Sunday, 11 April 2010

Shadow Of The Colossus

Taking a step back into a pre-gen console classic, The Wild Bore takes on the much-applauded Japanese game that is still being bid on like crazy on eBay and still sends tremors through the gaming world.

To some this is a vintage classic like no other. Never before, or since, has a game been so original, innovative and pain-achingly beautiful and yet remained so epic, simple to play and just fucking amazing. All this on a Playstation 2 and, even though playing it on a PS3 might pull up the graphics somewhat, it still looks incredible. But for those not already aware of this cult classic, what's it about?

You play a young lad who's missus is dead, and so to bring her back you take her to a forbidden land and make a deal with some sort of dark creature. The deal is you are to kill every single Colossi (or Colossus) and in return, she will be brought back to life. Simple enough. So with just your ancient sword guiding you, your bow and arrow and your faithful horse Agro for company, you are to travel the land and defeat the Colossi one by one.

Firstly, the graphics make you look like you are travelling through a painting. The colours and light can look rich at times, bleak in others, reflecting whether you're in a lush green field, a desert or atop a mountain. The sound is incredible and feels like you're in a fantasy film and even picks up the pace when you're duelling with a Colossi. The controls are fairly easy consisting of stabbing and shooting but you'll mostly be playing a balancing act between jumping, gripping and resting to get your strength back. Your horse Agro allows you to travel the plains and comes in use when dealing with certain enemies, he is in fact your most reliable and trustworthy, dare I say it, friend. You go up against so much together that if anything ever happens to him, you suddenly get really worried, it's only supposed to be a bloody game for God's sake!

So what actually happens? You basically have to kill 16 of these huge creatures and the set-up is the same in each scenario. You follow your sword to the fighting ground, a cut-scene introduces the Colossi, then you have to figure out a way to get on top of it and then climb your way to it's soft spots to kill it. Each one acts differently and it becomes a tactical game on a monumental scale, whether you have to jump on top of a huge bird-like creature, gallop alongside a sandworm one and jump off your horse or simply hold on to a water dragon one as it flows through the lakes. Each one is exciting and you have your heart in your throat each time, if you fall or fail, you will have to climb atop once again and it's all one big flowing world - you aren't cornered off at all, if you fall off a flying beast, you could land anywhere and have to find a way back. Some of these creatures you cannot even fathom how you are going to get on it, let alone kill it and it's the whole one small boy taking on a huge giant that reveals the passion behind the game. It's the idea of having all the odds stacked against you, having to tackle an issue a billion times bigger than yourself and all for the sake of love. Even as you defeat them one by one, you might be getting somewhat stronger but you soon realise you are growing paler as you absorb the dead souls and you understand that you are in fact, slowly dying.

There's nothing that can prepare you for dealing with the Colossi on such a monumental scale but rest assured you will be able to fathom out how to kill each one by using your smarts and gaming skills. There's nothing quite as satisfying as dealing that final killer blow, but as you wake up again with another black soul of the Colossi staring down at you, you cannot help but feel sorry for them as they are tend to be just going about their business until you turn up. Some of these monsters took quite a while to kill while others took no time at all but the main annoying point of the game was finding the buggers. I found myself often running around on my horse with no idea where to go and even, shock horror, used a walkthrough to figure out where the next one bloody was. This, to be fair, is enough to put people off but a minor irritant to a somewhat perfect game and, seeing as the environment is so bloody gorgeous, it's worth running around in it just to have a look.

So are there other flaws? Unfortunately yes, but teeny tiny ones. Mainly, I found controlling the horse somewhat annoying. Tapping 'x' to get him to go faster was just a nuisance and sometimes I found myself jumping around him when I'm trying to get on him which, in some urgent cases, left me screaming at the screen telling him to get on. Also the jumping/gripping combo feels like it needed a shine that something like Uncharted has, but seeing as this game was made in 2005 - you can't blame it!

This game makes me want to go back and complete Ico, which I never got round to doing and also conjures up exciting images of the next Team Ico project due out on PS3 later this year in Japan. It is also a reminder that, like movies, some games will always be perfect and this is another example of how video games should be winning awards for sheer originality if not for anything else, it's a work of art and should be treated as such. Never before had a game like this been created and never will it again. I can't imagine many game developers in America walking into the office going 'OK, one kid on a horse, 16 bosses - nothing else, and there's next to no dialogue' and everyone giving it the green light, but this comes from a time where the Japanese were taking chances and changing the course of gaming, which says a lot nowadays seeing as the country's gaming produce is somewhat of a cliche (new Yakuza game anyone? Jesus!).

There's a reason why this game is still doing well over five years on and if I was you, I'd even try buying a PS2 again just to play it. It might seem a bit much giving this a perfect score, but as soon as I completed it after a good 9 hours of gameplay, I started it again almost immediately. I don't think I've ever done that with a game before and so that's really saying something. If you like the classic David Vs. Goliath story, you might as well take it to the extreme because the Goliath's don't get much bigger than this. See that huge creature in the distance? The one that's about as tall as the Empire State building? Give it fifteen minutes and you'll soon be on top of it's head trying to stab it to death. A colossal score to a colossal game - if only there were more about like this.

Rating: 10/10

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