Reviews: Shadow Of The Colossus

It's worth getting for the novelty and aesthetics, but actual gameplay is a matter of taste

The game straddles a line between awesomely grand and tediously hollow. One moment, the orchestral score rises, and a classical hero gains the upper hand against a mighty foe. The next moment, fiddly controls see you fall off, and you swear when you realize you'll have to spend the next few minutes getting back into position.

One moment, you're quiet with appreciation as the voice of Dormin delivers a riddle in the magnificent temple where you begin each task, and you are left to ponder further the history behind the temple, the voices, and the colossi themselves. The next moment, you're bored stiff as you ride past yet another rocky outcrop and abandoned structure, and start to suspect the developers were too lazy to add any substance to the story, like explaining why I should feel sad about killing the things when I just spent my money on this game and it offers nothing else worth doing.

One moment, you're compelled to stop and drink in every detail of the colossus that has just raised its head to the sky, and to marvel at the unique flavour of its surroundings, before beginning to plan your attack. The next moment, you realize they've just served up a tweaked version of a colossus you've already fought, and Dormin's "tips" are really starting to get on your nerves.

One moment, your heart is pumping, your blood racing, and your mouth grinning in blood-lust as the weak point is revealed and you lunge for it. The next moment, you're wondering if the endgame is going to reveal any new information on these things or if this is just item number nine on your grocery list.

My point is that this is a hard game to judge. It's definitely got an artistic style to appreciate, and it employs gameplay mechanics you wouldn't have thought would work, but it also makes some poor trade-offs between an enjoyable game and an artistic experience of a grand, desolate style, erring too often for the latter. The story is highly ambiguous and comes off as insubstantial as a result, since you're not even told who these characters are, never mind why you should care about them.

As for the true stars of the show, it's unfortunate that there are so few, since even one or two bad ones quickly take a big chunk of the game's quality with them. My favourites tend to be more action-oriented ones, but YMMV.

Overall worth getting, but expect some rough bits.

How far would you go?

For love?

For something that you want?

To make the impossible possible?

That is the question raised by Team Ico Series Team Ico's follow up to their cult classic, Ico. Shadow of the Colossus weaves the tale of a mysterious youth named Wander, who brings the body of a dead woman named Mono to a forbidden land in the hopes of bringing her back to life. Wielding a magic sword, Wander beseeches the Dormin, the god like forces that reside in the shrine in the middle of the uninhabited land. The Dormin set up Wander a simple task; slay 16 massive colossi to destroy their mystical idols.

The game forgoes many commonplace elements of gaming. There are Mooks, no levels, and certainly no power-ups. Instead, all that lies ahead are 16 awe-inspiring creatures of varying sizes and shapes. From a giant minotaur, to a underwater sea monster, to a flying serpent, Shadow presents the player with nothing but boss fight after boss fight. Yet, unlike many games where victory over the boss brings elation and joy, Shadow brings about a sense of regret and sorrow. The towering creatures you seek may have the visage of a monster, but the only one being truly heartless may very well be the player themself. With each strike into the skull of a colossus, what are you really achieving? The return of a loved one? But at what cost, and what sacrifice?

In addition to it's great story, Sot C has a beautiful, epic soundtrack. Full of sweeping orchestral themes that blare out grand and adventurous themes, to bitter, sad melodies, each song enriches the experiences in a different way.

So the question is; how far are you willing to go? Can you face the colossi? Are you able to strike them down for nothing but the faint hope of regaining a single soul? Are you willing to show just how far you will go, for love?

An Aesthetic Accomplishment with Good Gameplay - I'd like to see more games like this

I like this game, and especially its artistic direction. The animations, graphics, sounds and lighting effects are highly detailed and nuanced, working well with each other, and I would gladly play more games like this.

The colossus battles are clearly the main attractions, and they are diverse and thrilling, each one a test of personal ingenuity. On my first playthrough, most of the thrill was in developing strategies, picking up clues from the surroundings and watching the colossus' movements. This thrill is partially lost in replays, but fortunately there is enough extra material to keep the game interesting after completion - the Time Attack Mode, Hard Mode, Reminiscence Mode, and other discoveries. It is, however, the sheer detail of each colossus design and attack pattern, and the exciting battles, which draw the most attention - and rightly so, for they are the meat of the game's entertainment.

The simple story behind the game was beautifully and elegantly portrayed, though the climax felt pretty weak compared with the rest of the game's features. Interacting with Agro was delightful, especially when riding across open terrain and arches of stone. The platforming sections of the game, though brief, sometimes encouraged creative thinking, especially during battles against Kuromuri, Cenobia and Argus. Cutscenes are directed with the same lavish care as the gameplay experience. After a while, you start to notice repetitions in some colossus A Is and musical scores, though these do not detract from the originality of the boss fights themselves and are easily excused. Wander's own animations are convincing, his characterisation fascinating, and his controls only occasionally unwieldy.

The game's problems are trivial compared with these successes, but after a while they can't be ignored. Controlling the camera often became a frustrating task, especially while fighting Avion, Dirge and Phalanx. Riding through the vast, empty landscape may have been atmospheric initially, but it soon became tedious. Sub-missions involving lizards and fruits, while surprising novelties at first, are unentertaining. You can't help feeling that a lot of the game's detailed environment just goes to waste.

On balance, though, I would recommend this game. If a sequel was released including sixteen more colossus battles, I would definitely buy it.