An average adventure game that recieves just a bit more attention than it deserves.
So, I read the one review this game has here, and I decided to write my own. Sit back, as I tell you the tale of ICO. ICO is an adventure game, released in 2001 on the PS 2. The game deals with a boy, locked in a castle and left to die because of his horns. As he wanders around the castle, he encounters a girl called Yorda. Yorda is the daughter of the castle's Queen. Said Queen plans on possessing Yorda to extend her own lifespan, so Ico must protect her from the Queen's servants who repeatedly attempt to capture her. These servants can't harm Ico himself, but they can drag Yorda off into the portals they spawn from, so he must fight his way through them to get to Yorda. Yorda herself is integral to your own progress, as only she can open the doors of the castle. You must also complete some puzzles while you try and find your way out of the castle. Ico's puzzles are a little on the easy side, with maybe one or two that were truly challenging. Unfortunately, combat is a bit of a chore, and it wasn't really any fun to drag Yorda all over the place by the hand. The platforming bits are okay, but sometimes a little clunky, and the camera, in it's attempts to be cinematic, is sometimes unhelpful. Overall, Ico's gameplay is decent, but unexciting for the most part. The graphics look nice, but the design choices are kind of strange. Some of the indoor areas take Real Is Brown to an extreme. The audio consists almost entirely of blowing wind and other background noise. There is very little music, and what's there isn't really that memorable. The story has practically no dialogue, since Yorda speaks an unintelligible language that Ico does not. The plot has some merit, but it isn't exactly the best story ever. Ico has often been considered one of (if not the only) games that is considered "art". I have to wonder why this is. I might just be a cold, uncaring bitch, but I did not develop any relationship with either Ico or Yorda. There were a few fun parts, but I wasn't blown away like most people who played this game. Anyway, if your wondering whether or not you should get this game, I'd say try before you buy. It's okay, but it's not groundbreaking like many claim.
It's not about the visuals or the gameplay
For a 2001 PS 2 game, the graphics are surprisingly beautiful. There aren't a lot of stuff that you can do in the environment, apart from climbing and swinging, but that's nothing to nitpick about; your only concern is to leave the castle, after all. The Mooks aren't that frustrating to fight; it's when they grab Yorda, drag her down into a pit, and knock Ico out while saving her that annoys me. The camera itself can get clunky, particularly when I zoom in and move around with it. Getting confused about where to go is my own fault, and the times where Yorda runs to one place, stops abruptly, slowly turns around and runs into something else while changing direction is because I've already done something beforehand that inhibited her from going where she wanted to. Unusually, Yorda hints at a puzzle advancement depending on the location, which you can tell by her trademark pointing and corresponding Verbal Tic of "ee-ko". Furthermore, Yorda sometimes walks around and looks for a way before she points to the object/area of interest, giving the impression that she's helping you look for a way out. For example, in the first time you needed to plant a bomb on a pillar to level a bridge, I went to the door through the chain and called her, but she went to the bridge instead, waiting for me to go while facing the direction of the closed door instead of the opened one. She wanted to walk through the bridge and to the door that we came in, because in that adjacent area was a wall of stairs just underneath a save-couch. Walk down and you can see a row of bombs sitting just next to a door. Don't use FAQ, because if you pay attention and follow in the direction that she's facing, Yorda can truly shine her Artificial Brilliance. I was confused at first, but like she trusts Ico to get her somewhere, I can trust her to lead me where I need to go. I've never had that happen before, not even with Agro. The point of the game isn't about the plot, the visuals or the gameplay, though each contributes to some degree. The point of Ico is how you manage to get around with Yorda, connecting with her while she and Ico try to escape the castle. If you haven't developed a bond with either of those two, then you've wasted your time with the game (e.g. the more-negative reviewer did that).
A legendary masterpiece; An unknown treasure.
To call Ico a sleep hit would be an understatement, nay, a gross misunderstanding of the word itself. Ico was released in 2001 to little fanfare, and it's commercial success would make any film with Pauly Shore look startling in comparison. But despite it's poor sales, the game spun off a sequel (a prequel to be precise; Shadow of the Colossus) and is slated for a third title called "The Last Guardian". Once every generation, a child is born with horns to a small village. Believed to be possessed by evil spirits, the child is eventually taken to a castle located near the ocean when they come of age to be sacrificed. Locked in a coffin, Ico faces certain doom. However, either by divine intervention, or the most strangest of stroke of luck, he escapes, and the adventure begins. Befriending a strange girl named Yorda, the two forge a bond as they try to escape their fates. What sets Ico apart from your typical adventure title is it's presentation, atmosphere, and the way it tells it's story. Forget Heads-up-display, Ico doesn't need one. Forget blaring sythezized music, Ico relies on the ambient sounds of crashing waves and howling winds. Forget overly drawn out cutscenes, Ico's barely compilate into even ten minutes. The control scheme, while a little sticky, is well made and serves the purpose of making you're really holding hands as you traverse a hauntingly well rendered castle. Combat can be a bit frustrating, but ultimately works as Ico is meant to a 12 year old fighting off demonic forces, not Duke Nukem's nephew. It's these elements that help define Ico as something more than your average game. It's sparse storytelling and simple control set up actually mangages to make you care about it's two lonely protagonists; Ico and Yorda, the game captures the essense of classic fairy tale, leaving the player to ultimately decide what is truly going on. Finally, the game's ending theme "You were There" presents a haunting melody that sums up the experience as a whole. From the ethereal singing, to the dream like tune, it captures the essence of a friendship forged in a castle on a misty island. It may not be a flawless gem like Ocarina of Time, but what it lacks in extensive content it makes up with a bold gameplay design and story that flawlessly blend together into something truly magical.