The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection Review

The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection Review

What we liked:

+ HD makes a significant difference
+ Both stories are heartfelt and moving
+ Sense of scale persists, even after a decade

What we didn't like:

- Colors seem washed out
- Controls show their age

DEVELOPER: Bluepoint Games   |   PUBLISHER: SCEA   |   RELEASE: 09/27/2011

ReviewFrom all of my criticisms, you might think that I disliked my return to ICO. Thankfully, despite its shortcomings and age, the game is still the same touching story about two children fighting for their survival and freedom. In some games, the controls stand in the way of enjoyment. It’s just not the case here. There is so much to love about the art style, direction and relationship between the protagonists that it’s impossible not to recommend ICO to those that enjoy a subtle yet moving story.

Moving on to Shadow of the Colossus, the spiritual successor (and rumored prequel) to ICO, things are surprisingly similar. The story is both epic and moving, telling the story of Wander, a warrior who brings a young girl to the Forbidden Land in search of a mysterious entity named Dormin, whom legend tells has the ability to resurrect the dead.

Wander makes a pact with Dormin. If the warrior is able to fell the 16 Colossi, Dormin will bring the girl, Mono, back from the dead. Dormin warns Wander of a great price that will be paid, though. With that, the young man sets off on his horse, Agro.

Throughout the game, you will have but two weapons at your disposal: a bow and a sword. Others are obtainable through the game’s Time Attack mode, which becomes available after you complete the game. The quest for each Colossus is similar. You will depart from the shrine in the center of the Forbidden Land and use your sword to gather light to guide your path. The Colossi must be defeated in a specific order, so you won’t accidentally get off track using the sword.

Often, Agro will not be able to traverse the rough terrain or deep waters to reach the lairs of the Colossi. You’ll need to dismount and use one of the most cumbersome climbing mechanics I’ve ever experienced. This is largely due to Wander’s slow speed and partially due to having to hold the R1 button to stay attached to whatever it is you are clinging to. The triangle button allows you to jump up and mantel more quickly. Gamers used to Assassins Creed, Uncharted or Prince of Persia will need to spend some time getting adjusted to having to hold a button to stay on a wall. Between ICO using that button for calling Yorda and holding her hand and Shadow of the Colossus using it for climbing, I might need a replacement R1.

The horse mechanics when you are aboard Agro were fine in 2005, but seem clunky and slow after games like Red Dead Redemption and Assassins Creed. Again, this is to be expected and playing these games as if they are just now being released for the first time will yield only disappointment. Having proper expectations, though, will allow you to enjoy the titles more.

When you finally do reach the Colossus, you’ll need to figure out a way to climb up to the exposed, glowing weak points. You’ll also need to scout out safe zones along the way up, as your grip meter is very limited. Should you run out, you’ll plummet to the ground and take some damage. Defeat the Colossus and watch a stunning short cutscene of its death. Each and every time, I felled one of these giants, I knew something wasn’t right, especially when the beast ignored me and only fought back when attacked.

After defeating your foe, you’ll find yourself back at the central shrine, surrounded by more and more shadowy figures as you await your next task from Dormin. Then, off you go again, to repeat the process. After the first two Colossi, things start to get very complicated and I had a great deal of trouble, especially with the third Colossus. I felt as if the game was simply stacking the deck against me when trying to even get to the first safe spot along the way to the top. Once I finally did manage to get there, I had more luck, but I think the difficulty for some of the game is tuned almost to the point of being unfair.

With regard to visuals, the HD update makes a big difference and, in some places the game is stunning. Unfortunately, too often I felt that the colors were washed out. The worlds of both of these games, that I remember being vibrant, have become muted and flat. There are some gorgeous vistas in Shadow of the Colossus, but I would have preferred that the worlds seem more alive with color.

The audio fares much better. The serene sounds of the world transform into a sweeping, epic score when confronting a Colossus. The sound effects and music sound rich in surround sound and the death throes of the Colossus are even weightier in this release.

Again, my concerns might lead you to believe that I didn’t like Shadow of the Colossus. It’s quite the opposite. I enjoyed both titles in this collection for what they were; complete with the moments I nearly wanted to throw my controller. As long as you go in with your expectations appropriately set, you will find something to enjoy in both of these titles whether you are going on these adventures for the first time or are coming back to experience them in HD.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.

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