“Shadow of the Colossus” defies video game conventions. Because of this, it is somewhat difficult to review it fairly.
At the start of the game, the player is dropped into a vast land, and is only provided with a short bit of story. All the player learns is that a woman is dead and that in order to resurrect her the unnamed main character has snuck into a “cursed” place and must defeat 16 large creatures known as Colossi.
These Colossi are amazing creatures to see, even if they are just part of a video game. Each one is unique, lifelike and generally humongous.
Defeating one brings about a great feeling of accomplishment, as well as a slight hint of sadness. The Colossi are so majestic in nature that bringing one down is far more emotional than killing any other computer-developed monster ever could be.
Once a Colossus is found, exploiting its weakness is the key to bringing it down. Shooting one flying creature with arrows, for example, will antagonize it. It will grow angry and swoop down at the player. Instead of running away, the player must jump onto the monster, making his way to its weak spot and attacking.
Figuring out the secret to each one is half the fun. The other half is actually pulling it off.
Though the game’s massive creatures provide fun thrills, some problems arise with the formula. For one, there is nothing to the game other than these boss fights with the Colossi.
Traveling through the large world can grow slightly boring. It was obviously a design choice to make the player travel through a quiet land in his search for each Colossus, but even though the world is large and filled with beautiful landscapes, I could not help but feel that the land was empty.
Of course, those thoughts came from the traditional game player inside of me. Gamers are used to having to work their way up to the boss battles, not being led directly to them. In “Shadow’s” defense, most of these boss battles are more thrilling than many other game’s mindless puzzles or fights. It’s just a game-play style that requires getting used to.
Another small problem that can lead to much frustration is the way in which the game leads you to your boss fight. The player is shown the Colossi’s direction, but more often than not, mountains or chasms block the way. When there are multiple paths around such a roadblock, it is strictly a matter of guessing which way to go. This can kill the game’s pacing at times.
After defeating a particularly impressive Colossus, I anxiously headed toward the next one in anticipation, only to find out that I had chosen the wrong path.
Rather than take the time to backtrack, I simply chose to turn the game off because all of the excitement that the game had built inside of me had been replaced with anger and confusion.
Still, there is nothing quite like “Shadow of the Colossus.” Game players should not miss out on the most unique gaming experience this year just because of a few snags along the way.
Matthew Loriso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.