Team Ico’s previous masterpieces (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus) are released on the PS3, in high definition, and it is a joy to be swept away again in their emotional journeys, more than six years after their original release dates.
Unfortunately, with these games, it can be difficult to try and review them. They can cause such an emotional resonance in the player that trying to describe the experience can sometimes be beyond basic descriptions. The ability to tell simple stories that make you become emotionally invested in them is the core strength of these games. The sense of the characters’ efforts involved to win back freedom — or a lost love — is in full effect, and the impact is as strong as it was when I first played these games 6-10 years ago.
Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are, at their core, third-person platformers with adventure and puzzle elements included. While Ico‘s age does show at times in the unforgiving jumping puzzles and the by-turns amusing and irritating AI, Shadow of the Colossus is still stunning.
Both games were critical successes upon their original release and garnered much praise for their creative design and (pardon the pun) game-changing gameplay philosophy. Both titles’ influence on the world of game design is being felt in today’s games. Their influence is not just restricted to the video games industry, though: Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro cites them as an influence in his directorial style, and the 2007 drama Reign Over Me, starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, uses Shadow of the Colossus as a direct allegory for the main character’s personal journey.
Both games are short (7-12 hours, depending), but the sheer level of detail that has been packed into these high-definition remasters is nothing short of astonishing. The castle of Ico looks more crumbling and desolate than you remember, and the landscapes of the colossi seem to leap off the screen (which, they can, actually, thanks to the inclusion of 3D support). The surround-sound mix also helps to increase the immersion levels. Luckily, however, the original music, sound effects and small amount of dialogue all remain unchanged; simply mixed a bit differently to allow for a greater sense of involvement.
The games aren’t for everyone; not by a long shot. They don’t hold a player’s hand with the same levels of devotion that games today provide via tutorials. The near-perfect timing needed in some of the puzzle sections can be rage-inducing. Some of the polygons underlying the uber-sharp textures can look dated. The game environments are beautifully detailed but empty of small distractions.
And you know what? When the story is good and the gameplay supports that story at every turn, none of that matters.