around (inside out)... Looks so awesome that way :)

    I've never played SOTC, but after reading these comments, I am really looking forward to it! I bought it on PSN and its taking FOREVER to download.

Join the discussion!