gamers (95%) found this review helpful
ICO is one of the games that can define the experience of the PS2 platform. Like other beloved games like Xenosaga, Secret of Mana, and Castlevania, ICO is a game that reaches out for the imagination of the player and ensnares it with something that isn't shaped, cut, and dried the way other games are. While trying not to reveal too many details, it should be said that ICO's story has a very unique, ethereal feel to it. It is vague and amorphous, most of the details are only implied, and there is almost no dialog in the entire game. However, at the same time it seems to tell the entire story very clearly, by expressing the feelings and mood of the characters through some of the most amazing graphics on the PS2, coupled with very slight and strategic use of color and sound. Character movement and interaction are simply superb, the way the two characters act and interact with each other is as much a part of the story and the game as the graphics and gameplay. Overall, the effect that ICO gives the player is a feeling of environmental unity, it's useless for the player to try to isolate one part of the game and turn it into a mental breakdown of numbers and effects like with most other RPG's and puzzle games. ICO feels more organic and whole than other games, and should be used as a model for RPG's in general.
Gameplay is set up simply as a string of logic and interaction puzzles, similar to other action/adventure games, however the environments themselves seem to lend less toward the ultimate goal of progress, the environment itself obfuscates the actual game to the point that the player can forget that he or she is playing a puzzle game, and just interact with the game on a basic exploratory level and manage to make it through the game. The level of interaction with the game reminds me of a child poking an animal with a stick, however playing the game is much less cruel. Combat is tricky enough to be a challenge, and not so difficult as to detract from the game.
gamers (100%) found this review helpful
I thought I'd try my hand at reviewing, for a change, but maybe I should have picked something easier!
ICO is difficult to review because it's vastly different from anything I can think of. It's almost an interactive movie... but without any movie aspects. Okay, let me put it this way: this game places you, with little explanation, in an ancient castle. You won't get a heads up display, or a tutorial, or items or collectibles or maps. Your only goal is escape, one room at a time.
You might think it's harsh at first, staring at a lever and having no idea how to pull it. I did, too. Fortunately, it's almost impossible to get a game over, and once you've gotten the (surprising simple) control scheme down, you're set, and that's when you really start to appreciate this game.
The graphics aren't special by todays' standards, of course, but the lighting and the landscape are amazing. The camera sweeps over bottomless drops, crumbling castle walls, vast plains. Think Lord of the Rings. ICO may not be able to render pebbles and leaves, but you'll be too busy gaping at epic strongholds to notice.
The music is almost non-existent, as is the dialog. (Of the games' three characters, two don't speak the same language, and the last you'll only see twice.) But much like Legend of Zelda, the game uses actions to define their characters, not long speeches. The only thing you'll hear is the environment, like birds chirping or flickering torches.
That, plus the lack of any video game staples, make this game unique. It's, at the risk of sounding girly, beautiful. Okay, now for the bad news. The combat can get pretty repetitive (or frustrating, if you really don't get it), and the game only provides 5 hours or so of gameplay, with almost no replayability. But that's about it. It's as deep as any Final Fantasy, but for entirely different reasons. It's the shortest RPG I've ever played, but as involving as any of them. If you want 80 hours of emotional investment in 5, pick up ICO.