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SummaryOne of the Playstation's finest.
The GoodICO was the first Playstation 2 game I bought. It only took about eight days to finish it, but it was a memorable experience. Nothing on the Playstation 2 has ever quite managed to out do it. This is a game that is nothing like anything I've ever played before. A true masterpiece. Read onto the review to find out why.
Puzzles galore. And not all the puzzles are the typical push the block stuff. No no, these puzzles require a fair amount brain matter to solve. Some require some backtracking, but it's usually a minimal distance. One of my favorites for instance- You have to get Yorda to a high ledge. But there's only a locked door and a climbing chain to get there. Yorda can't climb chains, so you have to figure out how to unlock the door. Once you're on the higher ledge, there are grates and a tunnel beneath them. You climb into the tunnel and go to the end and stand on a pressure pad. It opens the locked door and you call Yorda. She stands with you and on the pad. You leave her on the pad and go out the door. Climb back up and call Yorda to the open grate where you can pull her up.
Simple, yet requires thought. The first time I almost drove myself crazy trying to figure it out. If won't reveal anymore, but needless to say the puzzles are great.
The platforming in the game is good, but plain. It's mainly jumping across gaps and scaling ledges. Some of the scaling in the later parts of the castle is cool, but some of it can be tedious. It certainly doesn't detract from the gameplay, but only adds one really innovative thing. When you're travelling with Yorda and you cross a gap, you can call to Yorda to come to the other side of the ledge so she can leap across and you can grab her, and pull her up. You have to do the same with some ledges and ladders. You have to escort Yorda throughout most of the game, but it's not usually aggravating. The first time she's being abducted by shadow beings, you might jump out of your seat with fear of not getting there in time. It creates a special bond between the two of you. If she gets lost you feel you have to go back and get her. It may be somewhat cumbersome to go back whole areas to do it, but you have to in order to finish the game, and to have some peace of mind.
The combat in the game is simplistic, but I wouldn't want something more complicated in a game like this because it would bog it down. The square button is always attack. But you gain weapons in the game. It goes from a wood plank, to a sword, to a mace and ultimately the magic sword. The mace is the best weapon for most of the game. It beats out the sword easily, and anything beats the plank. The magic sword kills shadow beings in one swipe. But by that point, they won't try to seriously harm you. The showdown with the evil queen is actually the hardest part of the game. Once you hit her, the sword goes off in a different direction out of your hands. It took me about seven tries to finally get her.
All in all the gameplay is some of the best I've ever experienced in a Playstation game.
Like no other 3D game, it does audio in a minimalistic way, but it's incredibly convincing. When you're near the sea, you hear gulls, the sound of waves crashing into the cliffs below. The crackles of torches pop and crack while your footsteps echo in the lonely halls. In the courtyards, birds chirp, the breeze rustles the leaves in the trees gently lulling them back and forth. The sounds of shadow beings squirming out of their pools makes your skin crawl. You...am I getting too poetic ? Well it was at least it was well written. The music is a bit more difficult to describe. It's mainly made up of classical pieces, but some sound like keyboards or like they were electric. Regardless of how it was made, it absolutely resembles nothing I've heard in other videogames or movies, or otherwise. Very incredible. The voice acting is good, but somewhat hard judge. All the dialogue is done in a fictional language. I heard somewhere it was backwards Japanese. But not to fear, all of it's subtitled. But some of it (everything Yorda says) is done in symbol subtitles that aren't translated. But I suppose that would be redundant. The queen sounds as nasty as she acts. Very condescending. ICO himself sounds concerning but innocent. Yorda is impossible to judge accurately, because almost all of speech is very quiet. But not bad at all. To wrap it up for sound. Great ! Fantastic !
Now this is where ICO shows how well it has aged. The one thing people talk about when discussing this game is the lighting. And rightly so. Never before or since in my opinion has a game ever managed to duplicate light so perfectly. That type of blue-grey you get in the shadows, the way the grass almost looks yellow in the sunlight, or how it shines brilliantly in the open. The shadows come across like they do in real life. Words simply do not do most of it justice. A tired cliche' yes but true. The areas you get to play in are no slouches either. Drab, broken down, overgrown with weeds, and not too much color. Why is this appealing ? By itself it would look horrible. But the light gives it it's color and depth. Like in real life. And boy are those depths and colors pulled together well. Torches give off a flickering glow, the sun makes even the blandest looking of stones brilliant. One cool graphical element is that if you look at certain points in the game, you can see future ares of the game.
Whoever did the character animation should get a award for their work. It can be a little jerky sometimes, but more realistic than any other game in 3D history. The cutscene at the gate after the queen leaves, ICO looks filled with dread and shock as rushes back towards Yorda. His eyes grow wide, and his shoulders fall back just before he runs. That attention to detail is impressive and puts most other 3D games of that era and even today to shame. Yorda shivers when the wind blows, and looks around curiously. Most impressive of all are the shadow beings. They drip of black, smokey, oil like stuff. It's almost impossible to believe that those things are made of polygons. Amazing. One last thing I wanted to mention are the trees in the courtyard of the earlier mentioned puzzle. It just fun to zoom in on them and see the bright green leaves sway back and forth in the breeze. It's for whatever reason very captivating.
Simple. Intuitive. Precise and responsive. A perfect dream for those who hate complicated, unresponsive control schemes. Nothing more need be said.
I noticed that some of the textures were a mix of high-res and low-res textures. It didn't look cohesive in some spots and was slightly distracting in one part of the game. I know this game was originally intended for the Playstation 1, but I swear I saw some textures that looked like there on the Playstation 1. At one point early in the game I noticed that a wall looked like a mess of pixels. When I zoomed in on it, it smoothed out. But zoom out and you get pixels. I just wonder if they were in such a rush to get it onto the Playstation 2 if they cut corners there. It ultimately doesn't matter though. And at the top of the cart rail track during a fight, the frame-rate dipped slightly.
Yorda can be a bit much to handle at times. If she gets lost you have to go get her. Sometimes she'll climb a ladder, stop, and go back the other way. *Sigh*.