Time Played: 80min
So I really didn't play very many games before getting into the games industry - but Shadow of the Colossus was one that I played through during my 3 month span of joblessness before VV. Overall, I found the experience incredibly frustrating: I felt terrible for killing creatures that weren't doing anything other than minding their own business, it was hard to figure out how to kill them anyway, swimming in that game is the worst thing ever (falling off of the flying colossus into the water for the 8th time was the first time I ever said the "F-word" in front of my mom), and I know from experience that 'bringing someone back from the dead' is never a good goal.
But! I stuck with it - because everyone told me to, and I wanted to know what was going to happen. Also, the world was really interesting. I remember it in much the same way that I remember Ocarina of Time, as a series of places - and when I found out about Ico, I thought I might be able to experience another interesting place. Oh yeah also I kept hearing everyone talk about how revolutionary it was, etc. :) I'd had it in mind to give it a try for the last 5 years or so, but finally it fell into my lap with the HD re-release. Suddenly I had no excuse not to try it!
I played it for 80min or so a couple of weeks ago (I've been slow about writing again...). In case anyone doesn't know for some reason (maybe you're games-ignorant like me), in Ico, you play as a young boy who has been locked in a castle (you find out at some point it's because he has horns) - you break out of your chains after some mysterious earth-rumbling and find this girl who doesn't speak your language, who is constantly under threat of being pulled into the ground by shadow-creatures. If she gets pulled in, it's game over. You need to figure out how to escape while keeping her at your side. There's stuff she can't do that you can: climbing ropes, fighting shadow creatures; and stuff she can do that you can't: opening magic doors. You can call her to you, grab her hand to guide her (<--- important bit), and pull her up onto ledges.
What I Liked:
Place: Like Shadow of the Colossus (which I played first), I really liked the world itself. In general, I've always loved that sense of 'forgotten places' - gigantic, grandiose, crumbling structures that were clearly intended for greatness. Couple that with the sheer size and complexity of this deserted structure, and your imagination can't help but run wild.
Animation: Something else that was carried over to SOC later, every animation oozes character. Thinking about it, maybe it's only remarkable because these characters are 'unusual' leads for games, and it's rare to have a protagonist trudge around like a little boy... but whichever way, I really enjoy it. I think a good deal of emotion comes across in their gestures.
Show, Don't Tell. Along the same line of thought, this is a game that succeeds in conveying your major goals and basic controls without any real explanation or dialogue. I guess maybe there's some... but I don't really recall much of it from when I played 2 weeks ago. You get an idea of who you are, what you need to do, and you learn how to do it through trial and error. Your goals are simple and clear because you don't really have any other choices. You need to go forward because there is no where else to go. You need to keep Yorda safe, because it's game over without her (although I guess conceptually, I don't really get 'why' - but it's not important).
Hand-Holding. Not in the way most game-writing means it! :) Yes, as every person who has ever talked about this game will tell you, something pretty magical happens when you grab Yorda's hand for the first time. In animation, they talk about the idea that if you can have characters physically interact with each other, they will instantly become more real to the viewer. To some extent, it's the idea of grounding them in physical reality; they have give when they touch something else, they are made of a solid material. But more than that, I think it's because physical interaction between 2 people is always emotionally charged - we don't generally touch without it meaning something in terms of relationships (showing trust, love, anger, etc).
What I Didn't Like:
Some little things. In the 80min that I played, I definitely experienced a lot of little frustrations when trying to learn some of the smaller details of gameplay. There is some information that I simply wasn't picking up through trial and error.. and given my general lack of patience, they might have stopped me from playing had I not already been predisposed to give this game a fighting chance. For example, I knew that I could pull Yorda onto a ledge from when the bridge collapsed - but in the instance where I needed to do it to progress, the distance was so great I never thought to try it. The first time Yorda uses her magic to open a door, I tried to lead her towards it to do some magic, but nothing happened - so I spent the next 10min trying alternate solutions until consulting a walkthrough (my reaction: I TRIED THAT.) In short, it was just a lot of small details that weren't 'perfect,' so I got stuck a bunch.
How Do I Feel About Continuing?:
I intend to go back and play some more, but I'm not feeling particularly compelled to finish the game. I want to see more of the world, but I don't expect very much of an explanation about what's going on, or why Yorda's getting sucked into black holes, or why I was locked up for having horns. Maybe those things will get explained, but based on previous experiences with Japanese media, I assume they won't be. I guess so far my I've felt just a little too much frustration, as opposed to a sense of wonder or sense of satisfaction for figuring things out... but as I said before, I'm predisposed to give this game a little more of a fighting chance, so I will really try to give it more time.