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PlayStation 3 Review: The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection

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Two beloved PlayStation 2 games have received the high definition treatment and release on the PlayStation 3 console. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are both the brain-children of Team Ico, the Japanese developer behind both adventures. Fans with fond memories or newcomers hoping to experience what everyone was buzzing about are now able to add both games to their collections for quite the bargain price.

The games are presented on a single disc with separation between the titles being available once the menu screen appears. In addition to the quality experience that each game offers, this new release redefines the visuals by picking them up to 1080p high definition. The sound is also improved with a 7.1 Dolby Digital mix and in addition to that there’s also a fine selection of bonus content such as dynamic XMB themes, videos regarding the making of these titles, and a sneak peak of the upcoming Team Ico project: The Last Guardian. All around it’s a fine package, but we haven’t even begun to discuss the games yet, have we?

Ico was the one that started it all. Released a decade ago, Ico took its approach to storytelling and gameplay quite differently. It was a trend-bucker and that’s probably one of the reason the game has lasted as long as it has. There simply hasn’t been another title like it released on the market.

In Ico players assume the role of Ico, a young boy living a cursed existence due to being born with horns. At the start of the game, he’s taken to a massive and ancient prison and essentially left to rot. Through a series of circumstances, Ico manages to escape his bondage, but leaving the fortress is another matter entirely. The vast environments provide several brain-bending puzzles and there are shadow-like enemies popping out of the woodwork.

Ico isn’t alone, however. Early in the game, our horned hero meets a mysterious woman named Yorda. She’s luminescent in a way; pale-skinned and dressed in white. She speaks a foreign language that Ico can’t understand and there’s a strange connection between her and the shadow people. It becomes clear to Ico early on that he has to protect Yorda and he is not going to leave the prison without her. Players will have to make their way through the game holding Yorda’s hand, protecting her from the shadows, and solving puzzles in order to get her to the next section.

The plot unfolds through cut scenes as the game progresses and the puzzles provide plenty of challenge to keep you exploring and guessing. From hitting switches and moving blocks to blowing up pillars, using Ico’s weight to drop objects, and figuring out mechanics, there’s plenty going on at any given time. Throughout all of this, the pressing need to protect Yorda is always in the back of players minds. It’s easy to get stumped by puzzles, but there’s always the nagging sense that danger is right around the corner and only you can stop it. It’s a rather tense experience for such an atmospheric game and it doesn’t take much to get sucked in.

From start to finish, Ico is a unique game that stands as a point to the video games as art argument. It’s beautiful, detailed, and fun to play. That’s a winning combination in anyone’s book, but adding 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus to the package really makes it a stunning collection.

Shadow of the Colossus is by no means a direct sequel, but rather a spiritual successor. There are several references between the two even if they are largely in atmosphere and unspoken connections.

In Shadow of the Colossus players take on the role of Wander, who is a young man attempting to bring his beloved Mono back from the land of the dead. In order to do so Wander ventures to a far away land and seeks a contract with Dormin, an ancient god of sorts. Dormin informs Wander that it is possible to resurrect Mono, but in order to do so he will have to defeat the Colossi, ancient guardians of this land. Wander agrees and sets out on the hunt with his trusty horse Agro.

Once again Team Ico nailed the atmosphere in their game. The world is masterfully portrayed with minimalistic intent. There’s nothing around Wander and Argo except for nature, ancient ruins, and expansive mountain ranges and rivers. It’s daunting to take in but traversing from one side of the continent to the other guided by the light from Wander’s sword is relaxing and rewarding. The only figures that Wander actually interacts with during the course of the game are the massive Colossi that he must defeat.

The Colossi are towering monstrosities that would be considered bosses in any other game. There are sixteen of these beasts in the world and they are the only enemies players will encounter. Each such battle is epic in scope as Wander must climb his prey, find a way to stop them, search out their weak-point, and try to not be killed in the process. It’s white knuckled tension at its best and having this type of climax after a peaceful ride through the landscape is a dynamic contrast.

Both games look wonderful in High-Definition. The resolution is far greater than what was offered on the PlayStation 2, and though there are still block or muddied textures, by and large the games do not look their age at all. Granted the reason they hold up to the test of time so well is the fact that the art direction was visionary as it was. The atmosphere, sense of immersion, and art style will leave players mystified. This collection is outstanding looking all around and a big improvement over the original release.

Likewise the sound direction is hyper-immersive. The addition of channels to the soundstage allows the atmospheric noise, music, and sound effects to really envelop gamers. Like the visuals, the audio is minimalistic. Voice acting is available in cut scenes, and there are definitely character voices and sound in-game, but the fact that each environment is sparse leaves what’s here standing out even more. Good thing the sound direction was every bit as good as the art!

All in all Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are two games not to be missed. They are collection staples that are a must for every PlayStation 3 owner. Whether or not you played them before, or if you’re joining them for the first time, Team Ico’s adventures are memorable in ways that few games are. Don’t even think about buying this collection; just do it!

The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood and Violence.

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