These games couldn't be more different, yet they belong together.
The DNA of Team Ico runs through both - their dedication to telling minimalist yet evocative stories, to crafting beautiful worlds, and to toying with your emotions.
Sadly, they both also share a common flaw - frustration. Whether it's being tossed yet again from a colossi or Yorda being dragged into murky shadows, these games' beauty has always been regularly offset with annoyance.
This collection doesn't change that. It takes Ico and Shadow of the Colossus and gives them an HD makeover. Many of the textures remain low-res, but because both games have such strong, stylised worlds, it doesn't matter. Both remain stunning to look at - Colossus especially - and benefit from now-consistent frame rates, something the PS2 originals sorely lacked. The dizzying scale and grandeur of Ico's castle and the rippling fur of the towering colossi are as impressive as any modern game. Oh, and there are Trophies too.
BOY MEETS GIRL
Let's start with Ico. It tells the story of a boy with horns who is exiled from his village and imprisoned in an ancient castle. He breaks free from his stone cell and, along with a mysterious, ethereal princess called Yorda, tries to make his escape. The beauty of their relationship is that they don't speak the same language. Their bond is wordless, and Ico - that's you - must guide her to safety by calling her to you and holding her hand.
The game is essentially one long escort mission, which isn't entirely a good thing. Throughout you're pursued relentlessly by shadowy figures who you can only fight off with melee weapons, and who will often drag Yorda away into pools of sickly oil - resulting in a gameover screen. This is where the frustration seeps in. You must constantly nanny the princess, and her twitchy AI is irksome.
The best parts are when you're exploring the castle, solving puzzles and fi guring how to get Yorda past obstacles such as crumbled bridges and blocked doors. She can't jump but you can, which means the solution is often complicated. The sparse soundtrack - consisting almost entirely of rustling wind and the strains and grunts of the two characters - is wonderfully peaceful. You'll lose yourself in the world, and there are a few heartbreaking plot twists to catch you off guard later on.
Then there's Shadow of the Colossus. There's a lot more action in this game, as it's a series of epic boss battles interspersed with the exploration of a vast, gorgeous landscape on horseback. This time you're Wander, a man who - in order to bring a mystery girl back from the dead - agrees to slay a number of enormous beasts, or colossi, at the behest of an ambiguous spirit.
Each colossi presents a different challenge. It almost feels like a puzzle game. You must figure out how to climb the huge beasts and take them down with just a sword, stabbing at their glowing weak spots. It's absolutely thrilling, with a booming orchestral score and a constant sense of peril - these beasts are terrifying, especially when you make them angry.
The story gets interesting when you realise you're killing these creatures for purely selfi sh reasons, and Wander seems to lose control of his humanity as more die. Are you the bad guy? It's never made explicit, but like Ico there's a lot more to the story than what you see on the surface.
Colossus, too, has its moments of frustration. The process of climbing on a colossi's back can be so gruelling that if you're ever thrown off (as your grip meter runs out), it's a nightmare getting back up. There's also some glitchy collision detection, meaning you think Wander will grab hold of the colossi's fur, but actually just slides off.
But, honestly, you should ignore these gripes. If you've already finished Ico and Shadow of the Colossus a few times the HD overhaul won't combat any familiarity, but both are still worth a revisit. The joy of Colossus is figuring out how to take the colossi down, and without that puzzle element it isn't as good.
For those who haven't played them, though, this is a must buy. Ico hasn't aged particularly well, true, but is a great experience, while Colossus is every bit as exciting and epic as it was in 2006. This is one of the best HD collections yet.
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Shadow of the Colossus is essential, Ico is great but showing its age, but both are worthy of a revisit - especially if you've never played either of them before
- Great visual overhaul
- Two stunning games
- Packed with memorable, touching moments
- Visuals still show their age
- Not much for people replaying them