Ico never quite appealed to me as much as it does to many other gamers I have met. It even baffles me to the point sometimes, where I think it could be a case of 'Emporer's new Clothes' so much do I struggle to justify what it is about the game that excites so many people. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad game, I just cannot bring myself to put it into the masterpiece category like many can.
The atmosphere in this game is exceptional, the sound of the wind through the high landscapes, accompanied by echoed yells between you and your lady friend set against some fantastic backdrops, all draws you in and captivates you. Unfortunately, for me, the gameplay is far too weak to be able to live up to the standard of the graphics. You have to guide a girl through a series of puzzles, whilst occasionally facing sections whereby you have to fend off black shadow-like monsters with your stick, before they can steal the girl. The attack is very limited in these sections, which is a shame, because more depth here could've greatly enhanced the experience.
There are also some tricky Prince of Persia style jumping sections and some lever puzzles to solve, all of which are great for soaking up the atmosphere, but occasionally frustrating to play.
Overall, you may be more forgiving of the gameplay flaws than me, but I still think this is a game that everyone can enjoy.
Ico is a stunning PS2 RPG, a mix of puzzle, action, and platform, with unique gameplay that any gamer should enjoy.
In a small village in a remote kingdom, every so often a boy is born with horns. The child is thought to be cursed, and once he grows up he is taken to a castle in the sea and left there as a sacrifice. Ico, this generation's eight-year-old victim, escapes his coffin as the villagers leave and discovers Yorda, a strange girl made of light, who is a captive in the castle. Together they must try to escape the castle, the Queen, and the strange shadows which pursue them.
Uniquely the game has no screen furniture. There are no hit bars, magic points etc. Instead Ico dies if Yorda is captured, or if he falls too far. Normally the shadows you fight will try to restrain Ico while they go after Yorda. The controls are easy to handle, and Ico has a wide range of moves, including climbing, jumping and swinging from chains. However Ico also needs to lead Yorda around by the hand when they are running.
Graphically, this game is a work of art and the graphics are breathtaking. The game is presented in a stonewashed and faded palette, which appears almost real. It is difficult to appreciate just how good the graphics are until you look out of a window in the castle and see the landscape and sea below. Weather effects and water effects are beautiful. The sprite movement is beautifully done and the shadows and Yorda's movements are stunningly rendered. The levels are huge, and well designed, presenting challenges consistant with a castle and giving the game an incredible atmosphere.
The sound is also well done, including background birdsong, creaking machinery and water. Ico and Yorda speak different languages. Although Ico is subtitled in the first playthrough, Yorda is only translated in the second, adding to the mystery.
The plot is excellent, and discovering what the shadow creatures are is truly disturbing. Ico is a game about friendship, and it revolves around a boy trying to do the right thing because it is right, not because he is trying to benefit himself. All the puzzles are integral to the plot and not artificially inserted, although some of them are tricky and the answers are not always obvious. The section in the mill, which is based on jumping and climbing, is complicated and can become frustrating.
If this game has a flaw it is that Yorda is nearly helpless. Her AI is not very good, so trying to make her move onto lifts to complete puzzles and away from enemies is frustrating. She has to be lead nearly everywhere by the hand. If you complete this game once however, it unlocks the two player mode and another player can control Yorda making her less of a liability.
Ico is short, running to about 3-5 hours depending on how good you are at puzzles. Multiple endings and the two player mode add replay value.
One thing to be aware of is that the original edition came in a cardboard sleve with artcards. Later releases were switched to a standard DVD case. If you can get the artcard edition it is well worth a look, but unfortunately to get one complete with cards can be pricey and difficult to find.
Ico is a game which all fans of RPGs should play at least once, if only to see what the PS2 is capable of, and then again because it's a stunning game. It will also appeal to puzzle solvers and mystery fans, though players looking for action-based shooters will be disappointed. Unfortunately it is rare and difficult to get hold of, but if you can get a copy this one is well worth a look.
As well as being available for the PS2, the game is now available on a double pack for the PS3 with the other release in the series, Shadow of the Colossus, and I would have to say I fully reccommend it.
(An update on my CIAO review)
I think Ico is the best game I have ever played. It is elegant in its simplicity, the kind of understated brilliance that unfortunately tends to go unnoticed only too often.
