Shadow of the Colossus Review
When Ico was quietly released for the PS2 back in 2001 critics lauded it as one of the finest games ever made. Although it never achieved the success it deserved it did go on to sell a very respectable 800,000 copies worldwide and word of mouth coupled with it’s well known rarity ensured it was highly sought after on eBay.
With its notoriety in the gaming publics mind it was little surprise that any news of a sequel would be warmly received. Early screenshots of Nico, as it was known (a play on words – the Japanese word for two is Ni), garnered great amounts of interest across the gaming world which waited patiently for more details. They waited years for Team Ico to release their follow-up, now with a new title, Wander and Colossus, and boy was it worth the wait.
Shadow of Colossus tells the tale of a young man called Wander who has travelled to a vast and desolate land in search of an ancient power that can bring his (presumably) lover back from the dead. The beginning is just as ambiguous as Ico was; there are no clear explanations as to the relationship between the young lady and Wander or why he has brought her here, instead the developers seem to encourage players to let their own imagination fill in the gaps. That’s not to say players are dumped in a scenario without any explanation; the impressive opening shows Wander galloping across an enormous bridge that stretches across the land and is a suitable introduction of what to expect from the game. This is Ico in a way, just bigger (in every sense) and with a sense of scale that dwarfs even the original’s castle setting.
Fans of Ico will immediately feel at home here; those of you who spent hours just looking at the intricate sun-kissed architecture will love the temple and various ruins that scatter Shadow’s world. Keen-eyed players will notice the familiarity between Ico’s eerie tomb room and this game’s dank temple. As you lay the young woman at the Temple’s alter a disembodied, misogynous voice tells you what you must do to revive her; locate and destroy the 16 Colossi that roam this land. It all sounds so simple until you find the first Colossus who is probably as tall as the room you start off in (and is ultimately one of the smaller enemies you must conquer).
The first thing you’ll notice about the Colussi you fight is their immense size; they are absolutely huge. Each must be scaled in order to find their weakpoint which can be stabbed with your sword in order to bring them down. Actually getting to that weakpoint is the hard part; there are a variety of ways of climbing up them and you’ll have to watch their attack patterns to plan how to get on them. These fights make up the majority of the game (there are no other enemies in the land) and are extremely enjoyable, there are few games that can match the sense of exhilaration as you make your way up the Colossi and bringing each one down gives you an immense satisfaction as well as a tingling of regret. After all it is never fully explained whether these creatures are good or evil and seeing them collapse as you literally stab them to death is a sorry sight.
When the Lead Designer Fumito Ueda said he wanted to evoke emotions in the player he wasn’t just blowing smoke as Shadow of Colossus is certainly capable of bringing out a variety of emotions as you play. There’s a deep sense of foreboding and loneliness as you search the wasteland for your next target, with the lifeless surroundings offering little in the way of comfort. Your only friend along the journey is your faithful horse Agro, without whom your task would be much harder. There are many nice touches included as you develop a relationship with him, you can even pat him on the side instead of digging your spurs into him once he has gotten used to you.
Together you soon get into the pattern of searching for the Colossus using your sword (which shines a reflection in the direction of the next foe, as long as you are not in the shadow), finding a way into the lair and then working out how to bring them down, it’s the same for each one but it would be hard to fault the game for this. What could be criticised is the way the game forces you to defeat the Colossi in a particular order instead of being able to tackle them as you wish. This does ensure the game lasts longer but exploring every inch would have brought with it a greater reward rather than using the sword to home in on the next foe. This quibble aside Shadow of Colossus is one of the greatest games ever made on this or any platform.
Now that Sony have seen sense and re-released Ico why not reward them and yourself by picking both games up. You certainly won’t regret it.