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

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

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...

Screenshots do the incredible wealth of light in Ico little justice

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

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