Shadow of the Colossus review
An epic adventure


If you want to look for games that prides itself with its graphics, Final Fantasy X is your main hub. If you want a game that shows off as much gore as possible, Soldier Of Fortune is that game. If you want a game that showcases some extreme boss battles, then you may want to invest in...Well, to be completely honest, not many games really had boss battles at such epic scales. Most boss fights are either just obstacles, or not worth caring for because they're an annoyance. There's usually the rare instances in games where the bosses are awesome, but its usually outweighed by generic bosses (that, and/or there's not enough time to appreciate them). Well, not until Shadow Of The Colossus, that is.

Shadow Of The Colossus is an epic tale (and I am not using this loosely, it is actually quite epic) of a wanderer who finds a temple at the edge of the world and lays some dead chick onto some rectangular stone. Some mysterious entity known as Dormin promises to revive his dead girlfriend, only if the wanderer defeats all 16 of the colossi that roam the land. Rather than asking why all the colossi need to die, the wanderer sets off on his quest to kill all the colossi so that the random lifeless female has a fighting chance to come back to life. With his horse, Argo, the wanderer searches for his first kill...

You have to hand it to Team Ico...they really know how to make a lifeless environment seem interesting. You read that right folks; lifeless environment. See, the only living beings in this game...well, here's a role call: Wanderer, dead chick, invisible entity that sets you off on this quest, Argo the wanderer's trusty horse, and all 16 colossi. Oh, and the occasional lizard and hawk, we must not forget them, even if you don't need to kill them. That's it. There are no random enemies that need to be killed, no friendly NPC's in sight to help you in your quest, and no antagonists to hinder your quest (unless the colossi count); it's not even a tale of "the valiant hero saves the edge of the world from certain destruction", because it's just a wanderer we're playing as. So in many ways, it's different from your garden-variety action/adventure games.

So what was I about to say? Oh, right. The environment looks pretty damn good. Actually, as a whole, the graphics are impressive. They pushed the PS2's graphical engine to the limits; almost to the point where if you're playing on a TV with dimensions below 45x45cm, you will get nothing but blurriness. See, the art direction that Shadow Of The Colossus took was a more... Realistic approach. To be frank, it all looks great, but I have one problem with it; how blurry it can get. There are some instances of blur where there really shouldn't be. It doesn't detract from the experience, as blur is rare, but it happens sometimes. It's a lot worse on smaller TVs; in fact, if you're playing this on a small TV, the visuals, as a whole, will be too blurry and you won't make out anything. What an asspain...

Actually, there is one additional problem that the game suffers from graphically...SLOWDOWN! You can tell that the PS2 is starting to age when it starts slowing down heaps because of such graphical power. The framerate suffers as a result of such power. You know, this explains why the controls end up sluggish as hell! However, before I explain the controls, I must explain exactly how the game plays.

Armed with a sword, bow and seemingly unlimited arrows, the wanderer would seem like a gladiator or, at best, Legolas from Lord Of The Rings; WRONG! He's a wanderer, so what's the most logical thing Team Ico could think of? This: his gameplay is merely a matter of finding and slaying colossi. Sounds boring to your average thrill-a-minute gamer, but if you totally immerse yourself into the graphics (that, or just not give a shit), it won't be a big deal. Also, slaying the colossi adds a brand new layer of awesomess never before seen in boss battles. Not only are the battles epic and lengthy, but they're also... FUN! Wow, never before has a long boss battle been...fun. Each colossi takes at least a half hour to defeat, and in amongst that, there is no stupid button mashing, not annoying-ass menus to navigate; just expose the weak point, get to it and stab it a few times, then expose the rest, get there and stab them, and eventually kill it, get sent back to the temple, and hunt down the next one. Somewhat formulaic, but it works.

Exploration requires the usage of your horse and your sword's ability to detect the colossi. To get a sort of hint as to where the colossi are, you need to hold the circle button and if there's a beam of light pointing at a direction, you better go that way. If you're expecting some awesome platforming and puzzle solving, please don't; there's few instances of platforming when climbing up ledges and shit, but that's it. All you do is locate, ride your horse that way, and climb the odd ledge or two. Sounds boring, doesn't it? Well, yeah... If you expect thrills every second, that is. If you expect nothing more than atmosphere and an odd bit of sophistication, this doesn't sound boring at all.

