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ICO (PlayStation 2) artwork

ICO (PlayStation 2) review

"''Single white female seeks young horny male to take me by the hand, and lead me from the shadows. Must posess unending patience, and a big stick.''"

Someone, somewhere, deserves a medal. I mean it.

From time to time, I get jaded with gaming. Once you have played one Final Fantasy, you have seen the story for them all. There are only so many variants of 'put couloured things together to make them go bye-bye' that can be stomached, as well. And don't even get me started on the myriad of stealth-em-ups we are forced to endure these days!

But, the good thing about gaming is, every once in a while, a breath of fresh air appears. Usually, from way out of left-field, a whole new genre of game comes along. Or, sometimes it's just an old genre, given a fresh lick of paint. And sometimes, it's that most wonderful of things - a game that just exists to be a great game, and is a pure joy from start to finish. This is what has happened in the case of Ico. A truly beautiful experience has been created for your enjoyment.

Let it be known, I loved every second of this game! Even if the game could happily be renamed 'Saving Princess Retard'.

So, what is it about the game that makes it so wonderful? Well, this is tricky. See, I don't want to give anything away about it. The game is over all too soon as it is, and any spoilers would diminish the emotional impact. Hey, there's a good idea!

Lots has been made about the power of the Playstation 2 processor. Several kajillion raw polygons per second, yadda yadda yadda. Can do anything we want it to, blah blah blah. Sony even went so far as to call it the 'Emotion Engine'. Big claim, and one that, frankly, hasn't been met. Well, until now, that is...

Ico is as much experience as it is game. The plot revolves around Ico, a young boy with horns, who has been thrown out of his village because of them. He gets taken to some big castle, and is left there to die. Well, naughty boy that he is, he promptly escapes his designated death chamber. BAD Horn kid, get back there! This is where you take over.

The first thing you notice is the sheer jaw-dropping splendour of the graphics. This castle is detailed, and then some. You move the camera around, and you realise that this is something special. Think how you felt when you first played Tomb Raider. So, anyway, you are escaped, and looking for places to go, and you find a switch which opens a door. You go through the door, into a chamber.... and this is where the graphics totally destroy you. This castle is HUGE! For the first time ever, the power of the PS2 is shown off in all its splendour.

So, you go up the stairs, and marvel at the fluidity of Ico. You eventually come across a cage. In this cage, is a girl. And, this is the catch that Ico has that no other game has ever provided for you. This girl, Yorda, is a frail little waif. Instantly, you know you must protect her. So, you get her down, and that is when the rest of the cast are introduced. The second Yorda leaves the cage, shadows rise up out of the floor, and drag her away to a portal. If you leave her there, then the world ends. BUMMER!

And this is how Ico hooks you. From the moment you touch her, Ico becomes your sole purpose. You have to get her out of the castle, because the shadow guys keep trying to steal her. And, it is this unique 'togetherness' that carries the game, and carries you. Sadly, she is not without her issues. Firts off, she is pretty useless. She can literally just go where you tell her, climb ladders, and jump short gaps. You have to do EVERYTHING else for her.

Secondly, she develops senile dementia as the game progresses. Many times, you want her to stay somewhere, and she'll be off looking at the flowers. She starts off as really clever, and gives you hints as to what to do, but ends up being a colossal pain in the ass. ''DAMMIT, WUMMUN, CLIMB THE FUCKING LADDER ALREADY!'' You genuinely do not want to go anywhere without her, and yet you also have problems getting places with her. It's an annoyance, but it also never annoys you to the point of not wanting to play.

I suppose I should tell you what genre this game is. It is for the most part a puzzle game. The entire castle is an immense environmental puzzle, with shadow demons a mere 'other worry'. There are times when you are glad of the fight, to give your brain a rest.

For those who care, sound is used superbly well in this game. There is no music, except when fighting the shadow demons. Sound is much as in the original Tomb Raider, sparse, but effective. And also, never annoying. A nice change, as far as I am concerned.

So, what was all that with 'Emotion Engine'? Well, this game, makes you care about your charge. It draws out emotions in you that you normally don't get when you play a game. And for this, it should be sampled by everybody. Not that it is perfect. For one thing, it is a very short game. I predict completion inside a couple of days for any reasonably competent player. In fact, even an average player could finish it fairly quickly, as the game is more concerned with telling the story than it is with punishing you. Which, is a good thing. You shouldn't die in games just because you didn't know not to pull that switch.

I say rent this game, and have a weekend of being moved in ways games have seldom moved you before. Love this game for what it is, and what it gives you. Pray they never make a sequel, as that may diminish from the overall effect. If you buy it, you may be dissapointed. This game is not one that is high on replay value. At best, you'll go through a second time, for the eye-candy. But, everyone should experience this game. If nothing else, a lot of games are going to draw inspiration from it. Originality should be rewarded.

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Community review by cheekylee (Date unavailable)

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