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Shadow of the Colossus PS2 Review

19/01/2011 Family Returning Gamer Review
Guest author: Gary McCombe
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Shadow of the Colossus PS2

Shadow of the Colossus



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Shadow of the Colossus conjures emotion from a simple relationship between you, your horse, the landscape and the monsters. It's effective and compelling, in a way that games used to be before visuals alone could carry an experience.

Sometimes simplicity produces the best results. Case in point: Shadow of the Colossus. This finesses each element within the game, making it the best that it can be and producing a classic PS2 experience that stands on a par with the best games from any genre and any platform.

Your character, Wander, brings Mono (a dead girl, although the relationship between them is not made clear) to an old temple in the hope of her being resurrected. Within the temple you encounter the mysterious disembodied entity Dormin who tells you that it is possible but to grant you this wish sets you the challenge of disposing of 16 mighty colossi.

From this simple beginning flows a game of beautiful landscapes, stirring music and challenging encounters unlike those in any other game.

The game play itself is very straightforward. I was either in the temple being given instructions by Dormin, travelling to a colossus or in battle. There are no other foes, no side quests, no other puzzles. No distractions from the task at hand and no superfluous elements.

I was armed with just a sword and a bow and accompanied only by my faithful horse Agro. For the majority of the time I was the only person in the game. And although I find solitary experiences unnerving, here it sat well with me.

My first encounter with a colossus was incredible.

My first encounter with a colossus was incredible. After riding a short distance from the temple I arrived at an area that acted as a tutorial to introduce the basic mechanics of the game, running, jumping rolling and climbing. Shadow of the Colossus throws in an interesting twist with its climbing - you can only hold on for a short time before you are forced to let go and fall off.

Reaching the top of the climb, a cut scene kicks in and I catch my first glimpse of the tall, two legged monster with a huge stone club. The sheer size was breathtaking and as soon as I started running towards it, I realised the enormity of the task as I stood barely as tall as its ankle.

This is where simplicity is stretched out into a series of challenges, difficult not because of complexity but through variety. Each colossus presents a different challenge and range in size from around 10 feet tall and able to attack quickly to the size of tower blocks with slower but crushing attacks.

Each lives in its own area where the battle takes place and vary from underground caverns to large lakes and open plains. Each foe has its specific weak points but the biggest challenge is to find them. Almost all have some form of armour or are able to attack you with energy beams or giant weapons. This ensures that no two battles are the same.

In amongst the crowd there are a few that really stuck in my head. The harder beasts became almost friends at times as they haunted my time away from the game as much as they hounded me during play.

Agro was with me throughout, and although rarely involved in the actual battles there is a real bond that develops between you and the horse. The journey to the final colossus produces one of the most emotional moments I have experienced in gaming as Agro and Wander are parted. I won't spoil it for you but it is a real Gandalf "No!" moment.

As I progressed through the game my emotions swung from the exultation of each slain colossus to a feeling of sorrow for them as they crumbled to their knees. Well, most of them. Some are aggressive from the start but the rest seem to be just minding their own business and going about their day as they please until I turn up and start stabbing them to death.

My emotions swung from the exultation of each slain colossus to a sad feeling of sorrow.

This conflicted feeling was a new for me in gaming. Killing and destruction are a major part of games, but go unquestioned with victorious scenes of defeat. To start feeling pity for these mighty beasts was unique and increased my affection for the game. It was only the desire to see Mono resurrected from death that pushed me forward.

Such was the weight of expectation over the weeks I was playing that the ending struggled to deliver the emotional release I was hoping for. It just didn't quite measure up to the stature of the rest of the game.

But I could forgive this destination for the journey I'd had with Shadow of the Colossus. It's a game I often go back to in my mind, and on occasion to play through again. For a returning gamer like me that's the highest praise a game can get.

Guest review by Gary McCombe

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Gary McCombe wrote this Returning Gamer article under the watchful eye of Sinan Kubba.

"As an 80s kid I was obsessed with gaming. But university, stress and life relegated my hobby to the backseat. After years in the wilderness, I'm back into video games. I don't just want to play games that remind of a happy youth though. I'm just as excited about games that take things forward, experiences that re-ignite that curiosity and fascination I had years ago."

Here are the games I've been playing recently:

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