PS2 – 2001
You [ICO] are a young boy with horns who seems about the age where he is on the brink of going into puberty. You are carried across multiple landscapes to a castle in the middle of a body of water where you are locked up in a sarcophagus. Children with horns are thought to be a bad omen and the villagers sacrifice those children in fear. Although naturally the tale doesn’t end here, the ground shakes as the villagers leave and ICO rocks the sarcophagus until it falls over and breaks.
As ICO is escaping he comes across an ethereal looking girl [named Yorda] locked in a cage. Do you leave her? Of course not! You free her, she seems to be a very nice but completely ignorant girl that acts more like a baby chick. As you attempt to escape it’s revealed that Yorda is the daughter of the Queen of the castle and that neither will be allowed to leave. After which point you spend the rest of the game solving puzzles in order to escape while being pursued by hordes of dark shadowey foes that attempt to grab Yorda and it’s your duty to rescue her each time. You lose the game if you don’t save Yorda from the shadow creatures in time.
So if you need great graphics to play a game I suggest you look elsewhere, after all this game was released for the PS2 in 2001. Although regardless of its age there is something very unique and artistic about this game that has not been captured quite the same in any other game I’ve ever played. So personally I’m very fond of the scenery. As for music this game doesn’t have much, in fact I think music mainly plays ominously when the shadowy creatures appear. I like this effect because it goes from the quiet sounds of your exploration to a sudden beat that urges you to HURRY!
When I first started playing this game after the first cut scene I was shocked…my eyes glanced to each corner of the screen and NOTHING?! Where is my health meter? Do I have magic? I have nothing!? How do you have a game like this without those things……well I soon learned that this game whittled away all the aspects that are characterstic of Action RPGs to the bare basics and I loved it for that. ICO has to solve puzzles in order to proceed through the castle rooms all the while attempting to keep Yorda as close as possible because once you stray away too far the shadow creatures begin to have their way with her [Get you mind out of the gutter! Thats not what I meant and you know it!]. The shadow creatures emerge from dark holes in the ground that don’t disappear until you defeat them all, they attempt to drag Yorda down this hole and if they accomplish that the game is over.
The puzzles are fun and greatly remind me of Zelda. [….I see an unlit torch and some sticks…hhhhhmmmm…..boy this is a tough one] Although I was able to solve most without much trouble, so they might be a tad easy but still require a few tries and some good timing in order to run back to Yorda in time to save her. This game had me proud of my puzzle solving skills until I read in Wikipedia that a dumbed down version of the game was what was released in the U.S.
The best aspect of this game is that with very little spoken plot and information on what exactly is going on you begin to greatly care for these characters. This game also allows you to interpret events how you choose to see them…do you imagine that Yorda and ICO have a brother/sister relationship or is it the first bud of romance? As I went through the game I began adding in these details in my own in my head as I saw fit. And the end result was a game that spoke to me deeply and my mind often casually wanders to ICO and the events in this game more than any other game I’ve ever played. Another aspect I appreciate is that this game is short…short and sweet. It takes 6 hours or so to defeat the whole thing.
This is a cult classic that anyone who considers themselves a hardcore RPG/Action Adventure gamer has to play. This game got RIDICULOUSLY amazing reviews! Yet no one bought it so it was a sleeper hit.