|Dev: SCE Studios Japan / Bluepoint Games|
|Release: September 27, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Matt Walker
When I was employed by my local video game store many years ago, the PlayStation 2 was just about to launch. Like so many others, I was completely stoked for it. The only problem was trying to decide which game I was going to play first. Admittedly, the beginning of any console's cycle is pretty rough, which is why most now wait until there are at least three or four must-have games before they make a system purchase. The PlayStation 2 launch felt much the same. There were a handful of titles that impressed people, but no one truly felt there were games they needed right away.
As time passed, there eventually came the release of Twisted Metal Black, Zone of the Enders, and several other noteworthy titles. But there was one title I remember always being available—ICO. Our store only had maybe three copies of the game, and, according to the owner, this was because "no one is interested in playing a game about some kid with a Viking hat." In my youth and naivety, I felt inclined to agree. This all changed when I finally decided to try the title myself, and I can honestly say it's this game that is largely responsible for the career I now I have in the video game industry.
For many people, it's Mario or Link who delivered that first gaming spark, but my own obsession for video games and their artistic and storytelling capabilities really took off with ICO. There is still something magical about this grand adventure of silence, and the love story rivals any other I have seen in gaming. I would very nearly proclaim that of the romances in video games, that the one between Ico and Yorda is, by far, the best-delivered and most emotionally touching.
ICO's story is simple enough. A young man is made the sacrificial offering to a castle that is haunted by dark shadows. These shadows, players eventually find out, are trying to pull a beautiful young woman into the void of darkness. While it would be easy to give spoilers, this is truly a story that everyone should experience for themselves. After all, in an industry of roided-up action games, it's surprising to see how fully simple and slow-paced storytelling can grab hold of your imagination and let you spend hours inside its world.
I could rave about how amazing the story is in ICO for hours on end. Simply put, if you've played through this game, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you have not, then you are doing yourself a disservice for not partaking in something as exceptional as ICO.
However, there are a few things that must be pointed out, even if they are mostly inconsequential. The gameplay mechanics don't necessarily age well. Yorda is still about as helpful as a tick at a blood bank, but this adds to the endearing sense of rescue. Having to be always watchful of a weaker character elevates you to the highest level of heroism, and ICO never feels like a mere escort quest.
The other major issue is the platforming. It was finicky and problematic then, and it is finicky and problematic today.
However, these minor things should not stop you from picking this title up. Even with everything there is to love about ICO, the second half of the collection, Shadow of the Colossus is worth the purchase on its own. I have to admit that when first playing this title I did not feel the same connection that I did with ICO, but this all changed about midway through. If ICO is a love story between Ico and Yorda, then Shadow of the Colossus is also a love story, but one about friendship and the bonds we make as humans.