The game was recommended to me by my brother, he had just played through it and was raving on about how brilliant it was. Detailed accounts of the storyline are in other reviews so I won't go into that, only to say that right from the outset I was gripped tightly, glued to my television screen wanting to know what was going to happen next. When you find the girl the game changes in how you need to approach it. You're not just looking after yourself any more. The shadow monsters come out from the dark to take her away and all you have is a stick to beat them off with.
The shadow monsters are very cleverly done. They really aren't scary at all, just a dark outline of a man, but its how the game builds up the tension that is amazing. Everything about it, the music, the lighting, the expressions of Ico and Yorda as they walk along, all of it makes you feel that you are constantly being watched and the entire time you are playing you are sat on the edge of your seat. You walk down a flight of steps and down a corridor where the dappled light is broken up by large stone columns holding up the castle and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you wonder what is coming.
The shadow monsters are not the main part of the game, they merely add tension and keep you on your toes. Essentially it is a puzzle solving game, stuck with a seemingly useless girl shrouded in mystery and ghostly white in colour you have to escape from the castle, disabling its many traps and evading its dangers. The puzzle element is well designed. Basically there is only one level, the castle. You end up going all round the castle opening different doors and hidden passageways to enable you to reach more places. This approach to game design means that almost everything you do will have a knock on effect sometime in the future. Puzzles are not too difficult but will have you scratching your head in places wondering what to do. If you get really stuck the girl will help out a little bit by looking at what you need to do or standing in a certain place. The girl makes many of the puzzles harder because you will often have to leave her somewhere and go by yourself to reach a certain switch or lever. When she is alone the shadow monsters come out and grab her to drag her into their shadowy underworld, introducing a time element to the game as well; as this happens you hear her scream and the camera pans out so you can see her being carried away.
Very few words are said in the entire game but so much emotion is involved. The relationship between Ico and Yorda grows through actions and you genuinely feel involved in the game. There are a few ways to move Yorda around, you press a button and Ico will shout for her and she walks/occasionaly runs to him. If she is close to Ico she will just follow behind him, but only slowly. If you need to move a bit quicker you can grab hold of her by the arm and literally drag her around in a very un-chivalrous manner that gets things going a little quicker.After I had finished playing the game my brother and I were just shouting to each other what Ico said to call Yorda for months.
Graphics are simple but good. The aren't really many fancy video's in it and the camera is not set really close to Ico (you view him from the top and to the side) to allow you to see more easily what you can do. It is easy to control the camera to be able to see exactly what you want. The game designers added in lots of ambient sounds and features. Things like birds/insects flying around or shadow monsters crawling around the edge of the screen. Atmosphere is the word to use when describing this game. It builds tonnes of it.
It took me only about 8 hours to play through (though playing through again is entertaining) so it's only a short game but you don't feel like it's too short to be good, you feel like you want more of the same, but if it were longer it would probably lose its magic. Some movie trilogy's are longer than this. It packs so much in though that it feels like a much bigger game and at the end of it you feel accomplished. The final scene in the game is interactive and is the best game ending I have ever played. There is a twist and it just wraps everything up perfectly. I was in tears.
If you don't get this game you are missing out on a wonderful experience.
Ico is an adventure game developed by Sony for the Playstation 2
The story of Ico follows a young boy who is born with a set of horns, this set of horns is seen as a curse by his village so when he comes of age he will be sacrificed, on this day he is taken away to a castle to await his fate but he isn't going to just let himself be sacrificed. He escapes his cell and finds a girl named Yorda trapped in the castle too, the game follows the pairs adventure as they try to escape.
The gameplay is mainly puzzle based, you control Ico throughout the game. To escape from the castle you will have to traverse different the different environments and puzzles in the castle. Ico is agile and good at encountering obstacles but Yorda isn't, you will have to spend alot of time creating ways for Yorda to come with you.
The puzzles are normally quite cleverly constructed with just the right amount of challenge but not to frustrating that you will be tossing your controller aside and consulting the internet for help!
There is some combat but it is rather limited, Ico has a couple of attacks he can do. The ghostly spirit enemies in the game can be rather a chore to fight as they will take alot of hits and they can take Yorda away which is an instant game over.
You may think of Yorda as a bit of an annoyance but the game makes you grow closer to her as you can do moves like grab her by the hand and run and when she jumps she will land in Icos arms.
Graphically the game is rather basic as it is quite an early Playstation 2 title, but the animations hold up quite well.
