Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection Review for PS3

On: PS3
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection screenshot
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection screenshot

Back when I was at university, I tackled the subject of emotional attachment for my final-year dissertation. I asked the question: what makes players form a bond with the characters that inhabit the worlds of their games? In order to answer this, I first needed to determine which characters (NPCs, specifically) were successful at doing this in the first place.

I threw the question to gaming communities across the web (including this one, in fact), and two names dominated the results: Ico's Yorda and Shadow's Agro. I'll avoid the specifics of the study, but - skirting around the actual crux of my thesis - you could boil the results down and say that Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are the two most emotionally engaging games of all time.

Ten years down the line, with HD revisions of both titles on a single disc, this still holds true. Those that have played the pair before will know the characters well: Yorda is the helpless girl you take by the hand and lead through a bleak castle, and Agro is the trusty steed who ferries you about the misty peninsula inhabited by towering golems known collectively as the Colossi. Part of their success, I argued, is that they're intrinsic to the core mechanics of the game. But it’s more than this: Yorda and Agro succeed because of the context and setting surrounding them. This is what defines each experience, and is the reason they're widely regarded as two of the best games ever made.

Fumito Ueda and Team Ico are masters of pulling the player into the worlds they've created. The tactics employed in doing this are simple: get rid of every non-diegetic device that reminds you that you're playing a game at all. There are subtitles for the rare snippets of conversation, but everything else you'd normally expect from has been banished. There's no health bar, no resource meters, no score - no HUD at all, in fact - no collectibles that disappear when you run over them, and no loading screens. It's just you and the world behind the screen.

Ico, first released in 2001, tells the story of a young boy who is banished from his village due to the horns sprouting from his head. He's strapped to a horse by the leaders of his village, taken to an old castle tucked away in a sprawling forest, incarcerated in a small egg-shaped prison, and left for dead. After rocking the little prison off its shelf, Ico manages to break free, and so his adventure begins. It's not long before he meets a pale young lady by the name of Yorda; a fragile little thing that is unable to speak the same language as our horned protagonist, unable to defend herself from the shadowy creatures that pursue her, and totally incapable of doing anything by herself.

And therein lays the mechanic at the heart of the whole experience: getting Yorda safely from A to B, helping her to escape the prison that is her castle. This involves grabbing her by the hand with the R1 button (a tactic employed recently by Molyneux in Fable III), and ensuring she comes to no harm as you work your way out of the citadel. Whilst there's a reasonable amount of platforming involved in doing this - leaping across chasms and shimmying along ledges - it relies mostly on puzzles; working out how to traverse an environment and ensuring Yorda - who can't jump or swing from chains like Ico can - gets there safely, too.

This was the first example of a device we've since seen in Enslaved and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, amongst others, an experience now known as 'partnership gaming'. Unlike the key NPCs in these games, however, Yorda has no abilities of her own. She can't even cross a room without being yanked from one side to the other. She's entirely dependant on you, and this is precisely why you end up caring for her so much. You'll take great pride in swinging that makeshift sword, fending off the foul creatures that are trying to prevent her escaping. There's no special moves or combos to help you do this, you simply press a button to swing your sword, and if it hits the buggers enough times, they'll die.

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11 Comments

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altaranga's Avatar

altaranga@ ReadySteadyGo

Nice. Shame they just showed the intro and none of the gameplay. Still got me tingling though.
Posted 18:25 on 09 September 2011
ReadySteadyGo's Avatar

ReadySteadyGo@ MidianGTX

Here you go :)

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/di...ps3-comparison
Posted 11:49 on 09 September 2011
TomPearson's Avatar

TomPearson

Must... get ... PS TRIPLE!
Posted 10:14 on 09 September 2011
dav2612's Avatar

dav2612

I really enjoyed these games on their release but for some reason I can't help but feel I'm best leaving them as memories. Not sure why.
Posted 09:19 on 09 September 2011
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Completely in agreement over your scoring and thanks for a wonderfully written review Jamin. I think you perfectly captured the initial appeal of these games.

It's difficult to stress just how powerful these games are without actually playing them. Hopefully this re-release will allow more people to experience that.
Posted 09:16 on 09 September 2011
Endless's Avatar

Endless

I never played Ico (for shame!) but I DID play SotC and I whole-heartedly agree it's one of the most significant gaming experiences you can have. It's like watching a film that starts at the climax and just keeps building and building until you just run out of breath and collapse back into your seat, satisfied. An awe-inspiring experience.
Posted 01:24 on 09 September 2011
Vroom's Avatar

Vroom

Damn right!
Posted 00:09 on 09 September 2011
rickystaines's Avatar

rickystaines

It's a shame to hear the camera's still a bit dodgy, but being able to play Shadow of the Colossus in HD with a silky smooth framerate would be an absolute dream come true! :)

Will definitely have to pick this up!

Great review, Jamin :)
Posted 22:05 on 08 September 2011
MidianGTX's Avatar

MidianGTX

Not much focus on the actual port here... what about those of us who know how good the games themselves are already?
Posted 20:11 on 08 September 2011
altaranga's Avatar

altaranga

Thank-you Jamin. Thank-you.
Posted 19:43 on 08 September 2011
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

whether to get this over gears of war 3. never fully completed ico so but value for money!. great review jamin
Posted 18:09 on 08 September 2011

Game Stats

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
10
Out of 10
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
  • Incredible emotion and atmosphere
  • Great sound design
  • Fantastic value
  • Camera can be unweildy
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 30/09/2011
Platform: PS3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Adventure
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 194 7
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