Being on holiday is a marvelous thing – you get to catch up on all the things you don’t normally get to do. For me the first two days have been filled with completing two excellent games. Shadow of the Colossus and Ico.

Colossal Design

Although produced after Ico, Shadow of the Colossus is actually a prequel. It tells the story of a young man, Wander, who travels to a distant and forbidden land where only the ruins of ancient cities lie. At the centre of this land is a palatial temple where an ancient long-forgotten god resides.

Wander brings with him the body of a woman sacrificed due to her cursed fate, but who he loves so deeply as to travel to this forbidden place to beg a lost god to resurrect her – for the Dormin, the dual-god of this land, is said to have control over the souls of the dead. The Dormin agree but only on one condition. That Wander completes a ritual of great detail – he must travel the forbidden land and kill the great beasts that are all that remain of a past time.

Shadow of the Colossus is unlike any other action game out there. You can’t just ride up and stab the enemy to death or unlock some super combo of doom. Each beast is a puzzle that must be solved. The only way to kill them is to strike true at their weak points. However to reach these points one must be creative and look for clues as to how to reach them.

There are sixteen Colossi in the game, and no two are defeated the same way. They range from the insanely huge to just large. Two of my favourites are the flying Colossi – the experience of having to get onto their backs and then desperately seek out their weak points before you lose your grip is an amazing piece of gameplay design.

In fact, the entire game is an amazing piece of design. Aesthetically, gameplay and story. Streaming off the disc, you rarely experience loading screens during play – which means you get to travel vast distances in your quest to find and destroy these beasts. None of the puzzles are easy, but they aren’t too hard either. Most solutions are fairly clear after a bit of experimenting, and the game barrels along at a nice pace, while keeping things poignant.

The use of music is amazing, with stirring music that plays when battling some Colossi – swelling to triumphant when you manage to get the advantage. In some battles you find yourself running through the gutted ruins of ancient cities, chased by a Colossus, all the while surrounded by haunting yet tense music.

The Colossi themselves are also amazing to look at – marvelous creations of the imagination, they all exude personality and the AI is pretty impressive.

No doubt you can tell I loved this game – it was amazing to play and a great twist on the traditional action game.

Ico: The Sequel that came First

Which leads me to Ico. Originally made three years prior to Shadow of the Colossus, Ico is another puzzle game, with more focus on the puzzle element. It tells the story of a young boy, Ico, who is born with horns on his head. This is seen in his village as a sign of a curse, and when he reaches the age of 10, he is taken away to a strange castle. There he is sealed into a tomb and left. A freak earthquake frees him. Alone in this unusual castle he finds a girl who is elfin and almost ghost like. The only other person in the entire castle he tries to convince her to escape with him – only Yorda speaks some strange language and is being hunted by shadowy beings that hide within the depths of the castle.

As Ico, you have to help Yorda escape – in the process also learning who is behind the castle’s shadowy denizens.

There were times where the puzzles in Ico were frustrating. Most are easy to solve, but difficult to complete. The waterwheel puzzle being the most infuriating example.

Still, it is a gorgeous game, and has the same haunting aspects of Shadow of the Colossus. Once you play them, it is clear to see that they are designed with the same aesthetics. It is interesting to note the differing tones of the two games – Shadow is very sorrowful, with sad music that gives the entire game a melancholic air of tragedy. Ico, on the other hand, is haunting and wistful – the music is less sad, yet still haunting.

Both games have fantastic final battles that leave you feeling somewhat fulfilled for having slogged your way through six hours or so of game.

Highly recommended. Two thumbs up!

Love and Huggles

Conan

Currently Reading: Promethean: The Created
Currently Playing: Exalted: Nexus of the Sun
Mood: Pleased to have finished two great games!

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