Now for the main meat of the game, the seperation of this game from any other game; fighting the colossi. Here is where the somewhat formulaic description I made at the end of the last paragraph comes in; if all colossi were fought exactly the same way, the game would be too formulaic and boring, and not worth getting into. The formulaic way of approaching colossi would be to find their weaknesses indicated by a glowing insignia, then climb up to there, and stab it (or fire arrows there if the situation calls for it; hell, I think arrows might be a necessity in exposing weaknesses with some colossi). Don't worry, though, it's often shaken up by the fact that colossi come in different shapes and forms, making each fight different and more epic. In fact, there are some colossi that fly, requiring a lot of platforming to get to a high enough level to hitch a ride with said flying colossi and stab it to death. In short, fighting the colossi is both breathtaking...and kind of hard when you first start colossi; in particular, the later colossi, which can be very tricky until you memorize all their attack patterns, weaknesses, how to kill it, etc.

Basically, to even consider fighting the colossi without getting yourself killed or, at best, flattened like a pancake, you have to memorize their pattern of attack and where their weaknesses are, I've already told you that. Just FYI, you are not immortal; getting hit too much or getting hit by a powerful attack will kill you. If you're running low on health, count your blessings quickly and RUN FOR COVER! Hide yourself so that the colossi won't hurt you, and stand there so you can recover health. Adds a sense a realism to the game, although I think Team Ico kind of overdid the realism aspect a bit, but hey, they tried, no big deal (aside from a certain type of delay, but that's all).

How so? Well, the responses to each of the controls are realistic. You cannot expect to jump and control where you're going with it, aside from the direction of the initial launch. You also have to expect to be shaken off by the colossi while climbing them. Unfortunately, this is where the controls come to a fault; while climbing up this giant colossal monster, the controls for stabbing is delayed by a second. Changing direction while climbing even has a .5 of the second delay. Realism huh? Well, the climbing delay, I can live with; the stabbing delay, I won't. In that one second, the colossi can either shake you or move, thus making you fall off and die. I love the game to death, but the controls piss me off at times, and it's really annoying. To add salt to the wound at a critical moment when you're about to deal the final blow, only to be shaken off, landing on the ground and dying, is just...mediocre programming in that department, but hey, perfection is too much to ask for, huh? We have great graphics, a great soundtrack with a minimalistic approach, great gameplaying aspects and a great concept, so of course the controls are going to be...I dunno, delayed and somewhat sluggish? Average? Yeah, I'll go with painfully average.

And get this; you have a climbing meter. Not tedious or anything; actually, this adds a challenge. When you're climbing a colossi, you have to watch that meter whilst climbing; if that empties, you're going to fall, and mostly likely die. That's why there are platforms on the furry/feathery colossi; so that you can get a break. Not much else to say about this, except that, unlike the stab delays here and there, at least there's an excuse for this killing you; you just weren't keeping keen observation on it. Much fairer than dying because of a slight delay, that's for sure.

So how long is this epic tale of monster slaying? About 10-15 hours, which is a good length considering the style of play. As unique as the bosses get, I would get bored after about 20 hours of playing, plus it ends on a high note anyway. Extending the story beyond what is required is just rude anyway.

To make something epic, you need an epic soundtrack, right? Well, yeah! As I've said, the soundtrack is great! It takes a minimalist approach while you're locating and getting to the colossi; basically, there's no music, not even ambiance. Ambiance would sound awesome, if it was just ambient and not poppy, but I can appreciate hearing nothing more than the pounding of Argo's hooves to the ground. It adds an atmosphere, one that basically shouts out "barren wasteland, no visitors". Of course, if that was all that there is, the soundtrack would actually suck. So when you're very close to the colossi, as well as in and after fights, you have this orchestra playing some epic music, with the track changing depending on the situation. For instance, when you're fighting, it's actually quite a pumping tune and it gets the heart racing. Basically, it's made to suit the situation. It all sounds so awesome to be honest, and one of the better soundtracks I've heard from a PS2 game.

Shadow Of The Colossus is one of the few games to actually satisfy. With the high scores and "BEST GAME OF 2005" awards it was getting, I was skeptical, but in the end, I got one of the best PS2 games to ever be created. Even with some questionable controls, the game hosts some amazing gameplay (unless you're a thrill-a-minute gamer), amazing graphics and a cool soundtrack. If you haven't already purchased this game, I highly suggest you do it already! You won't be disappointed unless you expect to be thrilled every minute of every game; in which case, give this a shot anyway. You may find that a little bit of sophistication is what you need in your gaming library, right next to Halo 3 and Call Of Duty 4.

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