If you or your kids have never played Ico or Shadow of the Colossus, you might want to consider acquiring the collection edition (remastered, high def, blah blah blah). Here’s a nice handy link to the games on Amazon, but if you can locate it at a GameStop it’s cheaper. These games are beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. The games are worth playing for the art alone, but the storylines are fantastic. True to Japanese story telling, you are dropped into a story without much explanation and when the game is done you will have unanswered questions. But the experience is rich and you will find yourself bonded into the experience.
Ico is one of the only games where I do not mind the escort part of the story, which, really, is most of the story. Early on in the game you find a girl locked in a cage. Having just been imprisoned himself, the boy you play doesn’t want to leave her behind nor be alone. Together you try and find a way out of the building that you have been locked in. But she won’t move on her own, and some shadow creatures are trying to recapture her through the game. You have to physically hold her hand to move her, help her up walls, and yes defend her from the shadow creatures. For those of you who rolled your eyes while thinking, “OMG, another story where the girl is useless and has to be rescued,” the way she is happens to be essential to the story. There are some things that only she can do or move. And you definitely get the sense that the girl, whose name we learn is Yorda, is not all present in this world. She’s faded and glowing, while your character is full color.
While Ico is an action/puzzle/platformer, it requires you to develop your sense of bravery as you are often forced to leave Yorda alone to clear the path ahead for the two of you as she cannot go through all the obstacles you can. You have to calm your sense of panic that the shadow creatures are going to find her the longer you are away from her. They will find her, it’s just a matter of time, so you have to think quick to solve the puzzles while dealing with the stress of a timed event and the fear of loss of the girl, which will only get stronger as you become more attached to her. By the end of the game, you will have bonded with Yorda.
Shadow of the Colossus, while having the same stunning artwork, has a very different style of gameplay. The director of the games, Fumito Ueda has himself said that the second game was made for gamers. There are some platforming elements, but the game is mostly known for being a boss battle, followed by a boss battle, followed by a boss battle.
This game is more quick thinking fighting strategy, where Ico was more quick thinking puzzle solving. Finishing Shadow of the Colossus is one of those geek badges that gamers carry around inside them. It’s a mark of respect to have earned the ending.
Whether it is you or your kid that plays this game (side note: these games are fun to watch someone else play, but you may find it hard to resist chiming in solutions or strategies as they are so engaging), I would be remiss if I did not let you know that some will find the endings sad. Don’t let that stop you from playing though. Let yourself become attached to the characters and fully immerse yourself in their stories. You’ll be better for the experience.