Shadow of the Colossus

Last week, Shadow of the Colossus finally came out in Europe. It’s a PS2 game by the same team which did the excellent ICO, and it shows.

It also is very hard to talk about it objectively, as it is a very subjective experience, but definitely one that you should try (in addition to ICO), as the games seemingly take place in the same world.

Essentially, the game offers you 16 boss battles (and plenty of replay incentives after that). These are sometimes more, sometimes less frantic, but always distinct episodes, separated by calming travels through the gorgeous but largely barren landscapes (which are barren for a reason; also note this does not imply boring) presented entirely without load times.

Beautiful is not a big enough word to describe how the game looks, but it pays for its epic scale with a less than stellar (but never hindering) frame-rate. I’ve entered a cave, where a waterfall falls out from a shadowed ledge into the bright sunlight that’s entering the cave from above. Or the small touches, like the doves near the altar flying off and leaving feathers behind, sea-sawing slowly to the ground, or the beauty of the water, both being below the surface or simply seeing the blurry reflections.
The animation of the main character, his horse (which you really only have to nudge where you want him to go), and the colossi themselves are moving incredibly well, with a precision and connectedness to their environment (via inverse kinematics) that is rarely seen.
Hats off to the artists and directors (not to forget the programmers, who made it all possible on aging hardware); this game has evoked emotion and thought from me on a scale I find hard to believe.

The gameplay probably won’t be to everyone’s taste (best described as a mixture of action and puzzle game), but give it a chance to enchant you. Most highly recommended, both as a game and a story.

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