Sunday, July 5, 2009

Game Review: Shadow of the Colossus

This is yet another case of later is better then never. In 2005 "Team Ico" came out with their second game Shadow of the Colossus. The game was heavily praised at the time and continues to be talked about as one of the best games of all-time. I sadly never got into the Playstation 2 and never got the chance to experience this game. This all changed when I bought a used copy at my local Play N' Trade.

The first thing I noticed in the game was how beautiful and yet pixilated the game was. The art design and it's ambition is clearly on display but it also seems to be a victim of an aging platform. While the pixelation bothered me at first after I ran into a Colossus I completely forgot about it and just focused on the artwork. The colossai are just stunning to look at and animate with some real weight to them. You play a character with no name that has become popularly referred to as "The Wanderer" and because He and his horse Aggro are the only characters in the majority of the game the animation work on them is unparalleled on the Playstation 2.

The whole premise of Shadow of the Colossus starts when "The Wanderer" approaches this temple carrying his dead girlfriend to an alter. After which an ominous voice lets us know that we need to kill 16 Colossai in order to bring her back. For the majority of the game this is all I ever knew story wise. The games story is one of it's weak points and is never really engaging. The story has one or two interesting hooks but from a 10 hour game that feels like it should be story driven the 20 minutes of story we do get feel a bit lackluster.

So far nothing I've said has given the vibe that the game is a classic and that's because I haven't mentioned the gameplay yet. At first the controls were a bit to loose and unconventional for me but after the first boss they became very intuitive with only a few minor flaws. The hardest part was getting used to controlling the horse and the camera at the same time using different analog sticks. The camera appeared to be really poor until I figured out how to use it, what I found is that the camera gives you some incredibly cinematic angles that you don't see in other games. The confusion comes from understanding the difference from angles in typical third-person games and film. Once I understood that the camera worked really well and almost always gave me the optimal view to be awestruck by the giant Colossai.

Defeating a Colossus isn't very hard the difficult part is learning how to make the Colossus vulnerable to your attack. Each boss fight plays like a moving breathing puzzle that you have to solve. Once the puzzle is solved executing it becomes fairly easily at least until some of the final bosses. I have mentioned many times before how much I dislike puzzles in action games but here it is never an issue. The reason being that they blend the two into one mechanic, it isn't a puzzle section and then a fighting section. They meld the two in such away the fighting and problem solving are done at the same time, seamless. The bosses might at first feel too repetitive but I feel that the diversity in how the different Colossai function was more then diverse enough to keep the game enjoyable throughout my playthrough. Only twice did I ever get stuck on a boss, but my determination to defeat it was enough to get me to finish the fight and feel accomplished when I did.

Shadow of the Colossus is certainly flawed but undoubtedly fun. It was a wonderful experience that I'm only sad I never played before. From the sprawling landscape to the Colossal Colossai this game really is the classic people say it is. I can only wait with baited breath to see if The Last Guardian lives up to Shadow of the Colossus.

5 out of 5


  1. Great review. I actually started playing the game recently over Matt's house. I only got up to the 5th Colossai (I think? It's The flying one), but the game is pretty awesome for what it is...
    Still, The Last Guardian looks to have more of the feeling of Ico than this. Personally, I think that's a good thing, because Ico had such a great story.

  2. I'm still trying to get my hands on a copy of ICO. it's no the easiest or cheapest game to find but I'd love ot get my hands on it before Team Ico's 3rd game.