ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection HD PS3 Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Bluepoint Games – Genre – Action Adventure – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS2 (sold separately)

Both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus were easily amongst the best games that the PS2 had to offer, but although they have garnered a cult following and have been influential throughout the industry, not nearly enough people experienced them, leaving them as perfect candidates for HD versions. Hopefully they’ll gain a bigger audience this time around, before the Last Guardian finally stomps onto the scene next year.

Whilst ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are very different from one another, they nonetheless share facets with one another. Both have artistic washed out visual styles and charismatic animation that breathes life into their characters. There’s also a common theme of minimalistic design running throughout both games.

As for the HD aspect, it’s unsurprisingly fantastic work from developer Bluepoint Games and as a further bonus; 3D TV owners get the opportunity to play it in 3D too, of which I unfortunately wasn’t able to test. There’s some blurry textures here and there, but the two game’s artstyles still manage to look lovely in HD and Shadow of the Colossus especially benefits from a silky smooth framerate, a godsend for those that couldn’t get past the creaky framerate of the original PS2 game.

2002’s ICO was the earlier of the two and was undoubtedly one of the instigators of the games are art debate. It centres around the eponymous ICO, a boy who has horns sprouting from his head and that, for this very reason, has been locked up in a vast castle. He escapes and encounters another captive, the ghostly pale girl Yorda, and the two decide to try and escape from the castle together.

Narrative exposition is sparse, but in no way does this harm the game. Characters rarely converse and their relationship and struggles are largely told in-game. It largely forgoes the game-y elements of collectibles and upgrade systems, instead focussing on an absorbing journey.

The castle is often eerie and music is used sparingly throughout with the reliance of ambient noises to grant the game a tremendous atmosphere, which really does its part in granting a lonely feel to the environment.

Ico obviously feels protective over Yorda and this is reflected in being able to drag her around by her hand as well as extending your hand, so as she is able to grab on to it, allowing her access to areas she otherwise couldn’t reach alone. Her AI isn’t great: pathfinding can be a bit dodgy and she’s sometimes slow to react to given commands, but in the end these are nothing more than minor blemishes.

Ahead of anything else, ICO is a puzzle game crossed with a platformer. You’ll do all the usual pulling switches and moving boxes around. Puzzles are often built around the fact that Yorda isn’t able to go everywhere that Ico can, leaving it to open up a path for her to reunite the two.

Occasionally you’re attacked by shadow like creatures and must initially fend them off by bashing them with a plank of wood. You can’t actually die in these sections and the tension comes from the enemies being able to capture Yorda and carry her through the portals that they spawn from. Fighting is largely perfectly serviceable, albeit a bit awkward; though either by accident or design this actually works in showing that Ico is not a burly warrior.

The other half of this collection is 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus, a much more action-centric experience that focuses on Wander’s attempts to raise his lover back from the dead by vanquishing 16 Colossus’. The equivalent of Yorda here is your trusty steed Agro, who you ride around the area to find the Colossus.

Whilst most of them are huge fellows, the Colossus’ aren’t always easy to find. You can discover their general direction by raising your sword to the sunlight, but this isn’t always exactly precise and some will feel that the area is somewhat wasted, given the fact that there’s little to do beyond searching for the colossus’.

The battles with the Colossus’ are some of the most epic battles in gaming, giving you the sense that you’re in a real struggle with giants. It tasks you with clambering around their vast bodies to reach their weak spots, all the while they’re trying to shake you off. Discovering their weak parts and sometimes even finding out how to get on to them is often puzzle-like, and it’s gratifying once you learn, even more so when the fantastic musical score dynamically shifts to a more triumphant piece.

The game follows this seek out and kill structure throughout, which might sound as if the game is severely lacking in variation, though each colossus largely manages to be very different from the last, with flying and underwater types to contend with and weakspots that are often increasingly harder to discover.

Bluepoint Games have treat ICO and Shadow of the Colossus with the respect that they deserve, doing full justice to them by delivering HD re-masters that result in the two games looking and feeling better than their original incarnations, which themselves were two genuine classics that both offered some of the most memorable moments in gaming.