Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection

Playing in the Shadows of Giants

The ICO and the Shadow of the Colossus Collection brilliantly updates two PS2 classics.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: October 9, 2011
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Sometimes I think Fumito Ueda must be a pretty lonely guy. Both of his games Shadow of the Colossus and ICO, take place in worlds so desolate and time-forgotten that the sense of loneliness is almost palpable. Then again, the games do take place in the same world (Shadow, though released a few years later, actually takes place before ICO), but there's no denying these games came from a mind acutely aware of the effect of feeling like a small person in a very, very big world.

Maybe that explains my initial draw to ICO. As I mentioned in my original review, the game arrived at the perfect time, as I'd just broken up with a girlfriend and through playing unlikely hero, I was able to wrestle with those feelings of loss and desire to help someone else in a way I hadn't experienced in this medium before. It certainly accounted for my almost immediate draw to the mute, defenseless Yorda, but it was the game's world-is-a-puzzle aspect that kept me going.

Shadow on the other hand, had no such real-world complement (thankfully), but it did fill me with the same kind of emotions that video games are rarely able to cull -- especially in this age of bald space marines and gallons of spilled blood that dominate Western development. Throughout the process of felling these giant monsters, many of whom simply want to be left to alone in a world utterly devoid of human life, I wrestled with the idea that the protagonist may not be doing the right thing, and certainly that they were doing it for purely selfish reasons.

I won't bore you with rehashing the basic storylines of either game, but I would most definitely recommend that you read the two reviews linked in the paragraphs above. They better capture the feeling of those original releases, and I'd rather our official statement about the games stay as they were on their original platforms. What I will happily talk about is how those games have been updated, and, yes, will touch on some of the things that make both titles feel just a bit more dated now.

There can be no overstating how much of a visual improvement both games are, however. ICO, originally a PS one project that was moved late in development to the PlayStation 2, was presented in one of the lowest resolutions the PS2 was capable of, then scaled up. It's no less gorgeous, filled with a kind of sunny warmth that spills across the intricate stonework of the castle that serves as prison and puzzle, but in HD, the game's texture work is really allowed to shine. Likewise, with Shadow, the game's original framerate has been boosted, letting players get a much better glimpse into the time and effort that went into the game's weighty animations.

ICO, at the time, was something of a revelation. When most developers were struggling with building camera systems that would more easily allow 360 degree views of the world around the main character, Team ICO, the game's developers, instead opted to wrest nearly all the control away from the characters. The result was a camera that (nearly) always pointed exactly where you wanted it to go, and when it didn't, it could usually be panned in the right direction. This left players free to think their way through the various switches, levers and chains that made up the castle's machinations. There's undoubtedly a sense of heft to the controls, though, which is in stark contrast to the more twitchy, refined control in today's games.
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