Shadow of the Colossus
At last year’s E3 it really hit the spot: the ooohs and aaahs fell on all sides. The team behind sleeperhit Ico took on the arduous task of producing some sort of sequel. However, this time without monsters, girls in trouble and dungeons. How did this work out? Read on!
icon. Mentioning this name has definitely become a trend lately. The title of this topper is often mentioned in the same breath as “Shadow of the Colossus”. There would be a new game from the makers of the atmospheric masterpiece Ico, which received less attention than it deserved at the time. Although this game was released in 2001, it is still referred to by many ‘connoisseurs’ as the game for the PlayStation 2. How could Sony even think of continuing such a hit game!? After all, such a success (although unknown) would be unmatchable, according to these critics. Speculation about a flop of the game, then called ‘Nico’ or ‘Ico 2’ by speculators, soon started to circulate. However, it soon became apparent that it would not be a sequel, but a completely new game. While the style would remain the same, the gameplay would revolve around a completely different idea. Instead of defeating shadow monsters, barely bigger than yourself, the aim was now to defeat colossal monsters. The name of the game, ‘Shadow of the Colossus’, has come as no surprise. Many trailers and screenshots were released and were actually suffused with the atmosphere. Shadow of the Colossus has experienced the opposite of Ico in recent months. Where Ico snuck into the shops completely unnoticed, Shadow of the Colossus was launched with great fanfare. An example is the fake news of a gigantic, mammoth-like beast that is said to have been found on the ice caps. Shadow of the Colossus was thus hyped. And of course hypes are often dangerous, because you still have to live up to such hype…
Wake Sleeping Beauty
When you put Shadow of the Colossus in the drawer of your PS2 and you start the game, you will notice a number of things while playing the opening movie. There is no narrator and, moreover, few conversations are held. When the main character, named Wanda, enters the forbidden realm of the Colossi with his trusty horse Agro, it immediately becomes clear that you will be dealing with a huge world. Wanda then places a dead girl in a temple and asks for the “spirit of the temple.” In the end, it turns out that the girl can only be brought back to life by defeating sixteen Colossi. Your search begins here…
Search, beat, repeat
The game basically revolves around one thing: finding and defeating the Colossi. To find it you will have to raise your sword in the air, after which the light reflects. When you hold this beam of light in the right direction, it will bundle up and you know that’s where you need to go. Then you have to spur your horse on the enormous plains and now and then with some climbing and scrambling you go towards the Colossus. The first Colossus immediately gives a feeling of impotence. You feel like an ant that could be crushed by the Colossus buddy skyscraper at any moment. With the aforementioned sword, you can find its weak spots in the same way, giving you a hint on how to defeat the beast. Often you will have to climb it and stab it into a previous weak spot, making a path to another weak spot passable. At the bottom right of the screen, a health bar and a red circle will appear, which represents your stamina. The longer you hang, the smaller the circle. However, hanging is not always necessary. The Colossi appear in different shapes and sizes: from crawling, walking, running, flying, burrowing to swimming Colossi. This ensures that the game does not quickly become monotonous and that each Colossus requires a new approach. Fortunately, because the road to a Colossus is often monotonous and less interesting, despite the truly beautiful environments. However, the spectacle and fun you will have when defeating a Colossus makes up for a lot. Sony had promised us that a Colossus would be defeated in about half an hour. Fast mathematicians would have hoped for 16 x 0.5 = 8 hours of gameplay, which wouldn’t even include travel. Unfortunately you ‘down’ some Colossi within minutes, making this estimate anything but correct. So don’t be alarmed if you only have six hours on the counter in the end.
So the game is short and fairly monotonous, given that a Colossus is down pretty quickly and you have to drive your noble steed over the endless plains the rest of the time. So why is this game so popular? Why are all the reviews so positive? The answer is simple: the atmosphere. You don’t experience the story from the beginning and you don’t know who the girl is, who you are, what the world is exactly… you are alone with your horse and actually a boy like anyone else. Without special gifts, but with a considerable climbing ability. You basically understand very little of the entire game and so you are shrouded in mysteries throughout the story. In the meantime, you are committed to the main character and the Colossi, because those innocent beasts don’t hurt a fly and yet you have to destroy them… The environments also contribute enormously to the atmosphere. Because you are all alone, without any other living human being around you, you really get the feeling that you have entered a forbidden land. The real highlight of the game is the startling denouement, which makes everything clear in one fell swoop.
As far as I’m concerned, a true work of art: the physics! When you have climbed a Colossus and you barely manage to hold on to the hair of the gigantic beast, you are thrown in all directions while hanging. If you happen to run out of stamina at that moment and the Colossus gives a big swing to shake you off, you are really thrown a long way. The harder the swing, the farther the ‘throw’. I was very impressed by this when I was swung towards the horizon for the first time.
The game has almost no errors. One annoyance: the camera. It often positions itself in a certain er… position. Not annoying, but mood-enhancing. You can then control the camera yourself, but it basically remains in the same position. When you get to a certain sector of the giant world, it will move to another position again. The problem is that this also happens with Colossi. With large Colossi this is never a problem, but some Colossi are small and very agile, so the camera also takes the strangest positions. Not a problem in itself, were it not for the fact that these Colossi are in all cases in closed/packed spaces. At those moments, the camera is the biggest problem and you sometimes want to throw a controller into the air. Another known ‘mistake’ are the framedrops. I hear people everywhere complaining about their aging PS2 and its inability to fully utilize the power of Shadow of the Colossus. However, I must confess that I only saw one minor frame drop in the entire game. So it fits very well.
A six-hour game is short, no one will disagree with that. Is it too short? Short gameplay can be made up for by a high replay value. Shadow of the Colossus offers that replay value. After you finish the game, hard mode becomes available. You can also replay each Colossus when you look up their ‘corpse’, turning the image into a kind of old movie. The real challenge, however, is in the time-attack mode, where, as the name suggests, the goal is to defeat the Colossi in a set amount of time. In addition to being a fun challenge, it also unlocks new weapons and clothing. Clothing that often makes a link between Ico and SotC, like so many things in the game. The new weapons can help you build up your stamina, revealing more new secrets…
Shadow of the Colossus is a different, but beautiful game. The style and gameplay are unique and the atmosphere (partly thanks to the beautiful soundtrack) is sublime. Especially if you’ve played Ico and thought it was great, you’ll love Shadow of the Colossus. The game is full of mysteries and secrets and these will occupy you long after you finish the game, which happens quite quickly. The question for you, however, is: do you settle for a game that might put you aside after six hours or do you leave a game that keeps you gripped from start to finish because of its originality alone…?