Xbox One | 360 | XBLA  PS4 | PS3 | PSN  Wii U | VC    3DS  PS Vita  iOS    PC    Retro    

  » news
  » reviews
  » previews
  » cheat codes
  » release dates
  » screenshots
  » videos

  » specials
  » interviews

  » facebook
  » twitter
  » contests

  » games list
  » franchises
  » companies
  » genres
  » staff

Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

Xbox One X
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4

Game Profile
PlayStation 2
GENRE: Adventure
September 24, 2001
The Last Guardian

Team Ico Collection

Shadow of the Colossus

 Written by Adam Woolcott  on October 10, 2001

Review: I is for Imaginative, C is for Creative, O is for Original. Altogether, ICO is a masterpiece.

A lot of times when I review a game, I mention of the ?experience? of it all. Meaning, there is a time when you are not just playing a game, but you are experiencing it, as if the game is an extension of you. Games like Gran Turismo 3, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill are prime examples of this. In that same mold, we have Sony Computer Entertainment America's latest piece of software, ICO. ICO is not just a simple ?game.? Calling it just a game is an insult to the true ambition of it. You don't just play ICO, you live, breathe, and most importantly, experience the whole ambience that is ICO. No, it's not a perfect game, but I have not played a game of this stature in a very long time, and is a shining example of why I love video games.

ICO is very quirky; while there is some semblance of a story (ICO, the horny little man, finds a princess in an oversized birdcage, rescues her, and attempt to escape a puzzle and trap-ridden castle of horrors), it's not emphasized and pretty much forgotten after the initial first few minutes of game time. The rest of the time you're running around solving the puzzles and advancing through a gigantic and engrossing castle, for seemingly no reason at all. Even when they do try telling bits of the story, it doesn't add up properly, and doesn't solve anything. However, with a game like ICO (pronounced Eeko ? thanks to the dude at GameCrazy for correcting my ineptness with weird names), the story is set aside for the brilliant puzzles and amazing atmosphere. And it works.

The name of ICO's game is puzzles. Yes, there is some fighting, but it's very much kept on the down low and the emphasis is on solving the simple, yet difficult puzzles. Thankfully, ICO's puzzles are nothing that will send you scratching your head, due to how they are presented. Unlike many puzzle-themed games like Resident Evil (or even Silent Hill), which involve much backtracking, ICO's puzzles are kept within the same area. Never will you have to return to the very beginning to put a key in a hole to unlock anything ? all it takes is a little bit of looking around to see what's next in order to figure out what exactly to do. That's where the creativity shines in this game. Because the made the particular areas so intelligently, so well-crafted, and so vast that despite the answer to the puzzle being right under your nose, it still makes you stop and think for an answer.

Most of the real puzzles center around getting the princess, Yorda, around the castle with minimal effort. See, not only do you have to get out yourself, you've gotta get the princess out safely as well. A lot of the time, in order to progress her around, you'll have to climb up chains or make giant leaps that she cannot make, to drop a platform, raise a bridge, or drop a box to climb on in order to progress both you and her to the next part of the castle. And for once, it never gets frustrating, because of how cleverly the puzzles are designed. I still cannot believe the detail used for the Water Tower puzzle area in order to get by..there's at least 7 steps to just get her past the traps. Amazing. Unfortunately however, sometimes Yorda doesn't want to cooperate and can make many hassles not going to you when you call, or going the wrong direction. But it rarely happens, thankfully.

No matter what, however, none of the puzzles will get you ?stuck?; every puzzle can be solved even if you make a mistake. And none of them are so difficult and obscure that you can't solve them, though you may need to consult some sort of strategy in a few places if you get stuck. Which is rare.

Saving is abundant as well, through the use of Saving Couches. Yeah, you read me right. Saving Couches are spread throughout the damndest places of the castle, and if you and Yorda sit down, you may save your game as often as you'd like. Most of the time, the Couches pop up right when you need them: another testament to how well planned this game truly is.

And when there is fighting, that is a challenge in itself. Shadow Ghouls attack at certain junctions ? most of the time before or after solving a difficult puzzle. They aren't there for you, they are there to capture Yorda and suck her into a black hole. If you don't protect her, she will get captured and sucked in, unless you can pull her out fast enough. If you fail, well it's game over. ICO can use a stick, a sword, and even a hidden mace weapon to batter around enemies. The weapons, smartly, also are necessary to solve some puzzles. You'll need the stick to light a fire to light up bombs or torches, and the sword to cut rope and drop bridges or chains to climb. This in itself is incredible attention to detail ? and those little touches keep the game going smoothly, without that feeling of being lost.

