Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: ICO

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Electronic Theatre ImageWhen compared to the other major entertainment mediums, music and film, videogames are rarely considered to be an art-form. In many cases this is justified, shooting and robbing people in 50Cent: Bulletproof is hardly beautiful or awe-inspiring. However, considering the nature of videogames, which, in many cases are essentially Interactive Movies, it is obvious that there is a lot of scope for developers to make games far more inspirational and with far more impact than could ever be possible in film. As it stands, on the outside, videogames are still widely regarded as just a bit of fun, not as a serious vehicle for artists to express themselves. There are exceptions to this though, one of the most prominent recently being Toshio Iwai’s collaboration with Nintendo on the highly original Electroplankton. Although rarer than your standard First-Person Shooter or Platform title, there are also other games that have made a valid attempt to move the player rather than just inciting them to fight on to the end of the Level. The recent release of Shadow Of The Colossus for the PlayStation2 has brought with it a re-release of its creator’s previous title, ICO. Despite launching early in the PlayStation2’s life-cycle and only ever having achieved competently-average sales, ICO remains to some as a masterpiece of game development, and is sought after often with a high price-tag.

ICO is an Adventure game that has no Levels, Rounds, Stages or any of the progression-systemElectronic Theatre Image features found in most games. The entirety of ICO revolves around the two main characters, Ico, the outcast boy with horns and Yorda, a fragile and ghostly princess, and their escape from a huge fortress. In order to do this you control Ico, and must guide Yorda through the game without her falling prey to the various Shadow Creatures that will regularly attempt to capture her. Despite regular battles, ICO does not feature an extensive combat system; in fact the only attack button is Square. There are also very few weapons in the game, meaning that ICO is far more about puzzle solving than hack-n’-slash. The puzzles involved in your escape are fairly logical, surprisingly rewarding and anyone who has played the likes of God Of War will have few problems for the majority of the game. The basis of many of them is to find a way of transporting Yorda from one area to the next. Although Yorda is fairly athletic and can climb ladders and jump small distances, she can’t go to many of the places that Ico can. This system means that in general you will always have an idea of what to do; the challenge comes from actually figuring-out in exactly what way you will use the abilities at your disposal, and it is this that keeps the game interesting despite its relative simplicity. Although the game performs well within its own scale, Yorda can be inclined to get somewhat confused when the player has several obstacles between Ico and her. However this occurrence is fairly infrequent and although occasionally irritating, rarely distracts you from the overall high quality of this game.

From a technical perspective, ICO is definitely outstanding; mainly becauseElectronic Theatre Image it features no noticeable Load Times. This would be an achievement on any PlayStation2 game but to achieve what ICO does, a four-year-old game, is remarkable. When you reach the higher points of the fortress you can admire the view, and what a view it is: the entirety of what a person could see is all present-and-correct with the fortress stretching out in all directions, showing-off some incredibly long draw distances.  Some parts of ICO, whilst running along some of the huge bridges for instance, are almost breathtaking in their epic scale. Some might argue that this is all just aesthetics, but it is because of this level of detail and polish that the game does feel more like an Interactive Movie than your typical Third-Person Adventure.

The focus seems softer than most games with very few sharp edges present on-screen and all of the shadows and Glare Effects seem perfect, which further helps to make ICO’s world that much more believable. The animation of Yorda and Ico is also brilliant. Ico isn’t your typical hero and his occasionally ungainly clambering is very realistic, which can only help to make his plight that much more endearing. Yorda is also charming in her own way; she can’t speak to Ico, seems to be almost entirely clueless most of the time and depends entirely on Ico’s lead; a classic damsel in distress. All of these Electronic Theatre Imagetraits are captured superbly by the animation of the models and seeing Ico drag Yorda around by the hand, instead of your typical square-jawed hero sweeping her off her feet, seems like exactly what would occur in this adventure. The only real issue with the graphics is the developer’s choice to use a Fixed Camera in-game. Despite sitting-well with the games distinctive movie-esque style, the camera angles can occasionally be quite off putting and make controlling Ico a little more difficult than you would hope. The sound quality is, unfortunately, not quite as inspiring, although still of good standard. Yorda’s cries for help and Ico’s shouts to her sound like you would expect them to and the inclusion of reverb on some effects to augment the epic scale of the rooms make the game sound almost as realistic as it looks. The game also occasionally features some light background music, but it’s not really anything that will enhance gameplay further.

ICO is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most beautiful games ever madeElectronic Theatre Image and possibly as close as the medium gets to art. However, it would be foolish to assume that this is a game for everyone. To those who are content to bask in the grand scale and presentation of a game will find that ICO is very hard to beat on any format. However to Bob, who likes to shoot aliens, save the world and blow a whole load of stuff up along the way, ICO is not likely to impress. There is also not a lot to do once you have completed the story, resulting in the title opportunely gathering dust a few weeks after purchase. In spite of this, ICO is still worth picking up, especially with its budget price-point. Anybody with an interest in the videogame industry, or the game’s successor Shadow Of The Colossus, should try this title, not because it’s the “best-game-ever”, or even that it’s the most fun, but simply because it is a perfect example of how a game should, and could be made.Electronic Theatre Image




















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