I started Shadow of the Colossus tonight. Played for about an hour, defeating two colossi, gigantic monsters residing in a secluded valley the player explores in the game. Although the introduction sequence was typically long-winded, it was pretty obvious from the five first minutes of play that this game is something of a higher caliber than your run-of-the-mill action adventure: no inventory, realistic character movement, simply linear progression, fully continuous world and stunning attention to visuals; the graphic engine is butt-ugly as all hell to my eye when they try to use it for close-up shots of humans, and anti-aliasing is apparently a forgotten art, but it’s all made up by the scenery and attention lavished on the monsters. After Ocarina of Time, which I finished just this week, this is already the second game in a row where I’m actually content with the polygon-based 3d-engine. Apparently I’m just playing games that make appropriate use of the technology, or perhaps it has grown out of being a cancerous bastard on the side of the actual game that it was too often during the ’90s.
Once again simplicity is a virtue in video game writing, and the more left unsaid the better. The plot of the game is inspiring, what with the simplicity and pretty execution. I would have probably left the dialogue out altogether, it’s obvious enough what is going on even without it. Regardless, the game has a strong aesthetic factor going for it with the visual impressiveness and simple, stylized plot that even a video game writer couldn’t screw up.
Add to that a clean, analytic game concept that breaks up easily into short play sessions, and you get a package that would be difficult to screw up. The actual game activity has just a little slice of navigation/exploration, but the real meat is about dueling with giant monsters, which the player has to analyze from visual clues and research methods for slaying each by trial. It’s basically an action puzzle game. It was quite rewarding when I figured out where we were with the first colossus and proceeded to slash its left tendon, felling it to its knees, which allowed me to climb up by its butt-hairs onto a ledge on its back where I caught my breath; after that it was short work to climb up on top of the giant ogre’s head to stab it to death right through its thin upper skull. The black blood that squirts in copious amounts is a rather nice bonus visual, too!
I also found out that Shadow of the Colossus is apparently a sequel to a game called Ico; I have to say that my curiosity has been awakened by these news…