Ico & Shadow Of The Colossus HD


Written by Chris Price
02 Sunday 02nd October 2011


The little-known Japanese developer Team Ico have been responsible for two of the lynchpins in the argument that games can deliver an emotionally mature experience. Now Sony have seen fit to resurrect these two games from the Playstation 2 and spruce them with a HD spit shine. The first in the double is the studio's eponymous debut Ico - a puzzle-adventure where you guide a feathery mute lady through a castle again unknown fears. Its complimentary partner is the more recent Shadow of the Colossus, a strange monster-slaying action adventure.

Both productions certainly weren’t oblivious to their uniqueness against the other products of their time, with both games originally released in fragile cardboard sleeves accompanied by art cards from locations within the game, a move that both marked them as tenably unique, as well as prime eBay fodder fetching close to £100 each at their prime. Their aesthetics still look unique amongst the PS3’s roster.

Ico’s sharp angles and soft earthen pastel palette have benefitted most from the HD makeover, whereas Shadow’s misty bleak tundras make you feel as cold and lonely as ever. But the strength and the timeless beauty in Team Ico’s twin-pairing isn't in its looks, it's much deeper. Aside from the errant angle which still quite regularly makes some of Ico’s ledge transcendancy more hit and miss than should be acceptable, its distant camera is lodged upon your hero hand-in-hand with girl. This distanced observational viewpoint adds to a lingering journey on which your number one concern is your partners safety. The world outside unfolds as you play, constantly surprising at each turn and the ensuing emphasis on the pair ensures your fates are intertwined.

Ico’s interplay of puzzles and platforming hides what is, by today’s standards, a pretty basic action element.
Shadow of the Colossus plays to a slightly darker level of psyche, while bringing a spot more action to the pack but certainly not at the expense of the emotive journey. I dare even the hardest man to not feel a pang of guilt at the anguished demise of Colossus number one, as you hunt the countryside for sentient beings to slaughter in an effort to bring your sister back from the dead.

Redefining the roles of good and bad, casting the player as the hero accompanied by steed and sword across a lush yet uninhabited land. Each painstaking journey across open countryside provides time for reflection, before climbing these enormous creatures. The emphasis on the Colossi being at one with nature, as creatures hiding amongst the land, covered in trees and moss signals the player as a disruptive force, mining these beings for your own self-preservation (and possibly belying a sly geo-political undercurrent).

Both titles still conjure up bold, unpredictable worlds brimming with atmosphere and threat. Special note should also go to the fantastic orchestral score being both rousing and tender in equal amounts, perfectly complimenting the unfolding drama on screen. Even with this additional emotional weight impressed upon the player, both titles still retain a challenging, dextrous edge.

It’s worth the investment for the experience to see how, when crafted properly, a videogame can instil the same emotions in the player as high art. For a medium not renowned for restraint, both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are powerful examples of what can be achieved, while retaining that all-important level of player engagement that very few forms of entertainment can give. It might not be an easy journey but it's a worthwhile one and one which every gamer should embark upon. 

Both games truly deserve their place in gaming heritage and it's a great move by Sony to make available two titles that for a long time were inaccessible to the casual gamer.

Ico/Shadow of the Colossus is out now exclusively on Playstation 3

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