My Thoughts on Ico: Dragging Around

Here is the start of one of my new things! Well not really… This is a blog series I started up on another site, but after three entries, I sorta let it slide… But that changes now! This is a “review” of sorts about video games. Usually it’ll be of the most recent game I finished. I finished this game, however, like a year ago… But eh… I’m hoping that posting the three entries in this series I’ve already written will help coax me to keep on giving my thoughts on video games! Yay for more writing!

P.S. This won’t be edited at all from when I first posted it on January 15, 2015 on the site GameInformer


 

My Thoughts on Ico:

Dragging Around

 

For most of the latter part of last year, a certain foxy friend of mine insisted I play one of her favorite games, Shadow of the Colossus. Instead of downloading it from PSN like I wanted to do, she told me I should buy the physical copy because another game, Ico, was grouped with it. Either because of her persuasiveness or my inability to withstand peer pressure I wound up buying The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection. When I first booted up the game, the decision to either play Ico or SotC had to be made. I decided to start with Ico as my friend told me to play SotC first. Not knowing what the game was about, I dived headfirst into it with little care. When all was said and done, I came out of the game… somewhat let down.

For those uninformed, Ico is pretty much one loooong escort mission. The titular protagonist, Ico (who’s name is never really revealed…) is a boy with horns sticking out of his head. Why he has horns is unknown, but what is known is that boys with horns are taken to a large dungeon/temple thing to be sacrificed. Ico was taken to the dungeon in the beginning sequences of the game by what appeared to be soldiers. After breaking free of his stone cocoon cage, Ico advanced to the next room to find a pale girl in a white dress trapped in a cage hanging from the ceiling. When the girl, Yorda, is freed, the quest to exit the dungeon begins. Queue escorting a somewhat decent AI trough the dungeon, whilst completing puzzles, fighting off creatures of the dark, and yelling at her to hurry her butt up all to go home free.

Plot. It’s nothing special. Horned boy is taken to dungeon, horned boy finds white girl, horned boy and white girl escape dungeon. It does, however, have some interesting points. (SPOILERS) Like the Queen who intends to cheat death by using her daughter Yorda as a spiritual vessel. While the Queen is the game’s antagonist, she really isn’t all that antagonizing. She’s just a hindrance. Heck, you only really see her like three times… She just sends her shadow creatures to do her dirty work. Even the final fight with her is just… annoying. Moving on to Ico’s involvement in the plot, apparently he was the last horned boy to be sacrificed for the Queen’s body stealing ritual. Why did she need horned boys for the sacrificed? The game never really goes into that… But at least Ico and Yorda escape after Ico kills the Queen. Well Ico escapes at least. Yorda is last seen putting Ico on a boat then pushing him away from the crumbling dungeon. (The dungeon crumbles when the Queen dies, cause she’s apparently linked to it. Somehow.) This is the point where you’re supposed to feel sad that Yorda’s being left behind, but since she didn’t really have a character, I felt indifferent when she parted ways with Ico. In the very end of the game though, when Ico’s boat hits a shore, Yorda is seen lying farther down the beach. But with no real connection to her, I again felt indifferent about it. (END SPOILERS)

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            Gameplay. There were three aspects to it. Puzzles, fighting, and leading Yorda around like an old dog on a leash. The puzzles were… repetitive and kind of long at times. Push block, climb rope, shimmy across a rail, rinse, repeat. There was one puzzle that was a little different though. It involved timing your incredibly loose and floaty jump with a wooden peg being trusted into the air. Did I mention the controls were loose and floaty? Back to the puzzles, the main meat of the game, they were decent. Dare I say Zeldaish. But with Zelda games, you usually need to use different skills with each new puzzle. If you can jump, climb, push, and shimmy, you can complete all of Ico’s puzzles with little trouble. Well there was trouble with the loose and floaty jump, but other than that little trouble. Some of the puzzles were kind of long and boring, but they weren’t all that difficult. Moving on the fighting, all you do is wave a stick or a sword around. Again, it’s very Zeldaish. Just mash the attack button and you’ll be fine. Except for the fact that the controls are loose and floaty. I kept whiffing enemies like crazy. Mostly because Ico would almost fly across the stage with a light touch of the analog stick. Aiming a simple stick swing was pretty annoying. Because of the loose controls and floaty character. Seriously, it was LBP up in this hizzhouse! But I digress… Onto Yorda…

The escorting. For the love of god Yorda, move your slow-ass ass!! Of the many buttons on the dualshock controller, one button is used for the very important task of getting Yorda to hurry the bleep up! Press it once while far away to tell the Princess to come. Hold it while far away to tell the Princess that she REALLY has to kick it into gear. Press and hold the button while close to Yorda to skip all the calling BS, grab her noodle arm, and literally drag her from point A to point B. If you’ve played the game you know full well the fun of dragging her ass around in circles… Alright, so she’s slow, that doesn’t make her useless. You’re right, that doesn’t make her useless. If she was fricking Sanic the Hegehag she’d still be useless!! She can’t climb ropes or chains (She can climb ladders… so there’s that…), she doesn’t really follow you unless you call her, she doesn’t really help with the puzzles, she can’t pick up a stupid stick to beat up the stupid shadow monsters with, she doesn’t even really run form them!! Vaguely reminds me of certain Resident Evil game…. Anyways, Yorda isn’t great. Her AI is decent at best. Her personality is less so. What am I saying… SHE DOESN”T EVEN HAVE A PERSONALITY!!!

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As a fictional writer myself, her flat character disgusts me… And do you know why she’s so bland? Because for a few yelps here and there, she’s silent. Ico had more personality, and he said jack! One of my biggest grips with the game was how quiet it was. While I don’t have much of a problem with silent protagonists, I think they work best when they’re silent alone. Like Link, Samus, Hal Gordon, and other silent heroes. Samus is almost always alone, reacting quietly to the world around her. And for the most part, Hal and Link are alone. Yes, the meet other people, but they’re not adventuring with them. They just meet them, then go on with their adventure. And yes, there are games where the silent protagonist isn’t alone. Pokémon and LoZ: Twilight Princess come to mind. But with those games, the characters around them are chatty at times, making it all a bit less awkward. With Ico, you have two people trekking though an immense dungeon together not communicating with each other at all. I know they spoke different languages, but I don’t think they should have. It really just makes the game awkward and somewhat barren.

Now don’t think that I’m hating on the game. Well I am hating on it, but don’t think that I didn’t enjoy my experience with it at least a little bit. I liked completing puzzles, I liked guiding Yorda through the dungeon, and I liked the overall feel of the game. And I absolutely loved how you saved. While I think save spots are kinda stupid, I really like that save spots in Ico were benches. To save the game you guide Yorda to the bench and take a load of with her. Small things like that made the game enjoyable. So in the end, I thought the game had charm. But there easily could have more charm. More of a reason to guide Yorda out of the dungeon. To tell you the truth, I’d absolutely love it if there were more games centered around safely escorting someone through a dangerous place. As long as I’m escorting a character I care about through a place with actual, imminent danger. Ico was fun, but it lacked reason for me to continue.

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