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Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the ColossusMachine: PS2

This one appears in the overrated section not because it's a bad game, it isn't, it's just not the marvel the critics would have you believe which is a shame because it could have been.

The concept of Shadow of the Colossus is simple, sixteen giant boss battles and nothing else. I suppose the developers wanted to create a pure game play experience by distilling games like Zelda down until all that remains are the bosses and then swelling them to unbelievable proportions so that you must climb all over them to defeat them. This is all very well in principle but something went wrong in the distillation process and they forgot to remove the game world. In fact instead of leaving out the game world they created one of the most impressive game worlds I’ve ever seen; beautifully rendered, realistically detailed and absolutely huge with no pauses for loading at all.

"What’s wrong with that?" I hear you cry. The problem is it’s completely empty, I spent hours exploring the beautiful landscape and met no one and found nothing. Don’t give me a huge game world to explore if you’re not going to give me any reward or reason for exploring it. The critics argue that anything else in the world would take away from the purity of the game which is just about those giant bosses, so why give us such a game world at all? It should have been distilled out, instead it feels like a work in progress; this is the world, these are the bosses, we’re still working on the game itself.

So what about the bosses themselves? This is where the real game is after all. They are huge and each one gets bigger, battling them is fun (as I said earlier, this isn’t a bad game) but it all gets a bit repetitive after a while; find the weak spot, grab on, stab, stab, stab, find the next weak spot, grab on, stab, stab, stab.

There are other problems too; the colours are so muted, at points nearly black and white, that I thought there was something wrong with my TV. I’m sure this is intentional, to give the game a moody feel but for me it just added to the generally miserable feeling of exploring an empty landscape – a bit like walking in the countryside on a cold grey day. Then there’s the Tomb Raider style control system which is quite un-natural; when I’m jumping towards a ledge, I don’t have to think to put out my arms to grab on, it’s an instinctive reaction so when the same happens in a game I don’t expect to have to think to press a button to make this happen it should be automatic.

Don’t let me put you off buying this game, it’s good fun for a while. Just don’t expect a masterpiece of pure game play or the best bosses ever. R-Type is still the benchmark for boss design and any of the modern Zelda games will give you a fully rounded and complete gaming experience in a similar style of game world.

Jakey 16 Apr '08

If you hate Shadow of the Colossus, bin it and try:

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This is the video game equivalent of the Pyramids. More...

A deep and captivating adventure that will live wolf-shaped in your consciousness long after you finish the game. More...

R-Type has long been the yardstick that all side scrolling shooters have been measured against and it's easy to see why. More...

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