Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Team Ico
Team Ico’s follow-up to ICO (2001) is a very different kind of game. Nevertheless, there’s the feeling that they both exist within the same fictional universe, making SotC a spiritual sequel.* It’s the story of a boy and his horse. There’s also the matter of a dead girlfriend. Wander (the boy) will do whatever's required to bring her back from beyond the veil, even kill at the behest of a mysterious voice.
Your only companions are your horse Agro and your conscience. As you traverse deserts and plains you’ll see man-made structures reclaimed by nature, signs of a once-great civilisation. The loneliness gives you time to reflect on your deeds but will likely bore anyone seeking a quick fix. Seriously, there's almost nothing to do outside of the core objective. Some side-missions would've been nice, but I can understand why they weren't included. The ambitious, uncompromising vision of the game designers is clear to see but will be the very thing that alienates people the most. If possible, trying before buying is definitely recommended.
Most of the story doesn't happen until the last quarter. Until then you’re the principal part of a mystery, required to repeatedly take a life in the hope that aggressive single-mindedness will result in your wish being granted.
The colossi will defend themselves like any animal would and should, but that doesn't change the fact that you‘re the trespasser. You’re the greater evil. The sadness and silent cries of ‘Why?’ on the faces of the victims cuts deep.
Like ICO did, it forces you to ask questions as you play. Why does the game try so very hard to instil a sense of guilt in the player? Are Wander's actions selfless or the product of a beleaguered conscience? How exactly did the girl die? We can take nothing for granted. We can only hope that the end justifies the means. In essence, it's like acting out a Greek myth.
New players will likely have trouble with the horse. Keep in mind that he isn't a car, so don’t try to control him as such. Spur him on, use the reins to direct him and leave him to it. He can be an idiot at times, but mostly you won’t need to negotiate every turn or corner because he’s quite capable of doing that himself.
4½ surmountable bods out of 5
*There’s evidence within SotC to suggest that it may actually be the second part of a trilogy being told in reverse. If so, that would make it a prequel to ICO. The theory will remain just that unless the third game, The Last Guardian, sheds new light. I don’t expect it’ll confirm either way, but I live in hope.
Note: SotC was re-released in 2011 as one half of The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection HD. For more info on ICO, stab right about HERE.