April 10, 2002
ICO - Review
Release Date Distributer Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

Click To Enlarge Image
The atmospheric opening moments.
Whoever thought that the Playstation 2 lacked any original and exciting games need only look at the titles that have been released so far this year. PaRappa 2, Dropship: United Peace Force, Maximo: Ghosts To Glory, Herdy Gerdy and of course Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. However it's ICO that really stands out as something different. There is nothing overly complicated about the game, in fact it's rather simplistic. The main objective of the game is to escape from an ancient castle after being imprisoned for growing horns! However, you soon find a young girl who you must also help escape. Unfortunately, she's not as strong or agile as you and along your travels you must help create pathways for her to travel safely. The majority of the game sees you solving puzzles to help get from one area to the next. One of ICO's strengths is the storyline which, as for the hero, remains a mystery throughout much of the game.

Click To Enlarge Image
Some of the lush visuals.
The heroic adventure of ICO will captivate players as they wander into a mysterious forgotten world, where every generation a young boy is born with horns. Ico, this generation's boy born with horns, is consequently kidnapped from his village and taken to an isolated castle where he is placed in a tomb to be sacrificed. Surrounded by solitude, Ico rocks the tomb, causing it to tumble and break open, freeing him on the floor below. In the fall, Ico is knocked unconscious and dreams of a young princess trapped inside the castle, calling out to him to rescue her. Ico awakens, and is astonished to find out his dream has become a reality. Realising his fate, Ico sets off to save the princess and himself from the wicked queen and evil spirits that reside within the castle.

Click To Enlarge Image
Sunlit rooms can look spectacular.
ICO is a wonderful adventure game. While there is some combat with some shadow monsters the majority of the game will have you leading the princess through the secluded castle, murky dungeons, shadowy corridors and magnificent some river scenes. The puzzles are simply wonderful and begin with jumping across games to large multi-room solutions to helping the princess through each area. You will need your wits about you, but the game is never overly tough an unfair. The battles with the shadow monsters are infrequent, and never really taxing, but this is not a major aspect of this game. This is predominantly a puzzle solving game on a grand scale.

Controlling Ico and the Princess is such a joy. Through most of the game you will have to press the R1 button to hold her hand and guide her through the levels. At times however, you will have to track ahead a bit to clear a path. Leaving her for too long may give the evil spirits time to snatch the princess so you are always rushing to complete the tasks up ahead to get back to her as quickly as possible. Through the game you will have a wooden stick, sword or mace to help you beat off then enemies while other items such as fire and bombs can be combined to create new pathways.

Click To Enlarge Image
One of the many puzzle sections.
Faults in ICO are very few and far between. As a gameplay experience it's near perfect as the main character has all the moves possible and the game includes accurate collision detection. The only problem is that the game may be a little on the short side for some. Fortunately playing the game a second time translates all Jorda's speech into English so you can finally hear what she has been saying. That alone makes ICO worthy of a second play at the very least.

In recent weeks we have been picking out jaws up off the floor after playing and admiring the graphical splendour of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Without anywhere near the hype ICO emerges as a game which doesn't push as many polygons, but is probably even more impressive for it's artistic style and effects then Konami's game. The use of lighting and fog is second to none, although Silent Hill 2 may have a slight edge, and adds so much atmosphere to the game. The characters are superbly animated as they run around the levels and leap from ledge to ledge. Watching Ico climb a chain for the first time is a complete joy, despite some small collision problems with Ico's legs (the chain seems to go through them). Just wait until you watch Ico leap across a game and then witness Jorda almost plummet to her death until Ico grabs her wrist at the last moment. The camera angles are dramatic but by using the right analogue stick you can look around the levels for clues to the next solution.

Click To Enlarge Image
10 bucks says that Ico falls off...
Sound is yet another aspect of this title which makes it stand out as a shining example of the talents in the game development community. Rarely does a game have such atmospheric sound which carries such emotion. From the haunting sounds to the limited musical score everything is stunning. Speech is not in English but the strange language of the people. One must also make particular note of the wonderful echoing of the sound effects such as fires, crashes and even Ico's calling out to Jorda.

It is such a privilege that this title would be released outside Japan. While the gameplay may lack the action which so many Western gamers love there over the top action. This game is a little more sedate in it's pace, but a lot more though provoking as a result. The simplistic, and yet superbly stylish graphics and sound are a highlight that are used to enhance the experience. If you like adventure games then there is no reason to ignore this title. Even if you aren't huge adventure fans I would still recommend you pick up this game and enjoy the wonderful talent that it has taken to create what is truly one of the most amazing games on the Playstation 2 to date. This game is highly recommended.

GRAPHICSNot the biggest polygon pusher, but artistically this is a Van Gough.
SOUNDJust as atmospheric as the graphics. Moody, haunting and exciting.
GAMEPLAYAn emphasis more on puzzle solving then action makes this a winner.
VALUEEnhanced over the NTSC versions but still a little on the short side.
OVERALLA simply amazing game that should be in every collection. It's stylish, atmospheric, fun and most importantly, engrossing.

Talk about ICO in this forum topic now.