Controlling ICO is extremely tight and simple. As it is a platform game of sorts, you'll need to get jumps properly and figure out the right path to take without making mistakes and falling to your death. Thankfully getting the right angle for a jump is easy and extremely accurate. And if you do make a mistake and trip over an edge, you will grab the platform and pull yourself up to continue your quest. Either the digital or analog pads work properly as well. My only small complaint is how the controls change with the camera angles. Crossing a path may be done by pressing upwards, but suddenly when the camera changes you have to adjust to it, or fall possibly to your death. It gets to be a hassle especially when you're sliding down a pipe or any other ledge. It takes a lot of time to get used to.

In a lot of ways, this is a true 2D game in a 3D world. The area-specific puzzles, platform to platform jumping, and worthwhile fighting is reminiscent of the old-school days of 2D adventure games. Thus, it is a little linear, but making it too free-roaming may ruin what the game is all about. Remember, this is not a game made to be difficult in the way of being clueless, it's made to be difficult in the sheer size and layering of the puzzles.

If there is one small knock it's game length ? maybe at the most 8-10 hours the first time through. However, I cannot really imagine playing 50 some odd hours leading a princess around without the game being extremely repetitive after a while. And anyway, most games of this ilk are normally about this long, and in some cases even shorter. What's there is amazing and not to be forgotten.

Visually, ICO is downright stunning. While the graphics seem very simple at first glance, playing deeper into the game will demonstrate how amazing they indeed are. The gigantic castle is loaded with great lighting effects, and detail. First, the lighting effects are spectacular. If you're outside the castle where the sun is shining, you will see some very realistic effects. If you move the camera around for different views, it will catch the sun in different places, blinding your vision of what's around you, just as it would be if you stared directly into the sun. Even better, the effects of the sun hitting various parts of the castle create a washed-out effect, like it would be if the sun was pounding on a real-life area. There's one particular favorite area in the beginning of the game, when you're climbing a set of stairs; the sun goes through the nearby windows and throws off your vision, but as the camera swivels to get a better view, that sun is less troublesome. Incredible.

There are many other visual brightspots to point out ? incredible water effects, a huge draw distance (sometimes you can see clear across the castle, not just the room), and most importantly, the great camera. The camera is very, very smart and rarely gives you a funny perspective. However if it does, you can use the right analog stick to rotate around to see what's nearby. A lot of times it's perfect for planning out the puzzles solving, letting you figure out just where you need to go; or finding the princess or scoping out the ghouls and their portals during a conflict.

In a lot of ways, ICO is somewhat of a work of art, with the incredible attention to detail given to everything. Its style is completely unique, and one sure to be copied by a few developers around the world. And it's not just the visuals that make ICO a work of art ? it's the whole package of simple, yet difficult and eloquent puzzles, bizarre, almost pointless story (abstract art, perhaps?), and unique visual presentation add up to make a game that is going to go down as extremely important to the video game business.

Sounds, how do discuss the sounds. Really, there isn't a lot of sound effects. The voice acting is done in a foreign (if even real) tongue. There is dubbing for ICO's speech, but Yorda's words are written in some hieroglyphic language that isn't decipherable. There is very little music, except during cutscenes (which are rare) and the same creeped out theme that plays during fights with ghouls. The only thing do really discuss is the sounds of crackling fire when you light torches, the sound of feet rushing from one area to the next, great waterfall (and water in general) sounds, and the sound of ICO breathing when he stops after running. And all of it is done spectacularly. Less is definitely more, and creates an atmosphere unlike anything ever seen before.

Bottom Line
Ico is a masterpiece of gaming. It's immersive world, thoughtful puzzles, unique premise, and stunning visuals make for something that is totally unique and memorable. Sure, you may not want to play it more than one time through, hurting a replay, but then again you may just to draw yourself back into the world of ICO, to experience it all over again. ICO will perhaps go down as one of the most important games of this current generation ? and while it's definitely not for everyone, it's still a game everyone should at least try.

User Comments

Nintendo Labo Revealed As DIY Kit Combined With Nintendo Switch Games

Yakuza 6 Mini-game Trailer Shows off Some New Additions to the Franchise

Nintendo Reveals Three New Titles Enter Nintendo Selects Library

New Nintendo 2DS XL Pikachu Edition, Detective Pikachu and Detective Pikachu Amiibo Revealed

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Arrives on PC via Steam Next Month

Strikers Edge Will Be Released Later this Month on PS4 and PC

Nintendo Switch eShop Adds More Than 10 Titles as Well as Demos

Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered Officially Unveiled by Ubisoft

Of Mice and Sand - Revised From Arc System Works is now Available on Nintendo Switch

Fe Arrives Next Month on Consoles and PC from Zoink Games

Home    •    About Us    •    Contact Us    •    Advertise    •    Jobs    •    Privacy Policy    •    Site Map
Copyright ©1999-2012 Matt Swider. All rights reserved. Site Programming copyright © 2004 Bill Nelepovitz - NeositeCMS