Shadow of the Colossus Review

Shadow of the Colossus is probably unlike most games that you’ve played before. The game opens mysteriously with a young rider taking his fallen love to an isolated temple. The temple is a place of great magic and the rider hopes that that magic can be used to revive his dying lover. A disembodied and haunting voice informs our hero that to save his love he must defeat 16 colossi which roam the nearby lands. Armed only with a bow, sword, and his trusty steed, the mysterious young man rides off in search of the first colossus…

These guys are b-i-g.
If you had to boil down the game’s description to a single sentence, it would go something like this: boy roams countryside looking for colossus, boy defeats colossus, boy is returned to temple, repeat. While this pretty much captures the gameplay in Shadow of the Colossus, it doesn’t do the game any justice. The game is as much about the atmosphere and experience as it is about the gameplay. The soft focus of the graphics, the subtle play of light and shadow, the sprawling and empty lands around the temple, … all of this and more work together to brilliantly create a surreal and dreamlike world, and one that has the power to hook you emotionally as well as it does visually.

Each of your colossal encounters will begin in the same way. You’ll be given a very cryptic clue as to how to defeat the next colossus from the supernatural voice in the temple. You’ll then emerge from the temple and hold your sword high in the sunlight as it has the magic to focus the light into a beam that will guide you to the location of the next colossus. Once you reach the colossus, the battle begins, but it’s as much a puzzle as it is a fight. The first thing you’ll need to do with each colossus is to figure out just how you’re going to go about taking it down.

Lucky for you, each colossus has a weak spot or two. All you need to do is to figure out how to reach those spots. The first part of this exercise is usually to find a means to climb onto the colossus – each one of the massive beasts will tower over you like you tower over a rodent or even an insect. Once that is accomplished, you’ll find that certain parts of each colossus are climbable or provide a means of hanging on. And hanging on is something you’ll need to do as a colossus won’t stand still while someone is climbing up its back. Reach each weak spot and plant your sword firmly into it and the colossus will fall. You’ll be whisked back to the temple, given another clue, and then it’s off to find the next colossus.

Shadow of the Colossus does an amazing job of conveying the size and strength of the titular monsters. The ground breaks and cracks under the feet of the ones which walk, while the air rushes past the flyers in a gale. As you climb and hang on to a colossus, you’ll swing wildly, slip, and teeter in response to the colossus’ gargantuan movements. And those movements seem completely natural and fluid, making the huge creatures seem real and you believing they could exist.

With the imagination that went into the game, the unique and slightly surreal visuals, the haunting landscape, and the colossuses themselves, you have an amazing game that feels almost as much art as it does game. Unfortunately, though, there are a few issues with Shadow of the Colossus that prevent it from being a truly epic game.