Shadow of the ColossusTHE GOOD: - Amazing artistic approach to visuals - Addictive and engaging combat - Mysertious plot
THE BAD: - Navigational aspects can be time consuming - Some bosses require well-thought strategies
Shadow of the Colossus has been hailed as one of the most engaging games of all time, and a true swansong of the PlayStation 2 platform. Team ICO stunned us before with their debut title, ICO, but if you were looking for something more action-packed yet retaining that very ICO-specific look, Shadow of the Colossus is the one for you.
The thing I liked most about the plot behind the game, is that it drops you straight in middle of a temple without any background or explanation why the character, Wander, is here. He simply lays the fallen body of a young girl, assumedly a loved one upon an alter and is then confronted by a disembodied voice telling him that the only way to bring her back is by slaying the sixteen beasts that roam the forbidden land. It may sound a little strange, but in time you will get used to the premise and all of the loose ends of the plot are wound together at the very end, with little mystery to think of when it’s all done and dusted.
The game is linear, with your mission being to hunt the sixteen Colossi in turn. Your hub of operations will be the temple from which the voice will inform you of your next enemy. The forbidden land is a huge map to travel across, and at first it can become quite daunting, but by using the light reflected from your blade, you can pinpoint the location of your enemy, and take your steed, Agro, to find them. Each battle comes with a brief introduction to your opponent, and then the fun really begins...
Apart from two, every boss in Colossus is huge, and has a very specific and engaging way of defeating it. By using various techniques and the environment around you, you will be able to climb the beasts and find their weak spots, and by taking each one out, you will have killed the Colossus. Upon their deaths, the will decompose into dark strands that engulf Wander and render him unconscious, and when he awakes, he will find himself in the temple once more.
The gameplay is divided into two segments, navigation and the battles themselves. You will usually spend up to ten or so minutes traversing the in-game world to find your enemy, and then the battles themselves can last up to thirty or so minutes, depending on your sense of intelligence and initiative. Agro will be you main source of transport, allowing you to go at various speed, but he will not be able to enter water or scale walls, which will then require the player to engage in some platforming.
The platforming in the game is surprisingly intuitive, gauging your grip and balance on a meter, which will send you toppling if it ever runs low. Triangle is used to leap into the air, but to hold onto ledges, you will also need to grab via the R1 button. This mix of holding and tapping buttons may sound small, but it is immensely fun and unique.
Upon reaching the boss, your act should be to find its weak spots which can be done by reflecting light from your blade which will indicate the beast’s vulnerabilities. For example, one of the beasts has weak spots on the bottom of its hooves, zipping a few arrows into place will cause the beast to fall. It may sound strange, but platforming is also a crucial part to how boss battles are played out too. Each of the Colossi will either have tufts of fur or actual stone garments to grab hold of, which will then allow players to navigate the entire body to search for weak points. Once you find yourself clinging to one, pressing square will cause Wander to raise his blade, which will also being to fill a meter. Pressing square again will thrust the blade down, and though full-power attacks are best, the Colossi won’t go down without fighting, and will try to shake you off, meaning that sometimes short stabs are more suitable.
For a game launched in 2005 (it is currently late 2009), it’s an absolute feast for the senses. Team ICO have applied the same drawn-style art to the game, and though games like God of War may have been more advanced in-engine, you will always find yourself stopping to stare upon the many deserts, jungles, temples and other vistas the game has to offer. The design of the Colossi is also phenomenal, each with their own iconic appearance. If you are a bigger fan of art as opposed to engine power, this game is perfect.
The sound quality is also fantastic, with an orchestral theme to match every feeling and instance within the game. Physics are also impressive for such an early title, the many tweaks made to the grabbing and rolling systems in the game actually make it feel authentic, though it is set within alternate reality.
Shadow of the Colossus is one hell of a game, and if you own a PlayStation 2, this is one of the most exquisite titles you will ever lay your hands on. Fans of ICO will have already played it, but if you are looking for something that is different yet stunning in playability and polish, you better start hunting for your copy.