reviews\ Sep 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection Review

Remember those games that remain timeless to you?  You know what we’re talking about.  The games you grew up with in an arcade, like Tempest and Galaga; the games that may look “old age” but are in fact, just as fresh as they’ve ever been. Tetris and Pac-Man Battle Royale; and other games that were so quirky, so out there on design and with a quality that stands out no matter what games you play afterward.  In that category, Team Ico’s products stand, namely Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.  First introduced on the PlayStation 2, those games have grown into cult favorites, with fans clamoring for more – in this case, the oft-delayed The Last Guardian.  While we wait for that, though, the folks at Bluepoint Games have teamed up with Sony to reintroduce the world to the games that made Team Ico so acclaimed to begin with.

That’s right, both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have gotten the HD treatment, just like other games – God of War, Sly Cooper, Tomb Raider – have before them.  There’s no genuine surprises to this collection, just the two games that you couldn’t stop playing once you laid hands on them, and a handful of extras to help boost the replay value.  It’s easily one of Sony’s best compilations to date.

In Ico, you play as a cursed child who finds himself trapped in a castle, vowing to get out.  That’s easier said than done, as it’s a labyrinth filled with all kinds of tricky puzzles and ghouls who aren’t so eager to let you go.  If that’s not enough to worry about, you also have to keep an eye on Yorda, a strange, ghost-like girl who doesn’t speak a lick of English, but Ico can’t turn her away for some reason.  Together, the two of them journey throughout the castle, looking to get out in one piece.

Shadow of the Colossus is a different game entirely.  You play as a warrior looking to restore the soul of your beloved, who lies motionless in a chamber.  Again, it’s a task that becomes almost insurmountable, as you first must slay 16 monsters.  While that sounds simple, keep in mind that they’re all Colossus breed, meaning they tower over five stories in height.  Your job is to fend off their incoming attacks, climb atop them, and eventually stab away at their weak points.  And considering they differ in attacks and builds, that’s not such an easy mountain to climb.

Both games offer unique gameplay perspectives.  With Ico, you have combat scenarios and a few puzzles to solve, but it seems to be the weaker of the two due to questionable jumping physics (you’ll die cheaply a few times) and inane behavior on behalf of Yorda.  Seriously, this girl can’t even ascend a ladder without your help.  Luckily, the majority of the game still works, so you won’t ever get to the point where you think Team Ico failed at design.  As for Shadow, it’s nothing short of awesome.  Climbing up these Colossi and figuring out weak points while making sure you don’t get shaken off is quite a challenge, and when you finally send one tumbling down to Earth, you feel a grand sense of accomplishment as a result.

As for how the games look, Bluepoint has given both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus a superb HD treatment.  Both games really bring out the artistic flavor like never before, and fans of the originals will definitely feel right at home gazing upon the sights offered here.  While Shadow has a few advantages in terms of outer stage design and the truly excellent Colossi bosses, Ico has its fair share of beauty – especially the water.  Seriously, this is how well you do ripples when you enter a pool.  The animation is above standard, and the games as a whole look superb.  Furthermore, you can play them in 3D, should you have the proper equipment to do so.

Team Ico also knew their stuff when it came to music.  Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus feature elegant soundtracks that really know how to grow on you over the course of each adventure.  The sound effects are right on as well, from the thudding of the Colossi feet to the gibberish that Yorda speaks whenever she needs your help.  No complaints here.

As for extras, there are quite a few cool ones.  In addition to Trophies for each game, you also have access to multiple videos, showing behind-the-scenes creation for Ico and Shadow, along with a “sneak peek” at The Last Guardian.  Furthermore, there are exclusive XMB themes available (perfect for fans), and certain unlockables in Ico including a two-player co-op mode (local only) and – whoa – a translation tool for Yorda.  Finally, you’ll understand what she’s saying!  (Hopefully it’s not “buzz off, horn boy.”)

Really, if you own a PS3 and don’t find a strong enough reason to pick up Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection today, you need to slap yourself and snap out of it.  Though the games are challenging, they’re plenty rewarding, and the new HD transfers are amongst the best Bluepoint has done to date.  The extras are outstanding too, especially to long-time Team Ico fans.  Even though The Last Guardian is still a long ways off, this Collection makes the wait for it a lot less painful.

Of course, we can’t speak for the Colossi…


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