E3 2011: ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection Preview - ICO Hands-On Impressions

ICO gets the HD treatment, and we fall in love all over again.

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Technology ages, but great art is timeless. The upcoming ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection is shining proof that the best games never lose their luster. The post-conference E3 Sony event was loud, but we were still able to enjoy our time with Ico and Yorda, whose quiet affection captured our hearts almost 10 years ago. ICO has the look of an older game enhanced for a modern platform, so you wouldn't mistake it for a brand-new game for current-gen consoles. Yet its windswept vistas and looming castle spires still instill a sense of wonder. More importantly, the way its lead character so charmingly interacts with his shimmering female companion is still remarkable to witness, and it goes a long way toward investing you in this third-person puzzle/action adventure.

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The demo began with a short combat sequence. ICO's combat was never its strongest suit, but the shadowy fiends that seem so intent on dragging Yorda into their abyss remain frightening. After we dispatched this blackened foe, we had to climb up a chain to a platform above. The controls seem to have remained the same: By pressing triangle, you climb; by holding a shoulder button, you call for Yorda; and so forth. This simple puzzle involved pushing a block against the wall and climbing the chain. Then, we called for Yorda. She reached up and took Ico's hand, and he pulled her to the walkway. We then grabbed Yorda's hand and led her up several staircases, where more inky demons appeared.

While ICO's combat is simple, there are still some tactics involved. The winged horselike demons that appeared floated keenly away from our attacks. We had to wait for them to descend upon the vulnerable Yorda, who served as bait, allowing us to dispatch them. From here, we descended a ladder and called for Yorda to join us. Then, we ran down trolley tracks to the cart at the far end. With Yorda accounted for, we wheeled the trolley to the other end of the tracks. Here followed a series of puzzles that involved leaving Yorda behind while we climbed above to pull some switches and move a platform into place. That slight awkwardness of movement has been retained, and that is a very good thing. Ico is a child, and he controls as one. He flails when he approaches ledges and is not graceful as he climbs and descends. This subtle clumsiness is endearing, and it makes the pair seem all the more defenseless as they journey through this expansive edifice.

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ICO's HD makeover includes full 3D support, though we were sadly unable to see the game in 3D firsthand. However, the game looks lovely without added 3D effects. It's hard to imagine that this game, a PlayStation 2 classic, was intended for the original PlayStation. Whether you long to return to a rich world you have already explored or are planning to play ICO for the first time, you needn't wait much longer: ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection is due for release on September 27, 2011.

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