Shadow of the Colossus has been on my OMG WANT TO PLAY list since its original launch back in 2005 for the PS2. I missed it then, and I missed it again on the PS3 when the remastered version was released in 2011. So when the not-even-remaster-but-legit-remake version of the game for PS4 was announced, I wasn’t going to miss it a third time. That’s probably a crime or something.
Back when our esteemed assistant editor Tarryn and I first met, we spent a not so insignificant amount of time quizzing and making fun of each other about the games we had and hadn’t played over the course of our lives. We didn’t know it at the time but it was essentially, I know that now, a kind of nerd mating ritual. It’s been about six years since, and I have to assume we both passed this very important prospective partner test, as we’re now bound by wedlock and have a menagerie of fur-kids to help familiarise us with some form of what most people refer to as “adult responsibility”.
Inevitably, though, some embarrassing disclosures came out of this subliminal vetting process – she hasn’t played Half-Life, for example [shut up, nobody even cares – Ed]. And I hadn’t played things like Quest for Glory, or Fallout 2, or Shadow of the Colossus [your list is worse – Ed]. As I’ve explained, it’s been on my to-do list, but lack of ownership of any of Sony’s consoles left me sad and Shadow of the Colossus-less at the time. As it turns out this was, in fact, a blessing in disguise.
Rebuilt from the ground up by indie developer Bluepoint Games, Shadow of the Colossus isn’t a remaster. It’s a complete remake of Team Ico’s cult-classic, and Bluepoint Games’ hard work really does seem to have paid off. The game is a gorgeous, authentic reproduction of original – but this shouldn’t come as a surprise for two big reasons. Firstly, Bluepoint is no stranger to the game, as it did the remaster of the original for the PS3. Secondly, the studio has a ton of experience in the trendy field of making-games-look-prettier, with previous projects including The Nathan Drake Collection, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Gravity Rush Remastered, Flower, and The God of War Collection on its resume. Those are some impressive credentials, and Shadow of the Colossus is no exception.
The game itself is pretty straightforward. Boy brings dead girl a long way to a sacred, kind of creepy place hoping that some disembodied voice can breathe new life into her, because she is important for reasons that aren’t immediately (or ever) relevant, and he isn’t into necrophilia… or something. He gets the standard-issue quid pro quo plot development, and is promptly tasked with some discreet assassination work on a bunch of gargantuan monsters, no big deal.
So, powered by love, desperation, and (probably) a terror-boner, our vagabond hero embarks on a quest that anybody else would instantly have noped out of. I mean, this guy has to kill building-sized behemoths with a sword that’s smaller than a pin to them, just as a scale reference. The point of the game is to find a victim, yank the furry bits and poke the glowy bits until it dies, and then move onto the the next one, like some kind of 4chan fetish serial killer. Every colossus is an increasingly more intricate puzzle to solve, and the game’s unconventional mix of soothing and exceedingly frustrating is mostly a lot of fun.
What’s perhaps most impressive is that, conceptually, it hasn’t aged too badly at all, which is uncommon for a game that’s now almost 13 years and two console generations old. Most remasters and remakes look great but don’t generally resonate well with new audiences, and even fans might sometimes begrudgingly concede that they’d remembered the game through the ambiguous haze of nostalgia. That’s not the case here, as it’s a charming and eccentric game, with a simple but intriguing story, and a kind of austere melancholy that lingers long after it’s over.
The one thing I was extremely annoyed with, however, was the camera. You have complete control of it while on your horse, but if you stop moving it manually, it reverts to its default position, making it difficult to look around. This is even more annoying during a fight while you’re scrambling up a colossus and it moves, so the camera tries to compensate and ends up on the other side of the thing, with its enormous frame between you and your character. The camera can be readjusted while you are in the heat of the battle, sure, but sometimes costs you valuable seconds, and on several occasions resulted in my death. Most upsetting.