"The ICO and Shadow of the
For: Playstation 3
ESRB Rating: Teen (Blood, Violence)
By Billy O'Keefe
With respect to the excellent high-definition remaster collections that preceded it over the last year or so, "The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection" is and probably will remain this movement's high-water mark. Among the thousands of games that have appeared since "ICO" and "Shadow of the Colossus" first appeared, none has done what they do quite like how they do it. If you've wanted to play something like them in HD, only the genuine articles can help get it done.
To this day, "ICO" remains one of a very precious few games that found a way to make escort missions — those traditionally dreadful sections where you have to drag some defenseless person around and fail the mission if the dead weight wanders off and dies — fun.
In fact, "ICO" builds an entire game around the idea — an impressive achievement by itself, but exponentially so, considering the person in your care is even more fragile than your average escort mission partner.
It works, and well, because "ICO" is significantly more invested in elaborate environmental puzzle design than combat. Keeping your companion safe occasionally means fighting off the monsters who try to take her away, but mostly it means searching a large area for a path you can cross and a way to help your less capable companion do the same and meet you on the other side. The scale and design of the areas, coupled with a soft visual style and some strikingly sparse audio design, lend a unique exterior to the unique interior, and the combination of those forces is an adventure that truly feels adventurous.
Though the unique graphical style allowed "ICO" to age more gracefully than most PS2 games did, the high-definition bump — along with widescreen support, an optional stereoscopic 3D presentation and the addition of trophies and other PS3 amenities — is noticeable and welcome.
In the case of "Colossus," though, the remastering is an absolute blessing.
"Colossus" migrates "ICO's" visual and aural style to a vastly different world — one crawling with colossi who stand many screens tall and act on their own whims while players climb and traipse around them like living levels. Every colossus has its own mannerisms, makeup and weaknesses that allow your human-sized character to overcome it. The adventure amounts to little more than a game-long boss gauntlet, but the creative colossi designs made for a gauntlet that was challenging, visually awesome, tonally diverse and unlike anything that ever preceded it.
But that ambition carried a price, and the fee materialized as one seriously troubled framerate. The choppiness that plagued "Colossus" on the PS2 was acceptable only because no other game in existence had ever done this, but it was bothersome enough that even being one of a kind wasn't enough to offset the framerate headaches that plagued many who tried it.
With this revamp, those headaches are gone. "Colossus" gets the same boost and benefits as "ICO," but that steady, smooth framerate is by far the best present under this entire collection's tree.
(c) 2011, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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