By CallMeLuke, Posted 29 Dec 2010

Nearly 10 years have passed since ICO's release on the PlayStation 2 and ICO is still considered to be one of the best adventure games of all time. It's elegant, mysterious, simple and complex at the same time. It's the game that put Team ICO on the map and landed them a place in the hearts of gamers worldwide.

The story begins with a young boy named Ico being brought to a castle by a villager. Ico's thrown in a mystic container for what appears to be a sacrifice because of the horns the boy adorns. After the villager leaves, Ico isn't content to just wait to be sacrificed, so he rocks himself out of the container and begins to search for a way out. He discovers a caged girl by the name of Yorda and decides to free her and escape with her. As they're trying to flee, however, numerous shadowy Spirits try to reclaim Yorda and pull her into the world of darkness. Ico must fight them off while still managing to find a way out with Yorda.

ICO Review

ICO might feel a little ancient if someone chose to play it for the first time today. After all, there's nothing really to do in the world of ICO. There are no cars to jack. There's nothing to shoot, blow up or anyone to kill. There's no score to keep or icons and indicators on the screen; no HUD whatsoever. There's only Ico and Yorda, inside a very large castle. The only enemies that really threaten them are the Spirits, and they cannot kill Ico outright. When a Spirit grabs Yorda, it will take her to a portal and Ico will only have seconds to reach her and pull her out. His only weapon of defense is a wooden stick, which takes several thwacks to disperse the animated shadows.

It might seem dull to a lot of gamers hellbent on destruction, but the gameplay in ICO is actually enchanting. You spend most of the game wandering through hallways and crossing battlements all the while holding Yorda's hand and dragging her along. She's not nearly as nimble as you are, so when she comes to a gap she can't cross or a wall she can't climb, it's up to you work around the obstacle and find a way for her to rejoin you. Since there are no characters to interact with, you end up developing a special bond with Yorda that ultimately blends the two characters into one.

The only other real danger is height. Both Ico and Yorda can survive minor falls, but if the height is too great, they die and the game ends. Yorda is also integral for progression through the game, because there are statues blocking the way forward to several different rooms and only her power can open the path. Even the saving mechanic is dependent on having Yorda with you. You must find a stone couch to sit on with Yorda in order to pull up the save option. It's a very unique feature and helps drive home the fact that you simply cannot survive in the game just by yourself.

The design of the castle is unmistakingly marvelous. The main goal is to find a way to open a giant set of gates in order to escape from the castle. To do so, you'll traverse through many different rooms, each with their own obstacle to overcome. The architecture of the world interconnects with itself, so it may seem like you've crossed great distances, but you end up doubling back to where you were to find a new path that opens up. Every object has a purpose, and virtually everything you see you'll be able to climb up to at some point in the game. The castle is a character unto itself.

It's hard to really appreciate the graphics of the game in the present day. It has not aged very well and with the advent of HDTVs, it only ends up looking worse. If you're playing on the PlayStation 3, its filters will do very little help improve its graphics. The textures are blurry and the animations are jerky at times. Even with the technical limitations of the game, the artistic direction manages to shine like a beacon of light through a foggy night. The sheer epic scale of the castle design provides for many jaw dropping moments where the camera pulls back and offers spectacular vantage points. The water effects were also a sight to behold back in 2001, but admittedly many games since then have done water better.

ICO Review

Holding up far better than the visuals is the audio. There isn't much music playing in the game, only pieces that start up when Spirits enter the world of light. The soundtrack actually comes in the form of ambient noise. You'll hear birds chirping and wind howling atop steep cliffs. There are a few waterfalls you'll come across and they sound wonderful. Also, the musical silence helps amplify the sound effects that occur, such as the blazing of torches, the grinding of gears and stone, and the echoes of Ico's footsteps. There is voice acting as well, but they speak in an alien tongue, giving the game a feeling of being in a mystical world. There is no better device to paint an atmosphere than audio, and ICO possesses one of the best.

With the upcoming ICO collection coming to the PS3 in just a few months, it's nearly impossible to recommend to any PS3 owner that they seek out a PS2 copy. The only reason why you would want to play this game now is to appreciate the enhancements they'll be making to the PS3 port. If you are still gaming on a PlayStation 2, then you owe it to yourself to add this game to your collection. It's one of the most unique games in the PS2 library, and its architectural climbing and environmental puzzles have clearly inspired some of the more recent action/adventure titles of this generation. Whether you own a PS2 or PS3, ICO is an experience not to be missed.

Lucas Stephens, Noobfeed

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  • Very good review, the game sounds like quite an experience.

    Posted Jan 18, 2011


General Information



Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): Team Ico
Developer(s): Sony Computer Entertainment
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2001-09-24

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