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So, I just finished playing ICO...


JFo
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Well, I didn't just finish it. I finished it earlier this week, and I've been meaning to post something about it ever since then. To be honest with you, I had this post all planned out. Once I was finished playing, I was going to storm in here, and demand to know why the hell no one told me to play ICO sooner. Looking back at this thread, and in particular, the second reply I realize that I can't do that. Yeah. Big thanks for ruining plans, stencil!

 

Seriously though, I really did enjoy this game. The trouble is that when I try to explain what makes it so great to those who have not played it, I know I will inevitably convince them to not buy it. The game is quiet and moves at an extremely slow pace. The battle system is rudimentary at best and the enemies are sparse in diversity. It's also extremely easy, and can be completed by a skilled gamer in well under 10 hours. There's no branching storylines, no multiple endings, and nothing that would earn it any points in the all in the replayability department.

 

Yet, it all works. It works beautifully, in fact. It works primarily because of two things: art direction and atmosphere. The player can't help but be sucked in the world ICO creates. Yes, it's quiet and slow, but it's not about action. Yes, the combat system is perhaps overly simple, but the emphasis here is on puzzle solving. Finally, yes the experience will last less than 10 hours, but it never grows stale. Like a good movie, it's exactly as long as it needs to be.

 

Graphically, the game strikes me as simple, but highly effective. I won't be using ICO to show of my home theater system any time soon. However, I love looking at it. The levels themselves are immense, spanning out as far as the eye can see. I also love how the entire game is given a touch of over exposure to heighten colors and add to the fantasy of it all. Then there's Yorda with her ghostly white robes and feather-light steps. The only word to describe her is haunting. Normally a character this helpless would annoy me to the point of grinding my teeth down to the gums, but watching over her never felt like a chore. I felt an urgent need to protect her, as if she was something very precious and not just another non-playable character.

 

Like the graphics, the soundtrack relies on understatement to make its point. Most of the time, there's nothing more than ambient noise to fill the gaps, and the most commonly heard sound throughout the whole game is the sound of ICO walking. The music is simple, quiet, but like Yorda, haunting and therefore fitting.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the emphasis in ICO is on puzzle solving. As with most adventure games, the puzzles involve moving blocks, activating switches, opening doors and doing whatever is necessary to get to the next section. Some puzzles are more difficult to solve than others, but ultimately examining your surroundings and using the objects available can solve each one. More often then not, the solutions to the more difficult puzzles will make you go, "Why didn?t I think of that before?" ICO works the brain just as Ninja Gaiden works reflexes.

 

With that in mind, I recently read at IGN that a sequel may be in the works, tentatively called NICO, which strikes me as odd. As I understood it, ICO didn't sell many copies, and it can be hard to find. (I only have my copy because a friend of mine collects PS2 games and happened to have two copies.) Regardless, I would love to see a sequel and I hope that we hear more about it at E3.

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I agree with you completely.

 

There has never been an NPC in a game that I was more concerned with saving than Yorda. You knew she was helpless in this game and she just wanted to escape. I felt like I HAD to do everything I could to get her out of that castle.

 

I actually didn't mind that there wasn't a great variety of bad guys. Since the emphasis of the game was more on puzzle solving, rather than bashing evil doers, I thought their lack of variety wasn't an issue.

 

I'm really curious where they will go with a sequel, but I can only hope that they'll create a world as wonderful as the original.

 

BTW, I saw copies of ICO the other day at Best Buy for $20. Hopefully, they're starting to work their way back into the retail stores again.

 

Glen

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I should probably go list this in the 'games everyone but you liked' thread. I love the gorgeous art direction, I love the subtle sound design, I think its a brilliant attempt to do more with a game than does something different for Sony, but I just really don't get on with it. There are about three puzzles in the entire game that I've managed to figure out without help, and the fighting is really, really irritating.

 

Oh well.

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