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T (Teen)



October 18, 2005



- Those beasts—they are just so huge and amazingly rendered and animated

- Tightly focused gameplay without of hint of confusion about what to do next yet without feeling too linear.

- A unique sense of melancholy that I’ve never experienced in a game before



- Camera can be a bit unresponsive

- A few more rewards for beating the game would have been nice



Review: Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (PS2)

Review: Mister Mosquito (PS2)

Review: Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)



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Shadow of the Colossus

Score: 9.4 / 10


Shadow of the Colossus is from lead designer Fumito Ueda, the man behind the early PS2 classic Ico and it really shows.  When in discussions with colleagues over whether videogames should be considered art, I often point to that game with its dreamy landscapes and minimalist design as an example of what a game can be if the developer sets their mind to creating something beautiful and unique.  As great as Ico was, a sequel was eliminated from Sony’s plans after mainstream players ignored the game in droves.  Luckily, Sony didn’t lose faith in the marvelous development team.  Instead of Ico 2, we get Shadow of the Colossus, a game every bit as beautiful and unique, but with stunning gameplay to go with the gorgeous art design.


shadow of the colossus review          shadow of the colossus review


Where Ico was basically a puzzle game with Ico struggling to find ways to get the sad little girl past obstacle after obstacle and only occasionally getting into uninspired fights with shadowy creatures, Shadow is actually an action game, albeit one with a sense of mystery and melancholy.  The basic idea (and I’ll try not to spoil anything in this review) is that our hero has to destroy sixteen colossi in order to bring his lover back to life.  Unlike the rudimentary fighting with a stick in Ico, the fights here are epic and are the entire focus of the game.


Unlike Ico, Shadow features a HUD, though a minimal one.  On it, players can track the hero’s health and stamina along with taking note of which weapon is activated.  There are three weapon states in the game: with sword, with bow, and bare handed, each of which is easily recognizable onscreen most of the time, but when the adventure takes our hero to some poorly-lit places, the icons are appreciated.  Otherwise, the entire screen is filled with style, drenched in warm light landscapes.  Shadow might not be the most technologically sophisticated game of its generation, but it just may be the most beautiful.





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Gameplay is very simple.  At the beginning of each level, players use the hero’s sword as a kind of divining rod which leads them to the location of the next colossus in line.  Cue a cutscene (in engine) of the marvelous beast rising from the earth (usually).  After picking his or her jaw up off the floor, the player must then figure out two things:  how to climb on to the beast and how to kill it.  In case you missed all the previews, I’m not kidding about the climbing part.  The Colossi are huge, some of the biggest


creatures ever seen in a game.  I’m not talking about Serious Sam, fill the screen and then some, type of bosses, but instead creatures whose feet, hands, and heads fill the entire screen.


The battles are too much fun for me to risk spoiling something here, but each beast has a weakness that needs to be exposed and at least one way (usually more) to reach said weak spot.  The battles are wonderful, with the gargantuan colossi doing their best to shake the little man with the powerful sword from their bodies.  I beg  anyone reading this—Don’t Cheat!  Walkthroughs appeared just hours after the game officially hit American shelves, but each battle is a perfect little gaming moment and it would be a shame to ruin it.  None of the battles are that hard and all of the clues for how to beat the beasts are right there onscreen if you are watching carefully (and, even if you aren’t, our god-like “master” occasionally pushes the hero in the right direction).  Keep at it and the payoff is worth the effort.  When one of these beasts goes down, it feels like a real accomplishment.


shadow of the colossus review          shadow of the colossus review


After a colossus is defeated, the hero finds himself back in the starting castle and a new creature is assigned to be hunted.  That is the entire game (pretty much).  Sixteen marvelous, challenging boss battles connected with only the thinnest of plots.  Shadow is just as minimalist as its older brother, but the epic battles lift this game above Ico.


So, back to the “are games art?” question.  One of the greatest traits of good literature is its ability to tell us something about ourselves as we experience it.  For the most part, today’s games say little more about us as a people than that we like to watch things blow up.  Shadow, like Ico, is a different beast.  There is a sense of melancholy to the game as all of these marvelous beasts are killed for the, perhaps false, hope of reviving a solitary young woman.  There is a stark beauty to the world the artists have created that transcends the limits of technology.  At heart, Shadow of the Colossus seems to me a bit like the work of a Transcendentalist in that it begs us to examine the world the hero lives in and leaves us unsure of whether we made the correct choice in our interactions with nature.  For the world created here is made less beautiful, less magical by our trouncing through it selfishly brandishing technology that allows us to crumble nature before us.  The game should leave you wondering if you did the right thing.  Of course, the only way to avoid such tragedy would be to not play the game, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that.


- Danny Webb

(November 9, 2005)

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