Shadow of the Colossus
(and ICO too sort of)

Review By: Joe

So you take a Hollywood film and remove the action, the fun, the majority of the plot, give precedence to shots of people staring into space rather than dialogue, and replace the love story with the cliché "boy gets girl" ending with a cliché "boy and girl can never be together" ending...AND HEY! You've got yourself an indie film! But wait a minute! What about...AN INDIE VIDEOGAME?! "IF ONLY IT WERE TRUE, JOE!!" I hear you say! Well! Your prayers have been answered in the form of Shadow of the Colosuss for the Playstation 2 Entertainment System!! KICK ASS, HUH?!?

Shadow of the Colossus is the second game by the same team of Japanese people who made the game ICO which is the most overrated underrated game in the history of LIFE. ICO received craploads of critical and, I guess, "UNDERGROUND" acclaim for reasons I'll never understand. Well, actually, I guess I do understand it. I just don't agree with it because it's stupid.

Basically, people got off on ICO because SUPPOSEDLY it did something NO OTHER GAME HAS EVER DONE EVER!!!! Well, if you ask me, this just plain isn't true. The big thing about the game was something like how beautiful it was in its simplicity or some fruity nonsense like that. You played as a little kid with horns who ran around a decaying castle with this waify little broad on your arm and every five seconds these shadow things would come out of the ground and you had to hit square repeatedly to hit them and get rid of them. Other than that, you solved a lot of environmental puzzles, a good deal of which centered around "How do I get the dumb chick over this gap?"

All in all, I guess the big thing was supposed to be that it had a unique look (which it did, it was rather pretty) and that, even though it only had the bare bones of a storyline, it managed to create an EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT to the characters (which, personally, I did NOT find true). So, lots of reviewers and dorks with weighty opinions all got mad and said "I CAN'T BELIEVE NO ONE IS BUYING THIS GAME HOW COME NO ONE IS BUYING THIS GAME GOD EVERYONE IS SOOOOOO MUCH STUPIDER THAN ME AND WRONG ABOUT LIFE!"

I played the game. It took like 5 hours to beat and, frankly, when you got down to it, it was basically like a 3D version of Prince of Persia (with an escorting premise added in) so while everything else might have been OOOH SO GROUNDBREAKING, the gameplay was NOT and because this is a videogame THAT MATTERS. On top of which, a 3D Prince of Persia actually DID come out not too long after and it was both longer and more fun.

So, anyheck, it's no surprise that Shadow of the Colossus is getting similar acclaim from critics and dorks all over the internet are singing its praises and will defend any negative comments made towards it like they're affronts to their manhood. Well, I don't find that to be totally necessary but, on the bright side, I do believe that, unlike ICO Shadow of the Colossus is largely deserving of all the praise.

All the elements of ICO (and independent film) are still there but now there's also unique gameplay to back it up. The game is actually a series of sixteen boss fights (with colossi) and that's it. You start in a temple, you find your way to a colossus on horseback, beat that mf down, get teleported MYSTERIOUSLY back to the temple, and do it all over again...sixteen times. And JOO KNOW SOMETHING??? I like it!

The colossi themselves provide all the puzzles and action in the game. No other game has had enemies like this, period. They are very big and you climb them to find their weakspots. I say, you CLIMB THEM. I'm not sure it's awe-inspiring (if I had a bigger TV it might help) but it is cool to say the least and I did have a handful of moments that resulted in me uttering a geniuine "OMG" (mostly when I fell off).

The problem is this (and real reviewers have detailed this many times before but whatever I guess I'm already typing this, right?): as I have said, the colossi provide all the puzzles and action in the game and I do mean ALL the puzzles and action. Between them you just ride your horse around an essentially barren landscape. There's nothing to pick up (actually, this isn't completely true but it's nigh-inconsequential), no sidequests, no rhythm dance minigames, no buckets of freedom (you know those games with buckets of freedom in them), no salad dressing, the list of things there aren't goes on and on.

Considering that a big part of this game is that it's trying to go for a specific FEELING, I have to say that, unlike in ICO, it actually works for me here. The fact that you have to travel massive distances on horseback through areas that aren't set up in a distinctly level-like manner makes this game feel like some kind of epic journey. You have to be open-minded and patient to appreciate this but I would say that it does work. HOWEVER!

Although these people are to be commended for saying "NO! We don't have to put this crap in because it's expected in a video game. There does not have to be extra busywork gameplaying. NO secret areas (actually there is one but it's nigh-inconsequential) NO nonsense, NO bull, NO NOTHIN'!!!" at the same time, THIS IS A VIDEO GAME and, frankly, although I respect what they're trying to do there is a difference between this and other forms of media. There's more of an expectation for me to be challenged and engaged and doing stuff so, while I do get it and I basically think it works, a part of me thinks there could be a LITTLE more.

Probably not hidden pick-ups (the game world is so freaking large it'd be hell on...whatever planet this game takes place on), not generic enemies to beat up along the way (that was one of the most mundane aspects of ICO) but I would say, AT LEAST, some more environmental puzzles. Oddly enough, I'd appreciate just a little bit more of what ICO was primarily comprised of. I don't think it would dilute the game much as the world already feels like a place that MAN IS NOT TO BE TRAVELLING THROUGH, so some areas that required your wits to navigate through would not have been out of place, I believe.

Additionally, although it gave the game a certain feel the first time through, I've now unlocked hard mode (and time attack mode so there's a bit more to keep you busy) and all the colossi are in the exact same places. I liked the mood the first time but now I just wanna see what the differences are with the hard colossi. Some kind of JUMP TO THE JERKS AND FIGHT THEM feature (which is, incidentally, how the time attack mode functions) would be more than appreciated.

ALSO!!! The game gives you hints when you seem to be sucking at beating a colossus. Some are vague while others are pretty blatant. It's nice, I suppose, and if you're doing well enough (I don't think I actually ever ran into one of the blatant ones because I'm just so darn cool) you don't get any hints but I think there should be an option to turn this off and on at your leisure.

Shadow of the Colossus is a videogaming artfag's wet dream brought to life. Not everyone is going to want to deal with it, which is too bad because, unlike ICO, there's a unique and fun gameplay experience to be had here. At the very least, you can beat up your wussy artsy friend after he finishes the game, steal it and his memory card, and play all the battles through time attack mode. But that's sort of a lot more trouble than you need, huh? Plus, if you haven't played Resident Evil 4 yet, it just came out on PS2 and it's still more fun so get that.

This game has the bare bones plot, the long strands of nothing happening, and the unrequited love story (which, I'll admit, I found geniuinely sad, albeit not entirely sense-making). For the next game, all they need to do to make the perfect indie videogame is remove all of the action and make the lead character an alcoholic. GET ON IT, JAPAN!!!


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