Ico is a good adventure game, they only bad thing is it is rather a rare game now and you may be paying upwards of £30 for it!
Ico is a name thrown around a lot in video game communities, it is thrown around amongst the words "art", "beautiful" and "masterpiece". All words very suitably describing this game. It's one of the few games you truly feel different after completing, one of those games that can be called artistic without being pretentious. It's a vey simple concept as a game, you are a young boy, Ico, in a massive castle. In the process of wondering what the hell has happened you come across a girl trapped high above you in a cage, she is Yorda. You help her escape from the cage before embarking on a wonderfully beautiful adventure with this mystery girl following you without hesitation.
The gameplay mechanics in this gameare also simple, the only weapon you come across in this game is a wooden stick and the enemies are ghostly shadows that hunt for Yorda. The games not about combat, as you can tell, as the combat definately is not one of the highlights. The graphics depict the magnificent and eerie castle in a fantastic way, and when you reach the outdoors it comes as a relief, but also as a disappointment at leaving the castle. However, the outdoor environment is depicted just as well as the gigantic castle. The sounds are also amazing, eerie and beautiful at the same time, drawing you into the atmosphere of the game.
But all of this, the graphics, the sounds, the puzzles, just add to the main element of this video game: The story. The story in this game is one that never will, and never should be recreated. The journey Ico and Yorda undertake to escape the castle is one that you yourself feel a part of, you seem to feel everything that Ico does, grow closer to Yorda as Ico does. When you finally finish the game there is a feeling that cannot be described, you feel like you have done so much more than just complete a video game.
I'm not going to say much more as it's an insult to ruin this fantastic game, it truly is a must buy game if ever there was one. "Art", "beautiful", "masterpiece"... They are all words that should forever be related to this game in video game terms. 5/5
The idea behind Ico is a simple one, but from it has sprung a truly fantastic and original game. You play a young boy (Ico) who has been locked up in a tomb/crypt thing in a castle by his village as a sacrifice because he was born with horns. But a freak earthquake breaks the stone prison and he can get out and into the castle. Your first task is to find Yorda, a mysterious girl who has also been imprisoned in the castle, and then the two of you need to escape together.
This is basically a puzzle game. You need to use the resources at your disposal to get out of the castle. You're a lot more agile than Yorda so sometimes you need to go around and find a way to help her down or around things. But if you leave her unattended too long then the "shadow people" come to drag her away and you need to get back quickly and fend them off before she is lost forever!
There are special commands to call Yorda to you or help her up and some parts you can only get through with her help - which adds a nice little sentiment to the story (she's not just a drag). The fact that you've got to defend her against the shadow people means you end up really caring about her welfare (instead of being annoyed you have to help her everywhere) and going "oh no!" when she is in danger.
It's a truly beautiful game - designed in an artistic rather than a realistic style (Google "Ico screenshots" to get an idea). The screen is very simple because there are no hit points and statistics clogging it up and looking ugly. You don't have the usual worries of running out of health - in fact, there are only two ways to die: falling off something that's too high or losing Yorda to the shadow people. In both instances you restart from the nearest save point.
This is one of the best games I've ever played and I will be sad when I've finished it.
As i am writing this I can see an add for this game on ebay, for no less than £99.99! While this game is great and deserves more attention than it got, I think that is a crazy price for the game! But anyway...
Ico is about a young boy who, appearingly because he has horns on his head, is taken to a huge castle and encased in a big stone tomb. luckily, and earth quake shakes the castle and causes the tomb to fall out and break open so he can escape. Now you must find your way out of the castle, which isn't easy.
You quickly come accross a young girl who needs your help, and keeps getting dragged away by shadowy beasts, who you can attack, with just a stick at first.
The rest of the game involves you fuguring out puzzles to escape with the girl in toe. The game does a great job of creating a strange atmosphere. you truly feel alone. And it is the atmosphere which is created that makes the game so memorable and unique. I cant really explain the feeling you get from the game, but it sticks with you.
The beautiful graphics and the chilling silence work well to make you feel isolated and trapped. when your character gets glimpses of the forest and mountains surrounding him, it makes you truly want to escape.
