|There are some books and films
that make you want to linger. Youre less concerned with getting to the end than you
are with soaking in all that you can. I love it when a filmmaker or an author can create a
world so fascinating and multi-faceted that I dont want to leave. Video games, by
their objective based nature, rarely elicit this kind of reaction in me. Im usually
too busy saving the world to stop and smell the virtual roses. Ico is one of the few games
that Ive played where it didnt matter all that much if I reached my objectives
as long as I had enough time to take in my surroundings. Unfortunately, with a deadline
looming over my head, I dont feel like I was really able to take the time needed to
appreciate all the work that went into this world.
What is Ico? Ive spent hours
in this world and Im still not sure that I can answer that question. Ive
completed the game and I really dont have a sense of closure, but thats
alright with me. There is very little dialogue and even less in the way of exposition. The
manual gives you a little in the way of background information, but I actually preferred
knowing little. This is a game where the atmosphere and design are in the forefront. There
is the thinnest thread of a story. It feels more like an afterthought than anything else.
None of the characters speak a language that Im familiar with, but I almost
didnt want the subtitles. I didnt care what the characters were saying to one
another. I was so caught up in the mood of the piece that the actual details felt
irrelevant. The sound design also takes a minimal approach. This is another example of how
less can indeed be more.
The game starts off with a little horned boy breaking out of a sarcophagus and
attempting to work his way through a very interesting setting. After you travel through a
few rooms, you find a girl in a cage that you must free and escort through the castle.
Finding a way through the obstacles for both yourself and your new little friend is what
really sets this game apart from many of the other platformers out there. Its pretty
easy for you to get from point A to B, but finding a suitable path for the girl is another
matter entirely. I have to admit that this girl is not the brightest light bulb on the
strip. In fact, some of her actions can be so annoying and frustrating that youre
tempted to just leave her behind. Unfortunately, the game just wont let you do that.
puzzles are what set this game apart. They require thought and patience. A few of the
puzzles seem a little more random than logical, but for the most part, you should be able
to work your way through with careful attention to the details. Playing video games with
complex puzzles always seems a little more productive that fighting games or first person
shooters. Theres a sense of accomplishment that comes when you work out how to lower
a bridge or light a candle that just cant be equaled by memorizing attack combos. It
feels like youre actually exercising you brain instead of numbing it. Even though I
found some of the puzzles unreasonable, I enjoyed being in this world so much that I never
really got frustrated when a puzzle took a little longer than I wanted.
solving a series of puzzles that open more of the castle for you, you always have to
protect the girl from a seemingly endless horde of shadowy spirits. They are very cool
when you first encounter them, but ultimately it gets a little repetitive. Ico has two
basic attacks, and it is just a matter of hitting the buttons quickly enough. I also would
have liked a little more variety in the foes you encounter. They are all slight variations
of the same thing. There could have been some really creative things done with this.
Ico is the most visually stunning game available on the PS2. There
is a level of serenity playing this game that is not easily equalled. The only tension I
felt when playing this game occurred when I remembered that my editor was waiting for a
review. If your feeling the weight of the world bearing down on you and youre not
limber enough for yoga, then Ico might offer some much needed therapy for the nerves.
Ico is a work of art. Video games as a whole still have a ways to go before they can be
judged alongside film and literature, but Ico is a step in the right direction. The
comparisons with Myst are inevitable, but unnecessary. These are two distinct games in
terms of mood, design and story. The level of environmental interaction and the character
development creates an entirely new experience than occurred on that best selling isle.
There are moments of frustration and repetition, but
the experience was so immersive and pleasurable that I cant help but give this game
the highest recommendation. There will be a lot of gamers who will get impatient with this
game and label it slow or boring. Unfortunately, theyve been raised on a diet of
point scoring and objective reaching. If youre willing to take a little time to
linger and savor, then this game will reward you with much more than a high score.
Dont rent this game and rush through it. Buy it and linger for as long as you can.
Jason Frank (11/15/2001)
Downs: Some frustrating puzzles.
Platform: Sony PlayStation 2