ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection Review

by on September 28, 2011

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection ReviewGame: ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection

Developer: Team Ico

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Available on: PlayStation 3 Only

You’d be forgiven for being fed up with HD remasters, collections and remakes by now, but this is the big one. ICO and Shadow of Colossus Collection is the HD remaster disc that everyone and their gran has been waiting for. Whether you have played the games or not, the hype surrounding Team ICO and the fact that they seem to have universal praise when it comes to quality means that everyone will be at least intruiged by this collection, but has it been worth the wait?

STORY: Released in 2001 and 2005 respectively, although both titles have a similar atmosphere to them, they don’t actually have a story that marries up, aside from a “rescue the girl” motif. In ICO you play a young boy who has been cast away from his village due his horns, which are apparently a bad omen. After being locked away, some kind of rumbling cracks open his prison and he finds himself awakening inside a crypt, all by himself. Exploring his surroundings, the young boy eventually stumbles across a girl called Yorda, trapped in a cage and speaking a language that he can’t understand. After freeing her from the cage, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Yorda to leave, and shadow beings will constantly try to take her back into their dark pits, which you (as the young boy) must stop from happening.

Despite the age of ICO, there’s a fair chance that 10 years on people may be coming to it for the first time, and although this isn’t all there is to the story, it’d be unfair to ruin things. You’ll love ICO’s story though, and you’ll fall a little bit in love with Yorda, and want to keep her safe from harm, even though you’ll never quite understand why.

Shadow of the Colossus is slightly more vague in terms of plot, and tasks you as Wander (another young-ish man) with slaying the multiple Colossi that roam the lands of the Forbidden Lands. The reason for this murderous rampage? A girl called Mono. With Mono laying at the shrine of worship, a mysterious voice known as “Dormin” informs Wander that to bring her back from the dead he will have to slay these beasts – all sixteen of them. Obviously Wander wants to bring Mono back, despite warnings that killing the Colossi will mean he will pay a big price.

Revelations abound, and possible connections to ICO ensue, but the world and art style is the true star of these games.

GRAPHICS: When they were released, both titles were lauded for their artistic style, and the world’s in which you explore, despite never being what might considered visually stunning. 10 years is a long time though, and time is rarely kind on aesthetics. So it is with immense pleasure that it falls to report the visuals are utterly astonishing with their new HD lick of paint.

If you’ve any sense, you’ll start with ICO, and if you are familiar with the original PlayStation 2 release you’ll immediately be blown away by what has been achieved here. The opening scenes are fantastically rendered, smooth and crystal clear. Of course some of the textures aren’t as detailed as some of today’s blockbuster sellers, and yes, they look a little flat, but what we have here is a well rendered universe to explore and adventure.

Yorda looks as angelic as ever, and the dark beings that come to kidnap here have been remastered so well that they feel menacing and create tension whenever they show themselves. However, if ICO looks good, then Shadow of the Colossus is mind-blowing.

Having actually played Shadow of the Colossus recently on PlayStation 2, the game hasn’t aged well. Now, that isn’t a slur on the game, more a factual statement – at the time, it pushed the PlayStation 2 to the very limits that the tech could handle, but the power of Sony’s latest and greatest home console allows Shadow of the Colossus to be what it always should have been; a technical wonder. Slaying that first Colossus will make you feel horrible, such is the clarity with which you can see now.

SOUND: As you’d expect, the audio has received the same level of treatment as the visuals. The soundtrack for both titles (ICO especially though) is as special as it ever was. The wind crashing around the castles of ICO and the Colossi stuggling to shake you off are magnificent sounding.

The soundtrack paves way for a genuinely tense feeling in ICO as the shadow people come to take Yorda, and the second the “battle” music starts up, you’ll be on edge and wanting to fend them off to keep her safe. Wander’s horse, Agro, comes trotting along from behind and the sound will make you feel like an old friend is coming to greet you.

GAMEPLAY: Both titles are action based adventure titles, with platforming and combat, and thankfully both stand the test of time. That said, both titles have controls that are mapped in an alien way to today’s gamer, and you can re-map them if you so choose.

ICO is a mix of platforming, puzzles and combat, and is basically an escort mission. Now, don’t be afraid, escort missions weren’t always terrible, in fact ICO is one of the best there is. Holding the R1 button will get Ico to shout at Yorda to follow him, and when she gets close enough will get the two to hold hands – literally an escort mission. You’ll encounter puzzles that require you to leave her behind, or even use her as a makeweight to open a door, only to find her an alternate path.

You’ll also have your heart in your mouth every time Yorda doesn’t quite make a jump, and you have to catch her before she falls, and pull her up to a ledge. The bond is created between player and Yorda very early, and it never gets old trying to rescue her.

Shadow of the Colossus is slightly different, and even killing the Colossi themselves is akin to a puzzle platformer. You have a sword which leads you to the roaming beasts, but when you find them you’ll have to figure out how to climb them, and then kill them. Starting easy but getting fiendishly difficult, mounting a Colossus is always an incredible experience. We’re talking creatures that fill the entire screen at times, whilst you cling on for dear life.

Replacing ICO’s hand-holding, the R1 button is the “hang on” button in Shadow of the Colossus. You have a grip meter, and if that runs out, you will lose grip and fall from whatever you are hanging from. This is where the puzzle element of climbing comes in. If you are climbing a Colossus, you’ll need to find some way of letting go, whilst staying on the beast. It’s all very clever and rewarding to experience.

As mentioned, you also get to ride Agro the horse in Shadow of the Colossus, and doing so is absolutely essential as the world map is huge and you can spend hours just riding around taking in the beauty of the Forbidden Land. You’ll also have more than just a sword/melee weapon this time around, and the bow is esential to some battles.

Between the two titles, they have mostly stood the test of time. ICO has suffered slightly, with locked in animations (when swinging) sometimes causing frustration. If you end up button mashing you can get knocked down from the back, then Yorda is being carried away and you’ll have to rush to get her back. Moreover, the save points are the checkpoints (which seems fair enough really) and that means if you haven’t saved for an hour and you accidentally mis-time a jump which results in a death, you’ve lost a lot of game time. Yorda also suffers slightly, with her A.I. occasionally annoyingly running around in circles, or just ignoring you altogether. ICO should be respected (but it may not be for everyone), whereas Shadow of the Colossus deserves to be played by absolutely everyone.

LONGEVITY: Both titles have the potential to have the user lose themselves in exploration, Shadow of the Colossus especially. To say you are getting value for money is an understatement, and trophy hunters will end up having several playthroughs of each game to get to the coveted 100% mark. Each game has its own trophy list too, which is great.

VERDICT: As essential now as ever they were, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are two stand out games in a market screaming “me too”. Exceptional not just for their beautiful visuals and audio, but for the story they tell and the emotion they create in the player, the old addage of “they don’t make ’em like this anymore” was made for Team ICO games.

If you’ve never played either title before then you’d be crazy not to add this disc to your collection, and if you’ve played them both before you’ll surely have loved them enough to want to see them at their best, even in 3D if you so wish.

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