ICO

Spotlight

FeatureEurogamer vs Tom Bramwell

"I probably don't know what I'm talking about."

Digital FoundryIco PS2/PS3 Performance Analysis Video

A locked 30FPS on platforms old and new.

Digital FoundryIco HD Showcase: PS2 vs. PS3 Video

Intro scenes compared in this special presentation.

Digital FoundryIco PS2/PS3 Comparison Video

Direct A to B comparison: standard def vs. HD.

Key events

17th February 2006

ICO

4th November 2005

ICO re-issue confirmed

30th March 2002

ICO

FeatureIn praise of bad game design

Taking the rough with the smooth.

There is a certain language we too often use around video games, a particular body of criteria and expectations. You could call it the cult of smoothness. This is, I'll admit, more of a characterisation born of years spent trawling forums than it is some kind of scientific appraisal, but glance over the average review comments thread and you might know what I mean. It's the idea that an excellent game is, fundamentally, a game that knows how to get out of your way. This is the language of “polish” and “seamless” integration, of beautifully chiming ludic and narrative components, of vast realms in which you are never truly lost, and campaigns that "peak" and "trough" considerately, setting up a tempo of crises and revelations without ever seriously jolting you.

Ico's original script has been translated

Two-thirds of its lines went unused.

Fumito Ueda's classic PS2 fantasy adventure Ico originally had significantly more dialogue prior to its release. Fans at The Cutting Room Floor data-mined the game's files to discover that 77 of the game's 115 lines of text went unused. Now, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia translator Aria Tanner has offered her own translation to this omitted dialogue.

FeatureEurogamer vs Tom Bramwell

"I probably don't know what I'm talking about."

Today is Tom Bramwell's last day at Eurogamer. The former editor-in-chief leaves after nearly 15 years at the company. We're all sad to see him go, but wish him well for the future, whatever it may hold.

The Last Guardian: Sony confirms Fumito Ueda's departure

The Last Guardian: Sony confirms Fumito Ueda's departure

Is "committed to completing" the project.

Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian creator Fumito Ueda has left Sony, the PlayStation manufacturer has confirmed.

Ueda is finishing PlayStation 3 exclusive The Last Guardian on a contract basis, and is "committed to completing" the project, Sony said in a statement issued to Gamasutra.

The 41-year-old's departure, exclusively revealed by Eurogamer last month, ends a 14-year career at Sony that has seen the launch two of the most iconic PlayStation games ever. Following The Last Guardian's release, currently set at some time in 2012, Ueda will pursue personal projects.

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Digital FoundryIco/Shadow of the Colossus: PS2 vs. PS3

18 minutes of beautiful HD comparison footage.

Finally! Over 14 months ago we heard that Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were being remastered in high definition for the PlayStation 3, and we offered up some HD emulation to give you some idea of how these classic games could look on the latest Sony console. Since then, aside from a trailer or two, there hasn't really been much we could follow up on.

Who's making the Ico/SOTC remasters?

Who's making the Ico/SOTC remasters?

And will they run at 60FPS or 30FPS?

Who has Sony tasked to remaster two of gaming's most treasured creations, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus? Bluepoint, the company that remastered God of War I & II for Blu-ray.

Phew.

Sony Santa Monica's director of technology Tim Moss confirmed Bluepoint's involvement.

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Team ICO Collection "around 25"

Out March or April, sources tell us.

The heavily rumoured ICO / Shadow of the Colossus high definition PlayStation 3 collection will be released in March or April next year and cost "around 24.99", industry sources have told Eurogamer.

Team ICO pack for LBP this week

ICO, Yorda costumes shown.

Media Molecule will offer a Team ICO pack for LittleBigPlanet this Thursday, paying homage to brilliant PS2 games ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.

ICO creator to speak at GDC

Ueda ready to show PS3 game?

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus creator Fumito Ueda has been confirmed as one of the speakers for the Game Developers Conference next month.

Cage pays tribute to ICO developer

"He has a real sense of poetry."

Heavy Rain developer David Cage has described ICO and Shadow of the Colossus director Fumito Ueda as one of "very, very few artists" working in videogames.

