Thursday, October 06, 2005

That Shadow Could Hide A City

Much to my surprise, I received a Shadow Of The Colossus demo disc in the mail this week. I'd been interested in the game ever since I first heard rumors of a sequel to Ico, so I quickly popped the disc in and gave it a whirl.

As soon as you've passed the logo screens, you can see a strong similarity to Ico in terms of art direction. In the world of videogames, the word "cinematic" in thrown around with such frequency that its meaning has effectively become lost in the rubble. Shadow Of The Colossus, alongside its predecessor, is part of a small handful of games that actually deserve the term. The first time you mount your horse and start to travel, you'll be impressed. As soon as you catch a glimpse of one of the game's titular colossi, you'll be picking your jaw up from the floor with your hands.

Similarities to Ico don't end in the art department. The pseudo-sequel inherits Ico's loose, almost floppy feeling control system. This allows more realistic animation of the player character, and it looks damn good doing so, but the controls do take some getting used to. Once you're used to them, they feel like a perfect fit and you'll find yourself wondering how you ever found them clumsy.

The colossi themselves are, by far, the most impressive aspect of the game. Taller than some skycrapers - they are, in effect, giant moving portions of the game world. The sense of scale is simply amazing. Trying to hang on while the colossus at hand is doing its damned best to shake you off is a pretty harrowing experience, especially when you've still got a long way to ascend to its weak spot. Weak spots on the colossi are found by raising your sword to focus the light on the titan. It sounds easy, and most of the time it is, but sometimes it can take a while, and you can't just stand there while a colossus is swinging a hammer the size of a three story office building at you.

Shadow Of The Colossus is really a game that needs to be seen in motion to truly be appreciated. I had seen quite a few screenshots before and, impressive as they were, they didn't hold a candle to seeing the game move. More so, Shadow really needs to be played, not watched, to get the most out of the experience. Try the demo if you can, otherwise just buy the fucking game, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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