This game is a masterpiece. It truly is one of the most memorable games i have ever played. I had fantastic experience playing this game as it had a stunning set out and game plan and the story was fantastic; truly mesmorising. It's about a boy born with horns, taken as a prisoner to a castle, and there he embarks on a quest to escape the castle but encounters a girl and together they help solve puzzles together in a bid to escape their entrapment. This game is worth buying and playing it honestly is. When i first started playing, i have to admit that it was difficult to work out what to do, but i loved how it challenged me and how different it was than any other game. It was short and sweet, with my game play spanning over 8 hours. I'm afraid to say there are no other games as enjoyable, utterly fantastic and as unique as this game is. I definitely recommend you buy it!
When Shadow of Collusus came out every game magazine was going on about Ico, the genius game and frankly I just cannot see what was so great about it. I appreciate it is a puzzle-solving game and maybe that's where my frustrations come from because I was expecting some of the action and beauty of Shadow of Collusus to appear in Ico but unfortunatley none materialised.
To be frank the game is about a boy who fights shadows with a stick! Sound fun to anyone? Ok so there is a little bit more, he is followed around by the princess who is useless and just keeps getting captured by the shadow beings.
The graphics were ok, nothing special and the game was extremely short. I understand certain gamers would love the game for its simplicity in plot and action but complexity in its level of puzzles however I just got bored of running around the same old castle over an over. Another problem is when trying to complete the game you can get mixed up if you decide to backtrack and then your really lost as you have no clue where to go.
If you liked Shadow of Collusus please do not be under the pretence that you will enjoy this game because it doesn't have the awesome giants and has half the graphical quality.
Ico is a fantastic ps2 game ,its had fantastic reviews in gaming magazines and it a pleasure for rpgammers to play.The game play is unique and it is definatley a puzzel solvinggame although not incredibley long.You will start playing alone but very soon you will be responsible for battling monsters solving puzzels and taking care of a very special person who you must carful lead out of danger. the game uses its own unique languages which you must over come although your main goal is to get yourself and companion to saftey,its a one player game however.The art work and colour schemes are great as is the music which sets an atmosphere to the whole game.I would definatley recommend this to people who have enjoyed games such as eternal and fable all the puzzels are solvable but challenging and if you do have any problems free stratergy guides are avalible on the web :)
ICO is the Shadow of the Colossus prequel that at the time, not many people knew about, even though it was constantly getting nine out of tens in magazines, or the equivalent, I expected this game to be fantastic. It was a rare game until its re-release along with its sequel.
You play as ICO, who, as a small child had a 'curse' for he was born with horns, which brought fear to the townsfolk. 'Send him to an orphanage if you treat him bad' I said, but they didn't hear me because I was on the other side of a TV screen instead, so after many signs, horsemen appeared at his door when he just turned twelve, taking him to a mysterious castle surrounded by practically nothing. In this castle that has imprisoned him though, he finds he is not alone and this horned boy is sent on a miraculous journey with a friend he has found in the castle for a great escape. However, the little idiot girl is a troubled ghost and the demons don't want her to escape, so it is you that protects Yorda and guides her through the castle to find the freedom of the outside.
This is a marvellous story for a game and I would expect nothing less in a movie. Instead of violence of any sort, this game and story differs and you find yourself not fighting to 'save the world' or 'for respect' but for the freedom of you and a girl you don't know and it's a touching story because it is so original. You'd expect a game confined to a castle would be dull-there's no pirates after all for you to insult, or no Crimson Guards to blast, but the Castle is enormous and although not al of the castle is accessible from the start, it is free-roaming because there are no missions to break it up.
Well, there are only two main ones really and they I have already mentioned. There's Ico and Yorda. The characters have a brilliant relationship that isn't shown through words, but though a dependence on each other. The story is touching, as are the characters. Yorda for example can open doors, and Ico does the fighting.
Yorda is a little annoying because you have to hold her hand throughout the journey or she gets lost, though it's all part of the beautiful story.
The gameplay is quite unique. It's not a violent game at all, though there are enemies. You have to make your way through a castle with Yorda, holding her hand throughout the journey. It's mainly a puzzle adventure as you travel through room to room, working through various puzzles in an attempt to escape the castle, though there is combat. It can occasionally get frustrating, having to build a bridge for Yorda for example, but the puzzles are genius. It's a very relaxing game overall, and because of the slow paced nature of the game you get to see how beautiful the environment it. The Windmill and water in one puzzle for example is excellent to just look at.
