Review: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection (Part 1: Ico)
Why not review the original PS2 titles individually? Then I ask you this: why not take your coffee with a little bit of chocolate syrup? It’s basically the same thing—but better! For those of you who have been living in the ground or faffing about on Facebook for the past decade or so, the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection is a PS3-exclusive HD port of our favorite action-adventure fantasy extravaganzas, and the once beautiful games now look even more beautiful. But for now, I’ll only review the first game, Ico.
Ico is a story of the eponymous horned boy, who is locked away in a secluded prison, where all horned people are left for dead, for some reason. And now, as you make your great escape, you come across a mysterious magical girl by the name of Yorda who can give power to doors and stuff simply by standing next to them. But later, we find out that the Queen of the castle-prison won’t let her daughter, Yorda, out of the castle, and if she does, Yorda will die. So you must now kill the Queen and rescue Yorda.
It’s a cute story, backed up by cute interaction between the two main characters. The plot is nothing deep, but that’s all it should be: a prison-break hindered by an Evil-mom syndrome, all marinated and deep fried in lovely high-fantasy immersion.
For Ico, it’s simple: you whack things with your stick. And you solve some pretty hard puzzles. The gameplay mechanic is, if not totally unprecedented, the most refined of its type. You control Ico, you can jump, push things, carry things, and hack at things—standard puzzle-platformer mumbo jumbo. But alongside these, comes sweet little Yorda and her frailty, and it is up to the player to protect her from spawning shadows, to guide her along paths, or to command her, depending on the situation, all the while solving these ridiculously contrived puzzles scattered about the castle-prison. But I guess that’s justified, since this is a prison after all, and they wouldn’t want anyone to escape that easily.
Yorda’s AI is something worth mentioning. Never before have I seen such realistic wandering. I mean, seriously: leave her for a while, and she’ll start going off on her own, possibly to look at the butterflies or check out a patch of flowers, it’s just so endearing to have someone this real-feeling to look after and protect.
Ico is a great example of high fantasy immersion performed well. The point here is to make your audience not just sympathize (simply understanding the situation without prior experience), but wholly empathize—that is, to know exactly what Ico is going through. You have an agile, quick-witted child who gets thrust into a whole new locale that practically mystifies both the player and Ico. The place disorients the both of you with its intricate paths, and you are faced with the moral obligation of protecting Yorda, plus the emotional attachment you experience from being in the company of an adorable, immaculate girl barely of legal age, with no pedophilia intended. Every encounter with the shadow creatures is a fight for survival, and one can really see how Ico struggles to hold everything up with his sub-par fencing skills and trial-and-error method of dealing with obstacles, as manifested by the player’s unfamiliarity with the terrain. The player IS Ico: a hapless reject, coming to grips with an entirely new situation.
1 - It satisfies the inner child who yearns for escape, 2 – It satisfies the chivalrous spirit to protect, 3 – It satisfies the romantic mind, who yearns for an epic fantasy quest, 4 – It satisfies the hardboiled puzzle-mongers, who yearn for a challenge.
Team ICO has this brilliant knack for telling compelling stories, all the while utilizing as few words as possible. They only give you as much information you need to know what is going on, but not enough to know the entire backstory. The difference this makes with bad storytelling is that it does not need to give you a backstory to create an interesting plot. In fact, the lack of explanation enriches the story’s lore or lack thereof. It enshrouds the rest of the fantasy world in fog, since the only thing that matters is Ico and his escape along with Yorda. A bad example of storytelling is El Shaddai. Basically, El Shaddai gave nothing for us to work on, considering the plot was something that NEEDED a backstory, but most of the time, I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on in that game. Buuuut I will get to that in a future review.
Buy it. It’s cheap for two games in one. Just… just buy it. It’s excellent. Please?