Shadow of the Colossus
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
SCEA
Developer
SCEI
Genre
Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Fantasy Violence
Grade
The Good

• Great artistic style
• Living puzzles prove to be a great challenge
• Excellent musical score
• Sense of scale is impressive

The Bad

• Camera and frame-rate are big issues
• Not much to do outside of the Colossi

 
Grade
A-

After the release and subsequent critical acclaim of ICO, the development team responsible for the magical adventure were expected to bring more of their wonderful touch to the PS2. Instead of the rumored direct sequel to ICO (that some referred to as NICO), the team retained their art style but pushed the gameplay into a different realm. While ICO featured a world filled with environmental puzzles, Shadow of the Colossus proposed living puzzles that the player needed to solve to slay the beasts and progress.

Not much for lengthy exposition, the story begins with the hero bringing his deceased love to a temple on the outskirts of his world, where he's informed that to bring her back to life, he must hunt down and kill 16 Colossi. While this premise seems simple, once the adventure had begun, hints in the story begin to make the viewer wonder why they must defeat the beasts and what would be the cost of such victory.

At the outset of the game, you have all the abilities and weapons you need to progress in your task: a horse, a magical sword and a bow. Once on your horse, you must raise you sword and let the reflected light direct you to where you'll find the next beast to slay. Once there, you're presented with Colossi of varying size, style and means by which you must defeat them. Often, the trick is just to find out how to get onto the Colossus. Once on, you hold on using the R1 button and climb or jump in the direction you need to head. As you hold on, often for dear life as the beast tries to shake you off, your grip gauge will deplete. To replenish it, the player must find a place on the beast's body where they can stand for a few moments as their gauge refills. While that sounds simple enough, it does prove to be a challenge as the later beasts will try to shake you off no matter where you are, leaving only short windows of opportunity to refill your grip. With sword in hand, you'll locate glowing weak spots on the beasts that you must plunge the blade into to do any real damage. While you can do a quick jab, its best to hit the button once to charge the thrust and then hit is again to do a powerful attack. Since each Colossus has multiple weak spots, doing enough damage to one will force you to crawl/climb/move to the next one until you've done enough damage to fell the beast.

There is a certain bit of loneliness found in SOTC, though I would say that it is intentional because you technically are "at the end of the world". Outside of the Colossi and a few minor animals scurrying about, there is absolutely nothing to interact with. No legions of filler monsters to plow through. No NPCs standing around to shoot the breeze with. Nothing more than killing one Colossus and hunting down the next. Fortunately, almost all of the Colossi present a different means by which the player must defeat them. So, the way you got onto and put down the first Colossus is no going to work for any of the ones following. When you come across the more non-humanoid types, you may spend some time just trying to figure out how you're going to deal with them. This is made all the more interesting by the diverse locations on which you find your prey.

Visually, SOTC is all about the artistic flair and presentation. The same wispy, dreamlike style present in ICO returns, but with more Aztec/Incan influence in both the main character's attire and the way the Colossi appear. Designed as both functional, living puzzles and as impressive beasts to behold, the Colossi look wonderful as they appear in the environment. The gameworld, while devoid of life, is impressively large and tries to show a lush, varied world for you to explore. When you do reach a Colossus, you'll be impressed by the sheer sense of scale as they usually dwarf the main character. The architecture of the gameworld is well designed and actually quite enjoyable just to take a few moments to look at. There is some nice use of visual effects, especially when one of the Colossi is trying to smash you. Throw in some excellent animation of both the main character and his trusty steed and you have a presentation that tends to work excellent.

Audiowise, SOTC is pretty minimalist. Voicework is used in the cutscenes between dropping one Colossus and the next, but even that is intentionally done in a foreign language to keep the viewer from personalizing the voice. Except for when the hero calls his horse, don't expect much else on that front. Sound effects do wonders to ground the world and when the action gets going, they step up a notch to make the battle between man and monster feel exceptionally exciting. Where the audio portion excels is in the wonderful soundtrack that keeps its peace when you're alone but really kicks into life during each encounter with the Colossi.

SOTC suffers from being built on a console that just seems unable to handle the ambitious nature of the game. While early on the frame rate seems pretty stable, in the latter portions of the game, there are going to be times where the frame-rate will suffer from the sheer size of your opponents and all the activity that ensues. Throw in a game camera that tends to be a bit sloppy (I could never figure out why it placed itself in certain angles when it did) and the game can be unintentionally more difficult.

While the adventure itself is linear and once you figure out how to beat each enemy, the solutions may not seem as rewarding the second time through, there is a hard mode and even time attack to reward you with. Fortunately, the experience is an enjoyable one and putting down the beast by just using your own brain is pretty rewarding. If you were enchanted by ICO, then Shadow of the Colossus is pretty much a no-brainer as a must by.

- - Kinderfeld

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