The combat is pretty basic, though it's good that it doesn't get too complex. Demons try to drag Yorda into their realm and you must fend them off. Yorda is quite useless, leading to some frustration as you chase after her as she randomly runs away from your protection but the combat isn't bad. There is a little too much though as the beauty of this game is really more in the puzzles than the combat.
Sublime and that is the only word for it. The castle is amazing because it is so different and split up into different sections and it's really fun to explore because it looks so realistic. Not quite because I'm not that sad, but it almost gives you the same feeling as when you see a mountainous view-the detail on each stone and the birds, the grass, the water. It's serene and beautiful, and really urges you to explore. You feel so alone as you go through the enormous castle and there is a great amount of immersion in the game. A pigeon landing beside you for example may seem small, but it really immerses you and relaxes you. The small details count.
However, I never really felt the sense of freedom too much. I did in the fact that you are clueless to when one 'level' starts, and another ends because it just takes you straight though and you don't know what you will encounter next, but in other ways, this was spoilt. Running into enemies broke up exploring the huge castle more and that annoyed me. Also, not too much is available at one time and I have noticed that a lot of the time (minus the Windmill), you don't get to explore the best parts of the area until you've beaten the enemies there, which, after completion, you just what to move on. However, when there are rows of no enemies and just great surroundings for you to explore it becomes great once more because you can just roam and look at the marvellous job the developers have done instead of having to rush past it
Enemies & Encounters.
Another thing the game lacks really. The story (not a spoiler, you find out early on) is that 'The Queen' (an enemy spirit that is in control of the castle) wants Yorda to stay for a reason I will not tell you, so she is the boss really. I really can't say much because describing the final boss would give away too much but I will tell you that it is pretty good. However, I would like more bosses in the game really, Shadow of the Colossus style would have been magnificent but instead we have normal enemies. 4 of them and just four different types re-appearing over and over again until you get bored. The enemies obviously tiered, with some being harder than others, though they are all about as interesting as each other and get boring fast.
Basically, a battle consists of a range of these enemies in a normal room, which means that if there is a door on the other end, you can sometimes avoid. What you have to do is protect Yorda from the attacks because if they grab her they will take her to a portal and when she has been sucked in, it is game over for you. With her small resistance though, it leaves time to run to the portal she is being sucked into to grab her. However, the A.I (Artificial Intelligence) of the enemies is fantastic. They won't all go after Yorda and some will go after you and it makes for a good battle really because of the challenge. For example, a Sentinel will take Yorda to a faraway portal and the Sentries or Ghouls will surround you and corner you meaning you can't protect Yorda. It's actually fantastic. However, with so little enemy choice, it ends up getting boring, battling the same enemies over and over until you get bored and if the enemies surround you too much it gets 'controller-breaking' annoying because you can't protect her.
Made by SONY 2001
PS2 format only.
Amazon price-£16.99 or from £12.50 used & new.
Overall I do like the game and I have a think that this game is probably 8/10 which is 4 stars. The storyline is beautiful and unique and that means you should instantly think about buying this game. Very few games are this unique and very few games will actually make you care about a character you have to protect.
The environments are brilliant to explore and really add to the atmosphere though the enemies spoil it a little due to the lack of variation. However, if you do not play the game none-stop to completion and take your time this doesn't become a huge issue.
The gameplay makes the game so good though which makes up for the more average qualities of the game. When you aren't battling and are trying to figure out how to get yourself or Yorda over that gap and take a look around, I rarely found myself getting frustrated because the game is so laid back. There were those times when it annoyed explained but when you solve a puzzle you get a sense of accomplishment. The music is barely noticeable and it just seems to just drift around you making you relaxed which suits the gameplay and I think this plays an important part in the game because it suits the theme of the game.
The game will last you a good few days if you do decide to play it in one and the graphics are superb too, and, along with the great gameplay minus a few flaws then this is definitely a game for you to get.
