Ico

Good
  • An incredible story that focuses on immersing you in the bond between unknown characters with a shared goal
  • Genre defining at the time with a fantastic mix of puzzle and platforming mechanics
Bad
  • Some frustrating sequences due to level design and camera issues that can result in broken immersion that the game tries so hard to build
8

Ico (ICO) mixes puzzles and action-adventure together with an impressive game design from a well known studio (Team Ico) creating an experience that is both mysterious and full of fantasy elements. Core to the design of Ico was the minimalist approach undertaken during the game development to ensure the player could focus on the story and setting to reach a high immersion level. Originally released for PlayStation 2 Ico was later bundled with Shadow of the Colossus for release on the PlayStation 3 console platform.

ico-gameplay-puzzles

Playing as a young boy named Ico that was born with horns and banished to an abandoned castle by his village your adventure begins in the realistic but fictional fantasy universe that the game is set. After some early exploration of your immediate surroundings players uncover Yorda, a girl who does not speak the same language as the player but appears equally desperate to escape their current situation within the castle. As the pair attempt an escape from what was assumed to be an abandoned castle by the village they are blocked by the queen who rules over the castle and uses her shadow creatures to enforce that rule.

As a result this journey of Ico sees players combating the shadow creatures with their trusty blade and guiding Yorda through various puzzles and obstacles that also appear. Opting for minimal dialogue the game and unique lighting techniques Ico walks that line between art and video gaming which saw it captivating gamers and reviewers alike and has since seen many other titles attempt to offer a similar range of mechanics and visual designs.

ico-gameplay-shadow-combat

These notable mechanics for the time include having Ico push items, climb ledges, jump and solve other types of puzzles throughout the castle within a 3D environment. Split into specific rooms with a fixed camera that follows Ico and Yorda players can explore their surroundings to a small degree to determine their next step as they plan a route into the next room while avoiding the dark minions of the queen.

Yorda will also follow players in these rooms and she can be commanded to stay in place if required but Ico can never adventure too far away as she is required to open certain doors. Additionally Yorda doesn’t share the same flexibility as Ico with limited movement capabilities, requiring players to alter the environment as necessary to help her through the different rooms of the castle.

ico-gameplay-yorda

Similarly Yorda is not capable of fighting back the shadow creatures and if taken away will be sucked into a vortex if players cannot dispatch the shadows quickly enough. If you leave Yorda for too long and she is fully sucked into these vortexes the game will end and restart from the latest save point. With these shadow creatures ignoring Ico entirely Ico’s only death comes from the large platform heights you’ll find yourself climbing over.

Summary:

  • A journey of Ico and Yorda, two different characters with a shared objective to escape the castle darkness.
  • Dispatch shadow creatures with your weapon as you solve puzzles around the castle rooms.
  • Protect and guide Yorda to freedom.
  • Limited dialogue and unique artistic lighting brings greater game immersion..
  • Originally on PS2 with a PS3 re-release.

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Videos:


Review Platform: PS3

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Written by
Samuel Franklin
Samuel Franklin is the founder and lead editor of the Games Finder team and enjoys video games across all genres and platforms. He has worked in the gaming industry since 2008 amassing over 3 million views on YouTube and 10 million article views on HubPages.

Games Finder is a Steam Curator and featured in the aggregate review scores data of MobyGames and Neoseeker.
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