So this is one of those classic games from the PS2 whose legacy has somehow endured to this day. I was too young to play the original but I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game and so I was VERY excited to play the PS4 Remastered version.
Boy was I disappointed.
Now let’s set the record straight here: this is not a necessarily bad game by any means. I just don’t feel I enjoyed it nearly as much as I was expecting to. And by that I mean this is one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever played.
Let’s start off with the good. The premise of this game is that you’re a young boy trying to bring a deceased girl back from the dead, and in order to do so you seek the help of an ancient spirit/god, who commands you to slay 16 colossi in return for her life. And that’s pretty much it.
It’s not an elaborate story but it’s elegant in its simplicity. It’s surprisingly emotional at times and though the ending felt a bit out of nowhere to me,(No Spoilers) I still found it quite moving on the whole. A big part of this game’s ability to make you feel is the score and visuals.
Visually this game is just stunning. Although much of the world you travel through consists of bleak wetland, mountain and desert landscapes, the game still does a surprising job of making them look beautiful. Interspersed between those large open areas you have pockets of astounding beauty where the developers do some gorgeous stuff with greenery and lighting.
Not to mention the colossi themselves. There’s some brilliant textures that really gives these massive beasts a formidable prowess that makes (almost!) every battle feel like the daunting task that it is.
The visuals, however, are small potatoes compared to the MUSIC. Team Ico, the developers of this game have succeeded in crafting a musical masterpiece where every colossus fight is an adventurous score in and of itself. Often I found myself running along the back of these massive creatures as the music swelled and few moments in gaming have felt more cinematic to me.
The game can also be quite somber at times, as you slay off the last remnants of life roaming this vast empty lands. All in all, the visuals and music perfectly capture the emotions and feelings this game is trying to get at. Unfortunately, they try to do the same with gameplay
Your character controls terribly. The movement is clunky, he can barely jump the distances you want him too sometimes, he stumbles all the time. The horse that you ride is a complete wimp she will come to grinding halt if the slightest pebble in terrain comes your way so you have to spam the triangle button to get her to move again which sucks because she takes FOREVER to accelerate. Whichever way you framed it, I found the physical act of playing this game very frustrating. Half the time, I had little idea what I was meant to be doing.
SPOILER WARNING! SKIP RED TEXT IF YOU WISH TO AVOID
Just to give an example, there’s a boss fight where you have to pick up a burning stick in order to defeat the colossus. However, the game never ONCE tells you that picking up an object is a thing you can actually do, much less tell you the control for it. It took me like half an hour of trying the most random things before I realized you could actually pick stuff up in this game. Why would it not tell you that???
I read a few reviews online and from what I could glean these features are often praised by players because it complements the character. You play as an inexperienced boy who is way in over his head, and the controls reflect that. And to be honest, as an artistic decision, I totally agree. It’s purely brilliant and fits the character perfectly. At the same time, I still had to actually play the game and knowing this fact did not make it any less frustrating for me.
It took me around 7 and a half hours to finish this game, but I’d say around 4 hours of that is just struggling with finicky controls and dealing with unintuitive puzzle designs and trying to get the colossi to where you need them to be. The story, soundtrack and scenery elevate this game to incredible heights but the actual gameplay brought it down considerably for me.
I give this a 4.5/7. Shadow of a Great Game.
Click here to see how my rating scale works.