--------Introduction-------- This game was released in March 2002 by Sony. ICO is a thirdperson puzzle-based adventure game, in which you control Ico. It is a critically acclaimed game but unfortunately never sold the amount of units it should have done. This is an awful shame. However for those who do own this game - it truly is a unique and well crafted experience. --------Storyline-------- Ico is born with two horns on either side of his head. This was regarded as the Sign (a curse) and meant on Ico's 12th birthday he was taken away from his family by horsemen. We see the horsemen taking Ico into the forest. He was taken to a castle and placed in a stone casket. The punishment for the curse was suppose to be for Ico to spend the rest of his days in this casket. He escapes by rocking the casket and in his escape of the castle discovers Yorda who is imprisoned in a cage. You rescue her for the cage, but your task is to escape with Yorda from the castle and defeat the shadows who try and re-capture her. The person responsible for setting out to the dark spirits to capture Yorda is her mother, and the main enemy in the game, the Queen. --------Gameplay-------- In order to escape the castle you need to hold Yorda hand and guide her. Also you will have to call your friend sometimes who is a lot slower than Ico so patience is important here as well on occasions. To solve puzzles you will need to swing from chains, push blocks, use your stick as a torch to light the fuses of bombs, and jump from ledge to ledge. What is impressive is the great design of the castle and the puzzles within. Everything feels connected and really makes sense upon completing each area of the game. You experience areas from waterfalls, windmills, seaside cliffs, dark castle areas to beaches. It is such a unique game - just take the way you save the game as a primary example: sit down with Yorda hand in hand on a stone seat. Genius! To defeat th
e spirits initially you use either your horns or alternatively a stick. Other weapons include a sword as well the the hidden Mace. If you are too slow when the spirits get hold of Yorda she will dragged into a dark portal and the game will end. You really feel a unique need to protect for and care for this character especially when in certain parts of the game you are parted from each other. --------Critical comments-------- The game will only take you 8-10 hours to complete first time around. This may provide a problem to many gamy game players. Personally this game is a lovely experience and it is worthwhile to complete a second time. For example you can get a light sabre as a special weapon your second time through and also eat a big water melon with Yorda at the end of the game. This features are exclusive to the PAL release as is the fact that upon playing your second time through you will open up a unique 2 player open where a friend can control Yorda while you protect her, and her speech will not be subtitled in English as opposed to a non identifiable language. When the shadows attack there little variety in the combat. Just bash them until they disappear or use Yorda when holding hands to open the idol doors. You need Yorda as much as Yorda needs you in this game. One thing that I would have liked would have been a save point nearer the end. For example you cannot save before the fight against the Queen but this is not such a major problem. --------Overall I would rate this game-------- Gameplay: 9.5/10 - you will really need to think over certain puzzles and protecting Yorda will always be your primary concern. Graphics: 10/10 - purely unique. The water effects are simply sublime and the areas all real suitably different. Longevity: 8.5/10 - after you complete it once there are a few nice extras to see in this PAL version of the game. Sound: 8/10 - not much in the way of music whi
ch adds to the experience. You do hear birds and chains moving though. The ending song is truly astonishing. Overall: 9.4/10 This is a fantastic experience. It really should be in all PlayStation 2 owners collections as it really is innovative and feels like nothing I have ever played before or since its release.
Soul-stirringly Beautiful - Advantages: It?s by far the most unique, genre-shattering PS2 game that I have ever played. , It?s artistically flawless: a thing of delicate, melancholic, watercolour beauty. , It?s a breath of fresh air: a welcome break from the usual glut of ?guts, gore and guns? offerings that dominate the games market. - Disadvantages: There still isn't a sequel.
A 3rd person adventure, hasn?t it been done to death? Haven?t we all played too many Tombraiders? Surely we?ve had enough of pulling switches and moving blocks? Well just wait a moment? This is how a 3rd person adventure should be. This game never frustrates. Never bores. There?s no health bar. Only a sword or stick to help you, and a girl to protect. It is virtually impossible for you to die in this game. But it?s not you that matters. It?s the girl they want. They being ghostly shadow demons. These demons want to drag this lady back to the dark side. So, what can you do, but escape the castle with your new friend in hand. That?s it. That?s the game. The demons have wonderful AI; they really give the appearance of cunning. And graphically they are superb; they just look like dark shadows cast on the stone work. Absolutely stunning. The puzzles involve a convincing use of the environment, unlike the Tombraiders. The added twist is that you have to get your female acquaintance through the puzzles too. The AI of your character and this lady is quite something. Ico won?t carelessly fall off a cliff. And the girl will wander, chat and look around. I have been playing videogames for twenty years and have never felt anything for an in-game character before. You actually care about this girl?s fate. The graphics and sound in this game are the best I?ve seen, and I?ve played Halo and Metroid Prime. Wait till you see the trees, just look at the leaves blowing in the wind. If you want a gaming experience then Ico is for you.
