Time is an increasingly precious commodity in my life. It takes something special to make me spend this valuable resource, Ico was one such thing. The game grabbed me within minutes of starting, and dragged me into this other world. Whenever I left it it would tickle my hindbrain, pulling me back, I was trapped.
The castle drips with atmosphere. One of those games where you have space and time to enjoy the view and it's worth looking at. There is a real sense of deep history, the castle has a past. Why is it ruined? Why is the girl caged? Why are the locals so superstitious, yet they still come here? None of this is ever explained. Even the girl's language is mysterious.
One Castle, one boy, one heck of a Game
The soundtrack is sparse and light, It would have been too easy to use too much music, but instead you hear the waves the wind and the birds, the creaking of the great machines, the roar of the waterfalls. It brings the place to life, moreso than if it had been smothered in "ambient music".
Then there are the demons, sketched in smoke, drawn as shadows. They belong here, they are part of the place, somehow woven into its history, perhaps its downfall. Their darkness is the polar opposite of the brightness and sunshine on the courtyards, yet they fit with the rust and decay.
Unlike many game opponents they don't just attack, they stalk and harrass, making feints, waiting, hovering just out of range until they can make a grab for the girl. Their real target is her, not you. You are just an annoyance, which is again an unusual, if not unique, thing in a game.
The gameplay itself, taken as segments should not be particularly special, some climbing, some puzzles, running and fighting with the demons but together is definitely more than the sum of it's parts. The blend is built around feeling slightly helpless, which the vast majority of games would be scared of doing. Armed only with a stick, you are at the same time responsible for this strange girl.
Come on love - the bedroom is this way!
Its genius is in making you constantly find ways for her to get through. If it was just you running you could get out in a fraction of the time. Also the designers make sure there are times when you have to leave her as you go to open a way for her. As you scramble and jump along the rafters you know that if you leave her for too long the demons will come. You feel her vulnerability and in some almost subliminal way you feel her trust and belief in you.
In the few times you meet the Queen you never get any sense that she is evil as such, clearly again there is some unexplained history there in her relationship with the girl, and this makes the final battle with her ambiguous. It's not just a straight "good vs evil" thing.
I really believe this game was and is very important. It made me feel things that no other game has - ever, its gameplay is unique and it looks and sounds very very beautiful.
"Shadow of the colossus"? I simply donít have the time to play it right now.
Well perhaps just one quick go.