ICO is not a game, says Ueda

But Shadow of the Colossus is.

Is ICO a videogame? "Yes, you idiot" would be most people's response - but the man who created it would disagree.

ICO

ICO

Out of the Shadow.

Tom's not ready to break up

Here's a truism about games: very little is ever as good as you remember. I really believe that. In fact, I believe it so much, I'm going to make you sit there while I brutally shatter several of my own dreams just to prove a point. Let's see. I regularly describe Super Mario Kart as one of my all-time favourite games. I will now play it.

Oh god. Oh GOD. GOD. I was just being bolshy! I thought this was going to be another abandoned intro cast into the depths of the .doc, destined to sit there until I rubber-stamp its backspaced doom! I'M ACTUALLY RIGHT! SUPER MARIO KART IS AWFUL! This is what I remember: fluent, brilliantly fast and controllable racing. This is what I just experienced: stop-start, horribly unforgiving drift-drenched nostalgicide.

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Shadow of the Colossus dated

Plus: ICO re-release dated.

Sony has announced that Shadow of the Colossus, the long-awaited follow-up to cult classic ICO, will be heading to European PS2s on February 17th.

ICO re-issue confirmed

ICO re-issue confirmed

Coming to Europe Feb 2006!

A re-issue of Sony's seminal PS2 title ICO has finally being given the green light in Europe, it was confirmed today, and is set to be released alongside SCEJ's new 10/10 title, Shadow of the Colossus in February 2006.

The news will come as an immense relief to those who have so far missed out on the title, with prices on ebay routinely fetching over 50. One enterprising London store recently priced the limited version at around 80.

The re-issue of ICO is almost certain to emerge in the standard packaging; minus the immensely-collectable cardboard sleeve and limited edition set of four postcards.

