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Game of the Week: Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection

Read-only memory.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

I've often said that I will always prefer a new game over a remake when it comes to naming our game of the week, but this is the week I lay that rule to rest. The choice between two of today's releases made a nonsense of it.

Which possesses more originality and novelty: a craftsmanlike new iteration in a yearly simulation series, or a crafstmanlike technical overhaul of two singular, unrepeatable works of art? That's not a rhetorical question - I really don't know the answer. And you can hardly compare them on raw quality either.

So I suppose it comes down which is the more deserving of a spotlight. And let's face it, FIFA 12 really doesn't need our help - even though it's guaranteed to be the most-played game in the Eurogamer office for the next 12 months (or at least until Martin gets that MAME cabinet installed).

It would be a mistake to assume that it's completely without creative risk-taking, though. "The point of evolution is to improve in order to adapt and dominate one's environment, and FIFA 12 has done this - it keeps the best elements of FIFA 11 and builds on these already impressive foundations. The changes to the gameplay may not suit all players initially, but then evolution isn't always painless," wrote Nick Cowen, deputising for a poorly Tom on our FIFA 12 review.

"What it is, though, is a step forward, and after playing FIFA 12, going back to previous entries in the series seems almost unimaginable."

Another honourable mention must go to Aliens: Infestation on DS, in which WayForward Technologies continues to contradict its own name by revelling in a shameless passion for the 2D platform adventures of the mid-nineties. Its latest, and one of its best, asks the question: "What would a 16-bit Demon's Souls set in the Aliens universe look like?" How can you not want to know the answer?

Gaming has spent most of its young life obsessing over the future, paying lip service to the present and flatly ignoring the past. As I remarked recently, that's changing, and it's for the best. This week's releases are an extraordinary mishmash of remixes and re-versions. You can enjoy such delights as The Legend of Zelda's sadly overlooked multiplayer mutation, Four Swords, on 3DS (for free!), or the recent Child of Eden in a new Move-compatible version on PS3; games as variously famous and obscure as Minecraft, Another World, Katamari, Mercury and Castlevania appear in new or old incarnations on new formats. There's a new Worms game, too, but that's true every week.

(Incidentally, we'll have reviews next week of promising PSN exclusive Rochard, Another World on iOS, Minecraft on Android, The Binding of Isaac on Steam and the Game of Thrones PC strategy game. Still catching up after the Expo - thanks for your patience.)

And we also get new PS3 versions of two classic adventures from the last generation.

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection

After sampling the remasters of Fumito Ueda's PS2 pairing early this year, I was a little worried. Not that they wouldn't hold up - they're irrevocably chiselled into the gaming canon by now - but that something inchoate about them might have been lost.

They're so opaque; so fragile. What probably makes them stand out - since they're surprisingly conventional designs underneath it all - is that most other games strive to be potent and thrilling, or involving and complex. Ico and Colossus - the latter despite its monolithic scale - are content to be simple, empty and still. Playing them, you hold your breath, and the pad gingerly in your hands.

"Their hazy, bleached visuals, sorrowful air and vague stories make them seem like half-remembered children's books - the kind that had some secret, solemn, adult meaning that was always just beyond your understanding, but that affected you powerfully anyway," I wrote in a preview of follow-up The Last Guardian earlier this year. I wondered if that sense of delicate mystery would survive a pin-sharp presentation and rock-steady frame rate. I feared that they would no longer resemble 1970s stop-motion animation from Eastern Europe.

Are HD remakes erasing the past even as they restore it? It's a difficult question that Christian Donlan, who wrote our Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection review, will address in one of our Saturday Soapbox series soon.

Both Chris and Rich have praised the quality of the remastering work in this case, also pointing out that Shadow of the Colossus, severely compromised on PS2, can now run as its makers intended. Chris also identified a simpler benefit of this new release:

"Beyond the joys of seeing the games sharper and less shaky... is the simple pleasure of having them on the same disc and the same loading menu, where you can flick back and forth between them and ponder the way that they fit together.

"And they do fit together: not just in their shared fondness for windy skies, sun-bleached temples and inky enemies, but in the air of religious nastiness they have; the way they take you to a strange world of scapegoats and sacrifices, rituals and retaliations.

"Games often bring out the armchair detective in people. These two bring out the armchair anthropologist. That's a big part of why they've endured, and also why this HD collection is such a delight."

Me? I've been too scared of disturbing my spectral memories of these two games to put the disc in the machine. I've only played each once, and I think I'd rather keep them as they are in my head. But that doesn't mean I'm not delighted that they're back for everyone to enjoy.

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