Developer(s) – Team Ico (SCE Japan Studios)
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director – Fumito Ueda
Inspired by Eric Chahi’s Another World, Fumito Ueda developed Ico, which was released in 2001, and has since become a cult classic among gamers. Personally preferring Ueda’s next game after this, Shadow of the Colossus, I found this game enjoyable to a certain extent, but I don’t think I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a cult classic.
Graphics – 7/10
Whilst the setting of the game is fairly well designed, and there are a few standout individual areas such as the windmill and the graveyard, the game’s visuals seemed a little repetitious to me after a while. But what I do have to respect this game for in terms of graphical presentation is the fact that it has gone on to inspire not only other game developers such as Phil Fish and Vander Caballero, but also film directors, such as Pan’s Labyrinth director, Guillermo del Toro. This game has also gone on to inspire the creation of such games as Twilight Princess and one of my personal favourites; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which I personally respect it for.
Gameplay – 6/10
An aspect I don’t entirely respect this game for is its style of play. On one hand, the game can get very samey, as the concept of what to do is to simply solve a puzzle, and then kill some shadowy creatures, and rinse and repeat. Combat to me isn’t particularly fluent, and annoyingly, the hit detection isn’t great either. I found myself growing bored about two hours in. But on the other hand, the puzzles are very well thought out, which provides the game with a fair amount of challenge, so Ico isn’t completely unplayable. It’s linearity for how big the setting of the game is doesn’t do it any favours either, the way I see it.
Controls – 9/10
As I pointed out before, the hit detection can be irritatingly inaccurate at times, and camera angles can seem somewhat awkward whilst climbing or traversing along buildings. But apart from that, there are thankfully no other problems to address.
Lifespan – 3/10
At best, Ico can only be made to last roughly 4 to 5 hours, which is unacceptable, as many side quests could easily have been added to make it last considerably longer; even despite its level linearity. It’s lack of additional content seems extremely unsavoury; especially as this was made in a time when 3D platforming had just about been perfected, and that there were more games released at the time with much more substance to them. So by that logic, Ueda was always going to have a hard time competing with the likes of Jak & Daxter, as in Ico, there simply isn’t enough to do.
Storyline – 9/10
Although Ico could not have been able to compete with other games in terms of gameplay, it excels above many in terms of story. The tale involves a small boy called Ico, who has been imprisoned in a castle, manages to set himself free from the coffin he is put in. Finding a captive girl called Yorda, he releases her and resolves to help her escape from the castle along with him. Like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, certain aspects of the story are told through gameplay, in that he two rely on each other to do certain things in order for the both of them to progress, conveying the themes of trust and co-operation, and it all makes for a inspiring and emotional tale, with a nice few plot twists thrown in for good measure.
Originality – 8/10
Though I have my reservations about this game, the fact of the matter is that a game like Ico, which has gone on to inspire so many people across the last decade, has to be considered unique. However, lack of imagination on the developer’s part stems from its lack of content in gameplay, in my opinion.
In summation, Ico can make for 4 or 5 hours of moderate entertainment and the telling of a well-written and well-conceived story, but to me, it is really missing a lot of gameplay variety and side quests, and again, seems like a little bit too much of a fleeting experience.