ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Classic HD Collection (PS3)
Today we have one such collection, ICO & Shadow of Colossus. Both games featured on the PlayStation 2, ICO back in 2001 followed by Shadow of Colossus in 2005 with both titles produced by Team ICO a division of Sony Entertainment Japan.
In ICO we take on the role of a young boy of course named Ico. He’s been banished to a mystical castle because he was born with horns – considered a bad omen by the villagers, but he’s not the first either. Sacrificing young boys born with horns is a ritual in the village and they are all taken and entombed at the castle in order to keep the villagers safe. Of course our hero to be escapes his confines where he discovers Yorda, a young princess-esque girl held captive in a large tower at the castle… cue the boy meets girl storyline. Ico must of course rescue Yorda and secure freedom for himself and the girl. This is no ordinary castle either and what follows is a waft of intricate and involved puzzles that must be tackled to accomplish his goals. Along the way various types of shadow spirits will attempt to kidnap Yorda, we must defend her and prevent her being taken away into the shadowy portals that appear on the ground.
Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t land to far from the tree for Team Ico, again we have a puzzle adventure game that could almost be set in the same land. Considered by many to be a spiritual successor to ICO it’s no coincidence it has been selected for the same collection. The storyline follows Wander, a young man who must journey into a forbidden land to battle against the sixteen Colossi. These huge beings must be defeated so he can resurrect Mono, a girl who was sacrificed because it was believed she had a cursed destiny.
There’s no health system for Ico, the spirits we fight won’t do any harm other than to knock us to the ground. The threat lies in the fact that while our character is stunned they will take Yorda away to the portal. A knockdown whilst the spirits have hold of Yorda will pretty much spell the end of the game. Even when Yorda has been taken into the portal we still have a few moments to rescue her though, by pulling her out, so it’s often a case of racing to the portal and dragging her out with seconds to spare.
For controlling our character square attacks, triangle jumps, circle is used for context actions such as moving an object, operating a switch or lighting a torch, X releases our hold on a ledge or chain. R1 is key to the gameplay, this button calls out to Yorda and allows her to locate us, holding R1 while she is close will grasp her hand until we release it or travel somewhere she can’t follow. The camera used in the game means the player primarily uses the left analogue to move around and as we do the camera will switch to a new position, free look is available with the right analogue but is best used in conjunction with the zoom function of R2 to simply take a better look at a puzzle element rather than during movement. The controls work well, cameras shift position as needed but during fight scenes it was necessary to move close to the camera to provide a better angle to survey the fight from.
Puzzles form the backbone of the game, the majority of which materialise from the necessity to help Yorda along the path to freedom, be it helping her across a broken bridge with an outstretched arm to using explosives to create a bridge to safety. While the mechanics are often repeated each area provides a fresh situation and feeling to them.
Wander the protagonist in Shadow of the Colossus has embarked upon his quest to battle the Colossi; it may surprise some to find that the Colossi are the only enemies in the game, so that’s just sixteen enemies in the whole game. Each one has weaknesses that we must discover in order to defeat them and this is no straight-forward task. The player must travel around the game world with our trusty steed locating and fighting each Colossi in turn, this gives the game a vast feeling to it.
The controls are setup the same as in ICO, square – attack, triangle – jump, left analogue to move, R2 zoom. X however calls the horse when walking, or causes the horse to speed up while riding. Triangle is used to mount the horse. L1 faces the camera in the direction our character is looking which is used especially during battle with the Colossi so we can focus in on the target. Circle is used in connection with our sword – a special sword, the only one that can slay the Colossi. Using circle with the sword will indicate the direction we must travel and a map is available via the start button.
Unlike ICO, Colossus features a health bar system and once our health is depleted it’s game over. While encountering a Colossi small glowing icons on their bodies will indicate their weaknesses – seems a bit of a design flaw. But they can be tricky to locate, using our sword combined with circle a light will converge on the weak point indicating where to attack. Additionally we have the sword and a bow at our disposal but they might not be the tools required at each point to defeat the Colossi.
Graphics and Audio
The visuals of Shadow of the Colossus are much improved over those of ICO given the 5 year difference of their release the move to HD has clearly been a much easier journey. Team ICO have again used bloom and HDR lighting effects to maximum effect along with some very nice animation. The sheer size of the Colossi is very impressive, we often find ourself actually climbing up them to find their weak points (think Sentinels from X-Men).
For sound, if you have a winning formula why deviate? Again the music is used in much the same way in Colossus only featuring during cut scenes and encounters with the Colossi. The lack of music much like Ico creates a sense of solitude in the game.