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Review: Shadow Of The Colossus

Posted Oct-31 2007 by ron
For Playstation 2, runs fine on PS3 (minus rumble), optional widescreen output, optional NTSC/60Hz mode


Team Ico has already shown us once that there is a way to deliver an engaging action adventure experience without an inventory, without equipment upgrades or even dialog. Shadow Of The Colossus is another brave attempt at minimalism, but this time on a much larger scale.
The game takes place in a closed-off pocket of land where nature has won out, and whatever civilization once existed has long passed away, leaving only a few ruins scattered here and there. After a long journey on horseback the young hero of the game arrives at the centerpiece of this "forbidden land", a monumental shrine. He's here because he needs a wish granted.

The hero and his horse in front of an altar

Wander, the young hero of the game, brought a dead girl to the forbidden land. He believes she can yet be saved here.

Wander, which seems to be the canonical name of Shadow Of The Colossus's hero, even though it isn't mentioned in the game, came to seek out "the Dormin", a spiritual entity that he calls upon to bring back the soul of a dead girl he carried all this way. Of course such a request will not be granted for free. The Dormin ask for a service in return.
The task you are given is to defeat sixteen colossi, enormous beings that inhabit certain spots in the forbidden land. You will have to take them down one by one, with just your sword and your bow, the same two weapons you already have at the start of the game.

Riding

The game world is large, but it's easy to cover the distance with your horse. The game world doesn't seem to have any purpose except for setting a certain mood for the upcoming battle, and maybe conveying a sense of scale.

When you leave the shrine and ride out into the land, you will find yourself alone. There are no lesser enemies in the entire game, and you will never meet additional characters. The only living things here are you, your horse, whatever colossus you are currently going for, and a few birds and small lizards here and there.
So with no further distractions even available, the short path to your first enemy will teach you the basic tricks of the trade: Wander can roll, jump and climb smaller obstacles. He can also hang off ledges to circle around columns or to move along walls even if he can't climb on top of them, and he can launch himself upwards from this position, off to the side, or straight away from the wall to cross gaps.

The first colossus

Uh oh. This is the very first enemy you will fight in Shadow Of The Colossus.

So far this might seem all too familiar, but Shadow Of The Colossus extends this set of movements by introducing a stamina mechanic and "grabbing" onto walls: you will find moss patches on some walls that allow you to crawl along them in any direction. You hold on to a patch by pressing a button, and this enables the crawling, but if you don't rest, you'll eventually lose your grip and fall.
You will learn all of this within your first ten minutes in the game. The path to your first enemy leads you through a little obstacle course that touches upon all these elements, and you will need to know them for the upcoming fight.

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