Once in a while you come across a game that is so unique, so different and yet so full of quality that you wonder if the face of gaming will be changed. Ico is one of those games; produced by Sony, this gem of a game was not a big seller, in fact many will not have heard about it, but this game begins to show a glimpse into the future of computer gaming that promises to be very exciting. There have been some phenomenal trend setting games over the last few years; Final Fantasy 10, The Sims, Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne - all of these expanded the gaming world's experience but all still found themselves with limited appeal - i.e. Final Fantasy appealed to Role Playing game lovers, the Sims appealed to simulation game lovers. Ico is one of the first games I have seen that will probably appeal to most. What perhaps makes it stand out is the 'experience' of the game - although I have gained some attachment to other games, the way in which Ico almost makes you feel the pain of the central characters is amazing, I found myself totally immersed in the game. *****The concept***** Normally this section would be entitled 'The Game', but I feel that the 'game' is so revolutionary (in a very subtle way) that it really should be called a concept. The game concentrates on characterizations and emotions like no other. Removing the constraints of traditional RPG, adventure, puzzle etc games, it presents a living breathing world in which the characters can manipulate their surroundings to achieve a goal. Gone Is the 'point and click' 'pull the lever to open a door that leads to a button' type of game play; Ico introduces a more intuitive and far more interactive gameplay that requires much thought but leaves the player with much freedom. This interactive participation is far more convincing and thus more fulfilling. (There are buttons and the like, but they are used in a far more intelligent and subtl
e way). Ico, perhaps best classed as a fantasy, has an appeal that transcends normal games and becomes one of the most emotive games I have played; I challenge anyone not to become attached to the characters and their plight. Ico tells the story of a boy who becomes a sacrifice to save his village. He was chosen because he was born with horns. Ico is taken to a mysterious castle and imprisoned against his will. Ico though has a depth of character that will not allow him to give up and seek death, and thus our story begins as he starts to search the castle for a means of escape. Almost immediately he is plunged into danger - one of his first tasks is to save a young girl imprisoned in a cage - once he has set her free he encounters strange dark creatures that are intent on the young girls destruction. Essentially Ico has to attempt to escape the castle while protecting the young girl (Yorda); at times she is helpful, and at others she is totally inept. The story line is intentionally stark, leaving much to be questioned, and much to be found out. As you progress through the game, solving puzzles and moving through the castle, the story begins to gently unfold as the bond between Ico and Yorda grows. This type of minimalist game play was strange at first, but really began to make me get deeply involved in each task while building the drama and suspense. Be prepared to be surprised as the plot takes a strange turn along the way - subtly the plot hints at what will happen, and this begins to play on the emotions well as you begin to feel a sadness and foreboding that is intangible. Yorda is an enigma, and perhaps is the biggest puzzle of all. She is very isolated and unmotivated - you almost have to force her along through each puzzle. However she is also strangely drawn to the young Ico, whose energy and drive seem to be like a magnet to her. Although the game is seemingly simple - get Ico and the Yorda to the next section o
f the castle, the way in which this has to be done makes this game excellent. In many games you have a 'hero' who can do anything - Ico is similar to the traditional hero - however he has to ensure that Yorda is safe; this balances Ico's skills well and means that often the obvious way to solve a puzzle is not always the correct way - Ico has to navigate the obstacles and then find a way for Yorda, with her frailties and inadequacies to find a way through the puzzle too. Each character has their own abilities. Ico has great agility allowing him to climb, jump etc - however Yorda does have abilities that assist - she has 'magical' abilities that open passages that Ico cannot open - this is inherently linked to the underlying plot. At times Ico has to coax, or lend a hand to Yorda to get past some puzzles. The game makes you draw a balance between exploration (and puzzle solving) and the need to protect and guide Yorda - leave her alone too long and the creatures will attack her and spirit her away. This creates a link between the two children that permeates to the player themselves - this makes the game incredibly compelling and ultimately satifying and personal. I found a strange sense of almost 'maternal' instinct when I guided Yorda; taking her by the hand and moving her around danger gives you an incredible feeling that no other game inspires. It's amazing the feeling of accomplishment that you attain through playing this game. One aspect of the game that I initially thought was a design flaw is that the children speak different languages - I initially thought this was a problem of translation to the English speaking world, but realized that part of the skill of the game is the ability to communicate despite the different languages. Perhaps the best part of the game was the puzzles. They are all very well designed and require interaction with the environment. An example, the initial
