15 January 2010
"The game that was meant to be a book."
Well that is what the salesperson said when I bought the game years ago and I still remember his words to this day. I knew very little about this game when I walked into the store but I took a chance. That chance turned into one of the best games I have ever played. Ico was a more than just a game, it really was an adventure. A fantastic story, stunning visuals and unreal animation. During this period, Prince of Persia really cornered then market on video game character animation. Characters never really moved so fluid; almost lifelike. Then I played Ico and learned that the Prince wasn't the only one able to scale walls with grace and ease. There was a new character; a rather unusual character. Ico was a young boy who was born with horns, an outcast. Maybe a metaphor for some of us growing up - an outcast who would become a hero.
Ico was a story about a boy who meets a princess and has to save her from the clutches of an evil witch. Been there, done that? Well you're wrong. You've never seen anything like Ico before. It's a good while before Ico meets the princess, scaling walls and solving puzzles to avoid being trapped for eternity. The princess really has no skills. She's a princess. What do you expect? The most shocking and innovative part of this game was being able to take hold of the princess' hand and lead her through the dungeon to safety. I've never seen anything like that before. With a touch of a button, Ico would reach out and grab the princess by her hand and give her a yank as she stumbled in his direction just as a little boy would do to his sister. Amazing.
Ico possessed the skills to carry himself out of the dark places but now he had to figure out a way to get the not-so-skilled princess out as well. Perhaps moving a box for her to stand on as he then climbed up the wall himself, turning and lending a hand to hoist her up to the next level. Ico now had to take care of his new friend. Not to mention battling the witch's shadow beasts which would attempt to drag her back to her prison. A young boy with only a piece of wood battling the beasts and then dragging the princess to safety. I remember finding ways to bring the princess up to a tower and then once on top just gazed down to the world below where you once were and just thinking how amazing that was. I actually just did that? Relief.
You really will feel for both characters as they try to escape right up to the shocking ending. Ico is one of those games that received great praise but was missed by many. It is one of the best games I have ever played. So good that I played through the entire game five times. If I can do that, I urge you to do it at least once. You won't be sorry.
By Stephen O'Blenis