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Review: ICO & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection

Review: ICO & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection (PlayStation 3).

Once upon a time two boys were born. They were born in a different time and in different places. Nothing really connects the two, until you start paying more attention. Both boys are willing to sacrifice everything that they have to save a girl. Both boys discover a secret and yet stunning world. And most important, these two boys will eventually steal your heart.

Last generation, two of the most beautiful games released on the PlayStation 2. Both games did something different, they tried to create their own little universe. They tried to create a story in which gamers all over the world could lose themselves. Both games tried, both games succeeded.

I’m talking about Ico, released in 2001 and the more recent Shadow of the Colossus, released in 2006. Although both games were definitely one of the best games of that generation, they weren’t really a commercial success. Because a lot of gamers never got the opportunity to play those games, the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD collection came to be. Are both games still as interesting as when they first released? Or have they lost their magic during the years?

First of all let’s talk about the oldest one, ICO. ICO always was and will always remain a very unique game. It tells us the story about a little boy with horns on his head named ICO. Because those horns are considered a bad omen in the village, ICO is banned to a castle where he’s forced to live his life in a cell. Lucky for ICO there was an earthquake and the cell broke. From that moment on it’s the task of the gamer to exit the castle.

Something you’ll notice immediately is that the game doesn’t tell you how to control the little boy. There are no hints, no buttons on display and no HUD at all. The game wants to feel like real life. In real life you won’t have hints either when you’re in trouble.

Not long after his escape, ICO discovers a girl named Yorda. She’s also a prisoner and is haunted by the darkness. ICO decides to help her and together they try to escape the dark castle. You’ll always hold hands with the girl and this creates a very emotional bonding with the character. You’ll feel connected to her and you’ll do everything to safe her.
The gameplay basically is very simple. To complete the castle, you’ll have to solve puzzles by moving boxes and flipping switches. You’ll have to get yourself and Yorda  out each room alive. This starts off very easy but the more you play, the more complex the puzzles will become. There’s also a little bit of action in the game when you’re forced to fight against the darkness monsters that try to capture Yorda.

Although the gameplay is very simple and straightforward, the game never gets boring. That’s because the story and bond between the two protagonists is so strong.
The bad news is that the game didn’t completely survive the switch from normal to HD graphics. The unique blur of the original is replaced for a very clear view in HD. But that’s not really a problem. One thing you’ll notice a lot however are the controls. The controls came to be when thumb sticks weren’t that popular yet. Nowadays the game controls a little bit harder than modern games and the camera doesn’t always do what you want it to do. But that’s part of the charm.
All in all ICO is still playable in 2011 and will steal a lot of hearts from gamers that have never played the original.

The other game, Shadow of the Colossus is just as unique. Here you’ll take control over Wander who lost his girlfriend. In an attempt to revive the love of his live, he visits the forbidden city and ask the gods to revive his girl. The gods agree, but on one condition. Wander will have to kill the sixteen colossuses that wonder around in the beautiful world of the gods.

The world you’ll visit is very big, but you’re not completely alone. Just like in ICO, you’ll receive a partner during your game. This time your loyal horse, Agro will be your partner during your adventure. You’ll be very thankful that you’re not alone in the huge and empty world. The world  is only inhabited by the sixteen colossuses and nothing more. Because these creators are very big, they really need their own personal space. That’s why the world you’ll have to cross is very vast.

The fact that the creators made such a huge world but didn’t fill it with creators and other human beings isn’t a downside at all. Thanks to the emptiness you’ll feel very lonely and small in this extraordinary world. A feeling that you’ll also get when you face a colossus.

Each of these creators are impressive and beautifully designed. These creators truly are the reason to check out this game. They are designed with so much care and so many details that you’ll have no other choice than to be impressed when you face them. But how do you defeat such a creature?
You’ll have to expose the weak spot of the colossus using your magic sword. Once you’ll found the weak spot, you’ll be able to climb on the colossus. If you reach the top, you’ll be able to finish the creature of once and for all.

The climbing of the colossus is kind of a puzzle. You can’t just climb up there but you’ll have to time your jumps and movements very carefully if you wish to survive. To make things even more difficult, each of the sixteen giants has their own way of moving, and their own way of dying. Time after time you’ll have to discover the weak spot and the best way to kill the creature for yourself. The game won’t give you any hints, it’s just you, sometimes with the help of Agro, against the colossus.

Something that really makes this game so unique is the feeling of guilt during your journey. The more of those beautiful creators you’ll kill, the more you’ll start to wonder if this really is necessary. Aren’t you killing those creators just to aid yourself? Why did they need to die? What will become of the world when it’s empty? These are a few question you’ll have during your game. Shadow of the Colossus is a very different game because this time, you’re the bad guy.

Unfortunately the port doesn’t always improve the original. The fog that covered the mysterious world in the original is gone. This time you’ll have a clear view of the whole world you’ll spend your time in. Therefore, when you travel, you’ll notice a lot of pop-up textures in the background, something the original didn’t have. Another odd fact is that Wander is harder to control when he’s on a colossus. The game is a little bit harder and more frustration because the controls don’t always respond the way they did.
The best improvement however is the frame rate, this time you won’t have any trouble with delays in the frame rate, the game plays very fluently.

We can conclude that both games still are very unique and are definitely worth playing. The port doesn’t always improve but it sure gives both game a nice and decent HD look. It’s too bad that the port isn’t flawless, otherwise you’ll had the most perfect collection in your hand. If you don’t mind technical malfunction and you’re searching for a unique and emotional story, don’t look any further. ICO and Shadow of the Colossus both are unique in their own ways. They’re like non-identical twins. Both game seem to have a few similarities but it the end they both are very different and they both have a very interesting story to tell.

 Game Rate: 8.5/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.