Thursday, April 05, 2007

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus
Adventure - Playstation 2
Memory Card - 10 saves
1 player

SotC is the followup effort from Team Ico. While it still retains the puzzle-platforming elements (jumping, grabbing, climbing, moving along ledges, etc.) of ICO, SotC forges its own path by concentrating on one thing: Boss fest.

Shadow of the Colossus does away with regular enemies and dungeons and gets right to the point. There are sixteen bosses in the game scattered throughout the game world. The locales and surroundings really convey a sense of isolation, which adds to the mysterious atmosphere. And the map is huge! You could get lost easily and be wandering around for hours. But the game provides a form of guidance... raise your sword in the sunlight and a light will point in the general direction of the next colossus to fight. While that may seem like it's too easy, it's actually just the right amount of guidance, because it shines a straight path to the boss. But because of how the world is laid out, it's not always so straightforward to actually find a colossus.

Once you encounter a boss, fights are not very difficult. But they are challenging. The best part about SotC is that the bosses all require a bit of thinking. Each of them have certain weakpoints. The key to the game is figuring out where those weakpoints are, and how to get to them. They are colossi after all, so they are anywhere between 10 to 50x your size! You'll have to use your brain, whatever items are available to you, your landscape, and the bosses themselves to take them down. In case you get stuck, the game will also drop a clue or two. They're generally helpful enough to get you to think in the right direction, but they're vague enough so as not to give away the solution. I usually don't like hand-holding in games, but this one does it at just the right level. I really enjoy these types of logic-based fights, as it makes every fight unique.

There are also some platforming elements that are similar in style to Ico and Prince of Persia. In the beginning, these elements are pretty minor. But towards the end, you'll really have to master the controls. The situations will force you to do so. All in all it's a game that's all meat, and no filler.

SotC isn't perfect though. The framerate is choppy, as if the PS2 just couldn't handle it. And like many 3D games, the camera can be a nuisance. But while these flaws exist, they hardly made the game unplayable. The game would be the same whether it had a stuttering framerate or ran at a smooth 60 fps. And the camera can be manipulated with the analog stick.

While there may be a couple of technical concerns, Shadow of the Colossus shines everywhere else. I haven't come across any other game like it. There have been puzzle platformers before, but this is the first puzzle boss rush. The way the designers spread the bosses out on a huge living and breathing world completes the package. Although sixteen bosses doesn't sound like a large number, the game is plenty long with the travel time & thinking time. Everything is about exploration - exploring the world to find the next colossus, and exploring the colossus to find its weakpoints. It's a cool concept, and an even cooler game. This is a modern classic.