sequence involves rescuing Yorda. She is trapped in a cage but is unreachable - you must climb up to the top of a tower and release her cage - however doing this isn't quite enough as you then have to jump on the cage to add just enough weight to break the chain that suspends the cage. Thus the puzzles are not simply a case of pressing a button, but require thought and interaction with the environment. As you progress through the game you gain an incredible sense of achievement. *****Graphics***** Initially, while watching the opening sequences I wasn't that impressed with the graphics; however I did feel that they were very atmospheric and detailed. Once you get into the game you begin to realize just how good they are. I was very impressed with Final Fantasy 10's graphics, but Ico blows this game away. What stands out is the presentation and attention to detail. It is subtle and doesn't show off, it just simply provides a 'real' environment that can simply be classed as 'grand'. The colors of the game are not overdone, giving the game a pleasant undertone - the walls and doors are excellently drawn and textures - they really give the feel of being in an old castle - from the stonework, to the clothes they wear, the graphics are well done. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the way in which the sense of scale is presented. You feel a depth and reality in the castle that is second to none - it's as if you are walking around a real castle. I am unsure how the creators have achieved this, but you really do get a feel that you are in a 'whole' castle rather than in a sequence of levels. The castle is simply splendid, ( having lived in Wales I have visited many castles), and somehow manages to capture the feel of a real castle. What perhaps makes the graphics stand out is the concept of WYSIWYG. If you can see a location in a castle, then you can get there - the architecture i
s true, i.e. if you look from a courtyard at a tower, when you visit the tower, you will be able to see the courtyard - this makes the game even more believable. The spot effects such as water, light etc are incredible. I have never seen such attention to detail paid to secondary graphics - again this provides an amazing feel and atmosphere that propel the game ever upward. The ripples in the water are particularly splendid. The graphics somehow meld well with the game play, rather than taking place of the game play - thus they enhance the game well. The animations of the characters is also very good. From the way the dark monsters envelop Yorda, to the simple way in which Ico holds Yorda's hand, it is obvious that a great deal of time has been spent perfecting the animations. As an example, the animations allow for joint reaction - thus if you fall from a great height, the body will react realistically - legs will tense or buckle - stunning work. (As an aside we did find the way Ico carries objects particularly funny at times, it looked like he was struggling with constepation!) *****Sound***** The sound in this game is very subtle; it has an almost esoteric feel as it pervades the game and the senses. With the soft and beautiful music accompanying the journey (occasionally), as well as the haunting and echoing voices, the same attention to detail has been applied to the sound. Music is used to highlight important emotions during the game and thus adds to the overall atmosphere. At times you are in total silence, apart from the movement noises and chatter of the main characters - this highlights the isolation the characters must feel. Spot effects are again well done - from fires to water trickling, they all enhance the environment giving it an uncanny realism. Footsteps adapt to the surfaces you walk over; environmental sounds do the say. The voices are very well played, although I must ad
mit I was very confused initially. The quality of desperation in the voices is well done and again adds to the atmosphere. *****Conclusion***** Although far from perfect this is one of the best games I have experienced on the PS2. The game is short and at times lacks save points, but these flaws do not detract from the game. Ico is a fantastic emotive journey through a real world; intellectuall y challenging at times, it sets the standard for intuitive, environment driven games. It raises the bar for all other games, and hopefully sets a standard that can only be good for the gaming industry. If you only ever buy one game, buy this one.
Venture back to a simpler time, about 500 years ago, when witches and demons were perceived as very real. A remote village seems to be cursed by an unknown force, because in every generation there is a boy born who sprouts a set of panic-inducing horns, and is given the name ICO. Thought to be the spawn of evil, the child is ritually locked in a castle and left to die. You play the role of Ico, and if you're going to live, you must escape from the castle. As you wander through the enormous structure, you discover a young girl who doesn't speak your language. Taking her under your wing, it's up to you to lead her to safety through all kinds of obstacles and enemies. Armed with a relatively ineffective stick as a weapon, you must battle the wicked creatures that lie in waiting throughout the dark and dank castle. You'll also be faced with many puzzles and platforming challenges, but you must keep your female companion safe at all times.