Ico & Shadow Of The Colossus HD review
How far would you go for love? Would you bin off watching the Champions League final for an anniversary nosh-up? Forfeit a night with the lads for an evening with the in-laws? Protect a girl from Lost-style smoke monsters with nothing but a plank of wood? Fight skyscraper-sized beasties to bring back your dead missus? No? Well, the heroes of Team Ico’s newly hi-def PS2 classics will teach you something about the L word.
As far as game bundles go, Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus are a perfect match. The former has you guiding a ghostly girl through the obstacles of an ethereal, abandoned castle; the latter sees you roaming a forgotten land bunking off massive monsters (which act as moving platforming levels) to resurrect your dead love.
If you know your Wanders from your Yordas and have already played the originals on a fat CRT TV, you’ll want to know how they scrub up in HD. In short, the new 1080p sheen makes them as purdy as Jessica Rabbit bent over a Pagani Zonda.
Textures have a sharpness and clarity to them that simply wasn’t possible back in the days of PS2, making the games’ stark worlds even more eyeball-arousing. Thanks to the minimalist art design, both could quite easily pass as new, heavily stylised PS3 titles – some feat when you consider that Ico is now more than ten years old.
The 3D support crammed in by developer Bluepoint Games (who also gave Kratos a hi-def makeover) is impressive, too. Actually, in Colossus, it’s nothing short of sensational. The effect gives the vast, barren plains of its desolate world an incredible sense of depth, and the scraps with its titular titans are even better. Their grass-like fur looks tangible enough to ruffle and the geysers of black blood they spurt as you stab them appear to erupt from the screen, while their movements look even heftier with that added dimension.
More impressive than any technical advancements the PS3 ports bring – and that’s saying something with Colossus’ hugely improved framerate – is the utterly unique experience both of these titles still offer. There’s still nothing else quite like them. Both share compelling worlds, uncluttered from complex controls, armies of enemies or competing mechanics.
Their gentle storytelling isn’t diluted by shonky dialogue or overwrought plotting. And they boast thought-provoking endings so heart-wrenching, you’d have to take Bambi’s mum getting turned into venison sausages, add it to King Kong toppling off the Empire State Building and then multiply it by ET’s au revoir to trump it in the sadness stakes.
Problems are few. Ico’s concept of guiding a helpless companion around a huge obstacle course can occasionally feel too much like carting a wailing sprog around a crowded shopping centre. Meanwhile, Shadow Of The Colossus’ slightly imprecise platforming feels a little dated compared to inFamous’ effortless parkour. That said you do now get some Ico and Shadow trophies so, swings and roundabouts.
What will never date, though, is the thrill of exploring the unknown in Colossus or the feeling of attachment you develop for Ico’s vulnerable princess Yorda. It makes these enduring masterpieces as essential today as they ever were in SD blur-o-vision.