Shadow of the Colossus was my first Fumito Ueda game and having finally finished Ico, it will remain my favorite game of his as well. I never played Ico before the HD release because back in the early 2000’s, I was less willing to experiment with games. I knew so little about it and that hideous cover did not help its appeal either. I was also a primarily a PC player at the time.
I found Ico had a handful of flaws that kept it from resonating with me. The animation and finicky controls around ledges constantly reminded me that it was from 2001. It wasn’t an unplayable game by any means but those regular reminders were detracting from the experience.
The second and more significant flaw in my eyes was the very essence of Ico’s gameplay itself. I was at odds with escorting Yorda around the castle. On one hand, I didn’t find the idea of dragging her all over the place to be very fun. I felt it was a conceit to deal with the lack of competent path finding. It was also often faster if I actually held her hand. I felt like I was forced to hold the Companion Cube for more than a couple of levels. Eventually it stops being cute or endearing.
The problem I had with bringing her everywhere was just that, I had to bring her everywhere. Unlike with the Companion Cube, I couldn’t leave Yorda alone for too long. Within a few minutes, these dark specters will emerge to take her away into their dark portals. This often meant I had to explore and seek out possible solutions with her behind. I had to do this for about five hours.
On the other hand, because it was five hours of Ico leading Yorda, I didn’t develop a connection with her. It was often a one sided relationship. It wasn’t until the end when she began to help Ico out in his time of need. I wish there was more opportunity for the two of them to develop a genuine connection but at the same time I didn’t want to endure more hand holding.
There were fleeting moments when I was moved by the two of them interacting. I wasn’t heartless but I felt Yorda’s heavy reliance on Ico turned those warm fuzzy feelings into mild frustration at times.
Most of the puzzles were easy to crack except for one which Sony included for the original European release. This “Waterfall” puzzle and everything leading to this puzzle was not well executed. It lacked polish and required unorthodox timing to jumps that this game or (any other game) never asked for before. I had to consult GameFAQs to make sure I didn’t encounter some game breaking bug. Unsurprisingly, I discovered many others ran into this exact issue.
This is one of the problems with playing a classic after its time. Games like Portal and Journey incorporated similar ideas and learned from the mistakes of the past. I can appreciate what it accomplished at the time and how most of it still plays today. It’s just too bad I wasn’t able to experience it then instead of now.
Worth a Try
For more information on Ico & the Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection, visit the official website.