Genre: First Person Shooter (FPS)
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Two of the prime contenders for most over looked game on the PS2 were Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus and Ico which are now being re-released HD ready for the PS3. Both are 3rd person games set in a fantasy world, have very similar controls and each feature a protagonist speaking an unknown language which needs to be subtitled. Both were praised for their unique gameplay and visuals. While graphically the games have been outdone by later rivals, the environments themselves remain impressive thanks to the (still good) graphics being only one part of the overall whole. Excellent level design and musical score are equally important in making these worlds so memorable.
Ico features a young horned boy who encounters a glowing woman speaking a language he does not comprehend and being hunted down by shadowy creatures. The boy, armed with a stick, starts guiding her through puzzle filled labyrinths to safety. Like many others, I despise escort missions, so starting a game which is based entirely on escorting was daunting. Your female charge, indeed, demonstrates some of the worst aspects of this game-style: she is completely helpless and incapability in all circumstances. In general, however, she seems far more forgivable than other damsels in distress. Her alien nature and naiveté to her surroundings is clearly conveyed by the character movements. Getting mad at her inability to cope with the world is like getting angry with a two year old. Another factor that endeared these characters to me was, and this will sound strange, the hand holding. By holding R1 beside the glowing girl, you grab her hand and guide her through the temple (you can switch to toggle mode – but don't). The deadweight feel of moving with a character who takes a second to realise they should run was oddly pleasant - I don't think I have ever had a repeated gameplay mechanic that maintained such a tactile feel before and it was far more immersive than anything a motion control is capable of. Overall, Ico has not changed my views on escort missions but the fact that I, as a gamer who feels any escort section ruins a game, was able to play through and even really enjoy is remarkable.
While Ico built its core gameplay on escorting a helpless individual, Shadow of the Colossus takes a more bizarre approach in placing all its intense, sometimes frustrating, combat exclusively in the boss fights leaving the rest of the game action free! The story features a young man who plans to make a deal with a demon to restore the life of a girl. To do this, he must find and kill the sixteen colossi of the land. Between boss fights, you ride through the lands searching for the next Colossus but do not expect to be pounced upon by random enemy forces. These sections of the game are deliberately slow. Some will race through these parts and will find the game short because of it. Those who learn to enjoy the relaxed approach will come to appreciate the world far more and get more out of the boss battles when contrasting them to the less intense sections. For intense is the only word suitable to describing the battles against the colossus. The Colossi are often huge, requiring you to climb up their bodies searching for the weak points. The challenge here comes from the monsters trying to shake you off. You have a ‘grip' meter and once it reaches zero you will fall. This can lead to frantic moments as the grip gage is near depleted and the beast requires just one more hit. Getting the final blow in before you let go is every bit as satisfying as failing to do so and having to climb all the way back up is annoying.
While these games are indeed classics, their lack of commercial success cannot be entirely explained entirely by the poor choices of the public. Both games feature gameplay which conceptually should not work and this can be off putting when explaining them to new players. This is combined with slow openings that may not grab the attention of the average player quick enough. Also if played with a mind-set focused solely on completing the games, the campaigns will seem short. These are games where experiencing the world is vital to your immersion and enjoyment. Both games deserve to be played with an open mind and will engross you if given a change. While I can't guarantee every player will like both games equally; I would be highly surprised if there are many gamers who would be disappointed with both once they give them a chance.
Buy or Rent: Buy
Reviewed By: JP Gallagher