Critical Reception: The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
Joe Juba at Game Informer scores the collection at 9.75 out of 10. "You won't find any combo multipliers or headshots," he warns, "but these adventures slowly and deliberately build an emotional connection in a way that few games have accomplished before or since."
Juba continues: "Ico and Shadow of the Colossus seem simple on the surface. The former is about guiding a young woman through a castle, and the latter is about killing 16 monsters to bring a loved one back to life.
"Through subtle character interactions and vibrant visuals, these straightforward premises are transformed into engrossing tales. Both efforts from director Fumito Ueda and his team are often cited as examples of video games as an art form, and their remastered incarnations only add more weight to the argument."
Juba finds that both games benefit from HD remakes. "The improved framerate and HD visuals benefit both titles significantly, which isn't a trivial statement considering how good these games looked when they first released," he praises.
"Both titles in the collection feature 3D support, but Shadow of the Colossus uses it the best. I usually think that 3D is a stupid gimmick, but this marks the only time it has enhanced my experience rather than feeling like a throwaway novelty. The scale of the colossi -- and the sense of vertigo caused by dangling from them -- is conveyed well through the 3D effect."
"These sad and compelling masterpieces create immersive worlds, interesting characters, and memorable journeys," Juba writes. "That hasn't changed in the intervening years, and playing through them again in this unbeatable package only serves as a reminder that no other developer can imitate Team Ico's singular style."
Games Radar's Michael Reparaz gives the compilation a 9 out of 10. "In HD or otherwise, the games still stand as easily recommended must-plays, whether you're a newcomer or a fan clinging to nostalgia-clouded memories," he notes. "And the collection, if nothing else, is the best they've ever looked, even going so far as to add slick 3D visuals for those with the TVs to support it."
"That's not to say the games don't look a bit dated, though," Reparaz continues. "In particular, Ico and his herky-jerky stick-man movements take a little getting used to, as do some of the game's environmental textures, which can look kind of blurry close up. The blurriness is even more pronounced in Shadow of the Colossus, although it could be argued that, given Shadow's soft-focus, ethereal look, having backgrounds that weren't a bit blurry would detract from its unique appearance."
The gameplay mechanics also show their age. "Visuals aside, the games play about the same as they did on PS2, which is to say they manage to be hugely engrossing in spite of somewhat fiddly controls and a few surprisingly frustrating challenges," Reparaz writes. "They also feature just 10 save slots per game, which seems like an unnecessary throwback."
"Those issues aside," he continues, "the games still look stunning, in large part because their art direction was always more about creating a moody atmosphere than about cutting-edge visuals. Ico's colors are just as vibrant, its shadows are just as menacing and its characters are just as fragile and sympathetic now as they were in 2001."
"In spite of any irritations or hiccups the Collection has, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were both easy 10s when they were released -- and while they're maybe not quite as impactful now as they were then, they still belong in any serious gamer's library," Reparaz states. "These are brilliant, memorable, inventive and emotionally involving adventures, and the combination of remastered visuals, 3D options, Trophies and a $40 price tag make them more irresistible than ever."
Ryan Clements at IGN scores The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection at 8.5 out of 10. "Developed by select members of Sony Computer Entertainment's Japan Studio (affectionately known as "Team Ico"), Ico and Shadow of the Colossus deliver an experience that suggests we should feel just as much as we play," he writes. "Both combine third-person platforming and adventure with puzzle-solving, and both whisper tales of friendship and love."
Clements notes that Ico is the weaker of the two games, however. "Ico wears its old age," he says. "The jumping mechanics lead to more than a few accidental deaths, and the puzzles lack the cleverness of their modern-day equivalents."
"Yorda, unfortunately, delivers the most frustration," Clements continues. "You'd imagine that a massive escort mission (see: all of Ico) would boast stunning partner AI, but Yorda lacks that distinguished characteristic. She runs aimlessly around ladders when Ico calls, she pauses mid-stride for no reason at all, and she moves slowly enough to spoil Ico's adventurous pace. While I respect Ico for its contributions to gaming, it failed to keep my attention and, more often than not, angered me before entertaining me."
Shadow of the Colossus is still engrossing, however. "Not only has the simple story and setting withstood the test of time, but the actual mechanics feel great," Clements writes. "Exploring the forbidden lands of Shadow of the Colossus inspires a strange and interesting feeling of isolated freedom. Battling the Colossi rewards you with a rich sense of accomplishment that bleeds into guilt."
"The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection reminds me that video games can match the evocative and thrilling qualities of any other creative medium," Clements concludes. "While Ico's gameplay mechanics show their age and Shadow of the Colossus didn't quite take me to the same place it took me more than five years ago, this collection astounds."