Shadow of the Colossus Preview
By: M. Brouwer

Ecstasy prevailed upon first hearing that the team behind ICO were producing another game. Released in 2001, ICO proved to be a beautiful blend of action, adventure, and puzzle-based gameplay. Together with a mysterious and gripping storyline and excellent cinematic qualities, the game became an instant cult hit. Now, after 4 years, its creators are back with Shadow of the Colossus—which has been referred to as ICO’s “spiritual successor”. GamersHell recently had a chance to play a short preview demo of the game to get a taste of what to expect.

The demo starts out with a bird’s soaring flight over the game world. After a while we see a young man on a horse, riding across the terrain. After a series of beautiful vistas he reaches a huge bridge. Then, abruptly, the camera cuts and returns with the same boy lying on the floor inside some sort of building hacked into the side of a mountain. A gorgeous young woman lies on an altar, she appears to be asleep and you are unable to wake her. After a short series of instructions concerning movement and control you are then introduced to your main weapon, a magical sword with the ability to reflect light and focus it into a guiding beam. After some practice with the sword you are ready to go. You mount your horse and set off from the temple to whatever awaits you.

Now, firstly, the horse riding is really something special. You control the horse with the 2 analog thumb sticks, the controls are rather sensitive and, in combination with dual-shock, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Once the art of horseback riding is mastered you set off on a quest to find the 16 ‘colossi’ spread throughout the world—at this juncture we can only assume that their destruction releases the sleepy bonds of the aforementioned enchanted beauty. The game is free roaming and you can choose wherever you wish to go—within limits set down by the environment itself of course.

Using your magic sword to focus a beam of guiding light you soon find your way to a cliff face. It’s much too steep for your trusty horse to traverse, however, so you dismount and scramble your way to the top by way of some impressively acrobatic climbing. Another entertaining factor comes into play at this point. Unlike so many games of this ilk, in Shadow of the Colossus your character actually suffers the effects of physical fatigue, which means you can’t just hold on indefinitely to a demandingly perilous cliff face. You have to move fast and ensure your strength gauge doesn’t fully deplete before completing the task.

After some rigorous climbing, you eventually make it to the top. Here you are confronted with your first colossus. This initial contact might come as a shock. As their name suggests, the colossi are absolutely HUGE. We are talking the size of mountains here—no exaggeration—your character is but an ant by comparison. But you, being the prerequisite game hero, attract its attention and proceed to bring it down.

At this point your second weapon becomes available, namely a longbow. After catching the colossus’ attention you then pop off a few arrows in its direction, which unsurprisingly seem to invoke absolutely no physical effect—in actuality the attack just seems to piss the giant man of stone off.

You quickly realize that ranged combat is not the answer to this sizeable problem, especially as the colossus is armed with a giant stone club that can pulverize you easily from a great distance. After some nimble maneuvering you are able to get in close and actually scale the mighty colossus. You then have to hack away at him piece by piece as you climb to the top of his head, where you’ll finally locate his weak spot. At this point you gleefully topple the fearsome giant…but sadly it’s also where the preview ends. By way of bonus scraps we were treated to some further cinematic sequences of other colossi, but that was about it.

Graphically, the game currently doesn’t appear to hold anything special, we’ve all certainly seen better graphics on the PlayStation2 platform; however, Shadow of the Colossus does contain some beautifully cinematic qualities. The lighting, for example, is a marvel. As with ICO, it is implemented very effectively and really adds to the mysterious atmosphere surrounding the game. The camera work is also well done. One fun little feature is that you can control the camera to some extent during cut sequences, allowing you to choose your own angle on unfolding events.

On the whole, we were suitably impressed with the general feel and style of the game and are looking forward to slapping our greasy paws on the final product. Shadow of the Colossus is scheduled for release in October, and we will, of course, provide you with an in-depth review just as soon as it’s available.