Game Reviews for PC, PS2, X-Box, Playstation, CCGs, Pen and Paper Role Playing and Table Top Games, plus Movies, DVDs, and Anime!

     " As we all know, the peasantry is a superstitious lot. Apparently that means when little boys with a simple mutation like horns are born, they're suddenly pariahs. "

      Title: Ico from Sony Computer Entertainment

      Format: Puzzle for the PS2

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: A mystical journey of a boy with horns and a little pale girl. Solve the many, many puzzles. Overcome many, many challenges. Lose many, many hours of sleep. Solving puzzles for fun and profit. Good thing? Bad Thing? Read on.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: I was utterly stunned by the beauty of this game. I have never seen environments that look this nice in a video game before. Everything has a slightly washed out, dream-like feel that really lends to the game. The whole game has a dream-like ambiance to it. The castle is brilliantly rendered and stays firm when looking out over the grounds. The characters are well made, even to the shadow creatures that are the primary enemy of the game. All the monkeys I showed this game too had to step back and say "Whoa." 5 out of 5

      Sound: The music is rare; mostly occurring at the dramatically appropriate moment, only for a moment such as when shadows attack. Otherwise the only music is played during the pause menu. This seems to make the game a little more serene; you set the mood, not by the music. All the sounds come from the world. They come out well enough. Birds chirp, water flows, swords clank and footsteps fall. You get the picture. The language spoken in this game is gibberish. You'll think you recognize a few words here or there, depending on what languages you speak, but it is essentially a different tongue. You get a translation of what Ico (your little horned protagonist) is saying during cut scenes, but Yorda (the ghostly lass) gets no English translation. That means that all of the voice work has to focus on making the context obvious. The actors did a great job of it; I was not at all disappointed in the voice work. 5 out of 5

      Game Play: This is primarily a puzzle game. That means that most of the time you're not going to be doing a lot of fighting. There are fights, against ephemeral shadow creatures, to spice things up. These fights are generally easy though. Even the last scene, which is essentially a battle scene, is easy enough. Tense, but easy. The game basically consists of taking Ico and Yorda through the castle in which they are trapped. You control Ico; you must assist Yorda with getting around the various pitfalls, traps and door-to-door salesman. The puzzles in this game range from intuitive to mind bending, with the majority falling on the side of the former. Yorda is not stupid and follows along quite nicely. She doesn't usually wander too far, if she wanders at all. Usually in a game where I'm forced to lead someone along, I'm annoyed with my little lemming within the first five minutes. Yorda on the other hand is a sweet obedient little sylph. Lending to the dreamy feel of the game, you save by taking naps on couches scattered throughout the castle. Repeating a long segment without a save can be wearing, but not entirely tedious. The game is just plain fun. 5 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: Well as I already commented the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. The environments are as interactive as they should be. Things that should move when you hit them do, etc. The levels are well designed. With the puzzles fitting rather well into the frame of the castle you're in. None of the puzzles really seem out of place. Even if this is one of the weirder castles I've ever been in. They lose points for reusing the reverse of an area, but not many. 4.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Hmm… let another play Yorda? Maybe Ico Dance Party? No, best just stick with what we've got. N/A

      Replayability: Well a full on Mensa (or a reviewer with a faq…) could beat this game in five hours. There was initially a plan to allow you to beat the game twice for a translation of what Yorda was saying. As it stands, there isn't even a save point in the last hour of the game, so there's nothing gained from beating the game except a sense of accomplishment. If you don't remember how the puzzles worked, then you'll be able to enjoy a second run, otherwise, there's not much to playing it again. 1.5 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: As we all know, the peasantry is a superstitious lot. Apparently that means when little boys with a simple mutation like horns are born, they're suddenly pariahs. Go fig. And of course, we all know what happens to pariahs. That's right they get taken to giant castles, locked in little cages and are forced to star in puzzle games. After your daring escape for the aforementioned cage, you find a young waif of a sylph locked in another cage. The obvious choice being to free her and try to get her and yourself out of the castle. Thus we have the story of Ico. The details are a little bit fuzzy. Yorda's mom, the evil Queen seems to want Yorda for some reason, the shadows try to get her and you just want to get out with her. Who exactly these people are, or how all this crap started, nobody ever knows. Since they give you no real details, the story fades to the background. It can be essentially ignored, but does make a nice backdrop. You may find yourself wondering about certain things in the castle. Rest assured, you will not learn what they actually are. 2.5 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: It's not hard to get the controls down, they're quite simple. Moving around the game is easy. The instructions basically tell you how to do the various things that you will likely need to do in your puzzle solving expedition. The hardest part is of course, the puzzles. Of course, if all of the puzzles were easy, no one would play the game, would they? Good instructions + Low learning curve = High score. 5 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: This is definitely one of the more beautiful games in the PS2 library. I think that we're definitely seeing some of the greater PS2 games here. I experienced none of the slowdown in other games that try to have a persistent world like this game does. There are no noticeable load times. The entire world is present, with only a moment taken to change rooms. 5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       I'll admit it. I didn't think I was going to enjoy this game. When I first heard about it, I thought- "Eh, just a puzzle game." Then I loaded the game up and was completely blown away. The graphics are exquisite, the gameplay is simple yet fun. The characters have enough personality to get you attached and the ending will not disappoint. This is an excellent game and a great addition to anybody's library. If the game had a stronger story, this would be a game for the ages.

      The Good: Excellent puzzles, graphics to drool over.

      The Bad: A paper-thin story, no replayability factor.

      The Overall Ugly: Great game overall. Just give me a translation of what Yorda's saying, dagnabbit.

      What it's Worth: The going rate is fair.

Buy it direct from

Copyright © Game Monkey Press, Game Monkeys Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Game Monkeys(tm) 1999 Game Monkey Press