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ICO

ICO

Review - the purest form of entertainment

Sony Publisher Sony The Sun Is Shining The air is filled with the sound of rushing water, hundreds of metres below at the foot of the cliff. There's a windmill just ahead of me, with a broken spiral staircase slumping apologetically into a pool of gleaming water. As I look around I'm dazzled by the sun and have to retreat a few steps into the shade to see properly. I've just beaten a severely irritating room packed with spirits of the netherworld, but this is far from a thankless task. The serene beauty of the scene before me, two hours into Ico's adventure, is one of the most spectacular sights ever witnessed in interactive entertainment, and this is nothing compared to the rest of the game. ICO was borne of an incredibly simple concept: escape. The huge castle in which the game is set was supposed to be Ico's prison and eventual tomb, the last chance for his community to purge itself of the burden of evil. Apparently children born with horns are no good, telltale sign of coming famine and desolation, and so Ico finds himself locked in a peculiar egg-shaped casket at the age of twelve, shut away in an enormous, impregnable but more importantly inescapable cliff top Bastille. When he finds himself the beneficiary of an unusual stroke of luck, however, he - and by extension the player - is offered the chance to affect an escape. Within a few minutes of escaping Ico comes up against a set of tightly locked doors, signalling the end of his good fortune. But not for long, as he spots a giant birdcage hanging from the ceiling of an enormous room, which, he discovers, contains the fetching princess Yorda, whose bizarre language is apparently incompatible with his, or indeed our own. Releasing her proves important, because some bizarre power pulses through her veins, and the distinctive doors barring the couple's path magically part at her very presence. More Than Meets The Eye It might not sound like it, but ICO is much more than a platform puzzler, and although it sounds like a simplified Project Eden or even an update of multi-platform classic Dizzy, it's definitely its own game. Developed by Sony in Japan, it stars two extremely anime-esque characters on a simple quest, battling to escape an ancient foe. The castle wants to keep its prisoners, and as we learn from what fragments of the story there are to put together, it places a particular importance on keeping Yorda. But this isn't about to stop Ico, as he runs through subtly detailed corridors, across bridges and along balconies, hangs from the edge of cliffs and swings from chains, all the time struggling to keep Yorda in relative safety and within easy grabbing distance. As the game's puzzles grow in complexity and become multi-faceted, often spreading themselves across several rooms, Ico is able to gain Yorda's trust by treating her with respect and helping her to solve problems she seems far too dizzy to complete by herself. Indeed, as the game wears on she will take leaps of faith and follow closely, whilst in the early sections the player has to keep a tight hold of her hand to get her to follow at all… Both characters are stunningly detailed and beautifully animated. Ico's horns poke through a little cap, giving the impression of a kid wearing a Viking helmet, and Yorda's dazzling, practically bridal white dress covers up all the important bits while seeming to float delicately on the light sea breeze. Her hair is brown with white twinges and hangs unkempt about her face, and along with a confused facial expression gives her a delightful unassuming beauty. Ico moves swiftly and responds instantly to control input, and it's clear in places that the developer has sacrificed the odd frame of superfluous animation to maintain this speed. Elsewhere he can leap dramatically in about a hundred different ways and catch handholds with chilling realism. Who needs motion capture with such stunning attention to detail? Keeping up her end, Yorda runs buckled forward slightly when he drags her along, with her little bare feet stumbling over uneven ground. The running animation is utterly realistic and truly a sight to behold. The Dark Side Along the way spirits of the netherworld, working under the instruction of a dark sorceress, fight Ico and try to drag Yorda back through dark portals. These spirits are portrayed as featureless bodies like silhouettes and shadows against the masonry and fight bodily for the young princess, with two gleaming white eyes the only sign of life about them apart from the unsettling music that betrays their coming. Ico can beat them with his wooden torch and later a sword, and although fairly relentless they are there mainly to stop players from leaving Yorda unattended for long periods of time. Slinging her over a shoulder and making for the nearest portal, the shadow beasts are a nuisance, but a necessary evil. The reason Ico's fight for freedom is so compelling is the way the game manages to reward the player over and over again. There is no HUD, no collectibles (apart from a few weapons) and no clichéd objectives list to scan every five seconds. The control system consists of walking, running, jumping, attacking, climbing and calling (or dragging) Yorda. Along the way Ico can operate switches and blow the odd thing up, and to help accentuate important details the camera can zoom in to give players a closer look, but on the whole the game is very simple and keeps its eye on the prize. The only way a game like this can hope to keep people coming back is through a creative reward structure. And the way ICO goes about it is ingenious. To begin with, Ico is trapped inside, with menacing, eerily spacious rooms and the odd beam of light penetrating the cloud cover and bursting through the windows. Before long, however, Ico is outside, looking out into the mist and facing the full force of a sun low in the sky, with gusts of wind billowing in the air and filling your ears with noise. As the player progresses, the sun rises in the sky and elicits stunning visual effects. The rays are soft and warm, and after a couple of hours you find jaw dropping, meticulously detailed areas packed with grass, water and failing masonry for them to embrace. Before much longer you're faced with ornate structures built outside the complex, teetering on the edge of enormous cliffs, and completing the puzzles within harnesses the light - what else - to help you open the main doors and perhaps venture one step closer to escape… Gush, Gush, Gush Complementing the peerless visuals with a measure of class is the aural side of things. I have already made mention of the excellent sound effects, but the voice acting is another highlight. Now, when I say "voice acting" I'm speaking vaguely, because none of the characters in ICO really speak English. Or Japanese. Or any other known language. In fact, although all are subtitled, most of the subs are incomprehensible squiggles with only a smattering of vaguely crucial plot information translated. And still, the tone of the gibberish Ico and Yorda spout to one another at irregular intervals is surprisingly emotive. You can tell if they are enthusiastic, excited, reluctant, even sad. Like the rest of the game, it's art. The difficult thing with ICO is that it's over very quickly. Trying to gauge whether or not a game is worth £40 to the average consumer is confoundedly tricky when the game in question is just such an amazing achievement; a step forward not only in platform and adventure games but videogame entertainment as a whole, but takes only a handful of hours to complete. My advice to those of you who haven't already dashed out to buy the game - which is sold in a special foldout presentation package with four postcard-type freebies - is to dash out and rent it, finish it in a couple of days and then decide whether the lure of second-time-through extras is enough to warrant a purchase. It will surprise you just how quickly time flies in Ico's world, and every time you reach a save point - a stone sofa upon which both characters must flop to be able to record progress - it seems unbelievable that it really has been going on for that long… One reason for this is that the game is tremendously varied in its puzzles, and even the very simple ones offer some sort of carrot on a stick to keep you going. ICO has been changed since its arrival in Japan and the States to include extra content, and once completed subsequent plays reveal what Yorda actually says, which is worth a second go all by itself. A much appreciated 60Hz display mode is also included in the PAL release. The reason I will keep coming back to ICO though, is the seamless and vivacious game world and the way everything consistently comes together in the nick of time. Even the solution to the most obscenely complex puzzle, consisting of multiple tasks in a number of areas of the castle, always seems to deposit our heroes in exactly the right place to continue their quest. There is never a question of bad design. This is the purest game I've played in years. Criticisms? Maybe the camera - controlled by the right analogue stick - could sweep back to Ico a bit quicker, but that's about it. Conclusion In an industry justly accused of leaning towards style over content, ICO is a beacon of light and a bastion of superb game design. Thrusting aside the seesaw of graphics and gameplay which seems to have emerged in recent years, ICO entertains consistently and effortlessly and rewards the player with more of the same. And although it seems strangely ironic to round ICO's time off with a cliché, if there is only one PlayStation 2 game you play, make it this one. - ICO preview 10

