Shadow of the Colossus ReviewCain Dornan
Its a rare sighting: a game that stands clearly in its own bright light, basking in a radiance of brilliance, simplicity and distinctiveness. A game that isnt a straight clone of another, or one that simply combines elements of a select few that have come before it. Shadow of the Colossus is, quite simply, a stunning affair that impresses on many levels. Gone are the traditional uninspired boss battles, as is the regular repetitive enemy encounters. Its a game that is a cinematic and thoroughly impressive affair that will remain embedded in your mind long after you switch off your PS2. While its appeal will not reach all gamers, those who can find the beauty hidden within this deep title will appreciate the level of quality and creative brilliance that has been poured into virtually every aspect of this title.
Shadow of the Colossus follows the experiences of a male teenager as he endeavors to battle, and ultimately destroy, sixteen different towering beasts that are known as the Colossi. Driven by the desire to restore the lost soul of a mysterious woman, the teenager is informed by the higher powers to destroy each of the towering and occasionally small half animal, half rock creatures that are roaming the lands to restore life to the girl. With sword in hand and a trusty steed to ride upon, you set out on your epic quest as you travel across the games expansive lands and do battle with some of the most breathtaking creatures that you are likely to witness in a game.
The game sees you beginning from a large ancient temple, which the woman you are aiming to save is situated, and then traveling across the games expansive world to reach each of the sixteen different Colossis. By raising your sword into the air, the reflection of the sun off your sword indicates the direction in which you should travel to locate the Colossi. At times, the Colossi will be situated within a few minutes of travel from the temple, while others are located at much greater distances, often involving overcoming some relatively simplistic platforming sections and other environmental hazards. To make the journey less strenuous, the available of your horse allows you to travel over great distance with relative ease, and also use the horse as an aid during some battles against the Colossi. Upon reaching and destroying each Colossi, you are returned back to the temple, where a higher voice informs you of the next Colossi that you need to battle, before once again heading back into the open world to continue on your quest.
Shadow of the Colossus really doesnt have too much of a storyline. There is little speech and virtually no written information found within the game. Rather, you are presented with the occasional elegant cinematic that tells of a rather obscure story, requiring you to use your own imagination to piece together the small amount of information that is offered to form a rough story outlining, which further delves you into the games world as your imagination considers the possibilities surrounding the game..
Battling each Colossi offers a surprisingly varied experience. No two of the Colossi are the same, with each involving different actions to be performed in order to defeat the creature. Each of the Colossi have specified weak spots that are shown with a symbol but are not always immediately noticeable. Many require you to first discover a way to climb upon the large creature, which can be done by climbing up the animals hair or other jagged parts of its body. Often youll need to shoot specific parts of its body, such as with one Colossi that involved shooting large sacks underneath it. Since it was a flying creature, you needed to mount your horse and chase after it from the ground, aiming with your bow and shooting arrows into the sacks whilst galloping across the dry desert. Once you had pierced the sacks, the creature would then drop closer to the ground, allowing you to jump from your horse onto its body. From there, you needed to venture over the creatures body, attacking the weak spots at several different points, which eventually caused the creature to come crashing onto the ground. A different boss battle, on the other hand, involved climbing atop the Colossis head and then hitting its head on different sides to control its movement to different pillars that are situated around it. Once there, you could then manipulate the creature into revealing its weak spot, where you could then deal out the fatal blows. Each of the boss battles carry their own distinct methods of defeating the creature, resulting in none of the Colossi battles carrying the feeling of repetitiveness.
But discovering the way to defeat each Colossi is rarely an easy task. Youll often find yourself running aimlessly around the towering creatures as you endeavor to discover how to defeat it. It can become frustrating at times, which does slightly dampen the experience, but it never subtracts heavily enough from the game to cause you to throw the game aside and never play it again. The truth is, Shadow of the Colossus is the type of game that keeps you engaged from start to finish, causing you to have the constant desire to finish it completely.
The game controls almost flawlessly, with the interesting inclusion of the R1 button being used to determine when your character will hold onto ledges or other climbable objects. Rather than auto-grabbing onto objects, as is with many platforming adventure games, being able to control when you will grab ahold of something is definitely a positive thing, allowing you to have more control when climbing on the Colossi. You also have a grab meter, which determines how much strength your character has remaining to continue holding on to a Colossi or object. Presented as a pink circle in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, the meter slowly diminishes as you are holding onto something, which adds a level of strategy as you must plan out your climbing sequences so that you can reach a flat area to allow your character to recover before the meter depletes, causing you to lose your grasp and fall hundreds of meters.
The only real complaint that can be made in association to the games controls are the occasionally obscure camera angles, which become lost whilst scaling giant Colossis. On several occasions we were almost killed due to the camera becoming stuck at certain angles, causing us to fall to the ground. From there, we had to repeat what we had just done moments earlier to arrive back at where we were before falling off the creature. Frustrating indeed.
The games elegance is at its best in visuals. Shadow of the Colossus is a graphical splendor; it offers huge environments that feel as though they continue on for miles, while the towering beasts that you encounter offer an amazing level of visual beauty. They not only look great, but they also move amazingly; they slowly heave their body weight around, each step taking considerable strain on the creature as its crushing footsteps slam the ground, causing its whole body to react with each step in a believable fashion. Your character also offers a great level of detail, as he moves surprisingly smoothly with running, jumping, swimming and holding onto a creature while it bucks and shakes frantically. Its not the best seen on the PlayStation 2, but it certainly isnt far from it.
Accompanying the games solid visuals is the superb orchestral music, which manages to aid in setting the scene and feeling of the game considerably. While the music is either quiet or non-existent while you are not battling a Colossi, as soon as you begin battle, it becomes louder and more noticeable, adding to the whole epic experience. A range of quality sound effects are also on hand, which range from the moans of the towering Colossi as they move, stumble or are stabbed by your sword, through to the sound of your horse galloping or the swinging of your sword. The games presentation combined is truly impressive, offering a cinematic and distinct feel that helps to keep the game embedded in your mind long after youve finished playing it.
Its difficult to fault Shadow of the Colossus, as the games developer has done a magnificent job at combining a range of different elements to form a game that is immersive, cinematic and utterly unforgettable. Those looking for a refreshing experience will certainly find it in Shadow of the Colossus.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.