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FeatureIco

Preview - one of this year's most anticipated games for PlayStation 2, and based on such a simple concept, too

Sony Publisher Sony What the heck is Ico? It's a puzzle game. Some say it's a puzzle-based adventure game, but Ico doesn't strike me as an adventure in the classic sense. The idea is to get from point A to point B, finding a way through for yourself and the frail and completely useless princess Jorda. Endless, Nameless... As far as storyline goes, there is none. There's an incomprehensible language of gibberish, through which you may occasionally spy a semblance of, well, consistency, but for the most part the game just asks you to get Jorda out of the castle and away from her enemies, and it throws as many obstacles as humanly possible into your path to try and prevent this. Irregular combat sections break up the puzzling, but they are mainly there to show off the shadowy nasties that haunt your surroundings. Visually Ico is one of the most spectacular PlayStation 2 games ever envisaged, particularly thanks to its use of light and water. You can find light all over the place, whether it's the sun through the rafters, the flicker of your torch or a reflection on the water, or any of a hundred alternative sources. Ico is a very eerie game, and the light seems to hang there in the air like a peculiar constant. Beyond the lighting the most impressive thing in the game is the animation, because there's just so much of it. The two main characters look reasonable, but it's not until you see them move that your heart really misses a beat. The way they shift their weight and move between objects is absolutely stunning, teaching other designers a lesson in humility. Actions like clambering over a ledge or leaping a huge gap could be confused with live action... Lemmings with a Heart Ico is basically a follow-the-leader puzzle game with some corking visuals. It also has some of the best ambient sound effects in any PlayStation 2 game to date. A gentle musical score underlines sound effects like the babbling of a brook echoing around a roomy cavern, or, my favourite, the voice of our hero calling up to Jorda to follow him. In a room the size of a small air force base, the walls amplify his shrill call to a bellow the likes of which Jorda's noble ilk would find difficult to put up with… The only game I can think of in recent history with the same sort of puzzle structure is Project Eden, and that was ultimately a very depressing game due to big issues with level design and AI. Ico succeeds not because its puzzles are delicate and intelligent, which they are, but because Sony has woven them into an extraordinary whole. Ico is one of the best-looking, best-sounding and most atmospheric games I've ever played. Actually, in terms of atmosphere, it's comparable only to Silent Hill 2, and Ico has more mystique about it. Ico is due out in the first quarter of 2002 in Europe, after an impressive reception in the States. We haven't completed it yet - playing the US version - but game time is estimated at some 10 hours for the uninitiated. The only concern we have is the game's questionable replay value, but as we all know, sometimes a game is so good and conveys such a unique and inimitable experience it can be forgiven for not lasting several months. Ico is almost certainly one of those games. - Ico screenshots