The Last Guardian – The First Story

I have a feeling. It’s just an idea born from trying to understand how the latest game from Team ICO could possibly continue the legend of the boy with horns. While watching the announcement trailer I’m aware that Trico (the beast) has horns and while this is not unusual one has to assume that nothing is there without purpose or meaning (except the tortoise in SotC) and that these horns may provide an important clue as to the story behind all three games.

In Ico, the boy with horns is imprisoned within the castle for reasons of superstitious speculation. “For the good of the village” is the only reason garnered from the anonymous figures that guard Ico’s freedom. The boy without horns in The Last Guardian appears to befriend a beast with horns and it’s certain that the due embark on many wonderful adventures as they progress through the game.

The origins of Ico’s horns have been widely accepted as the direct result of Wanders fate in SotC. The horns on Trico are not at all similar and appear to be the horns of a juvenile creature as they are underdeveloped, one even appears to have been cut or blunted. But what if these horns were hiding a dark secret? What if the beast within was Dormin and that The Last Guardian tells the tale of his imprisonment unto the Forbidden Land found in SotC.

There are a lot of questions and, while The Last Guardian may provide some answers I’m sure that we will all be left a little bemused as the plot develops and more questions arise. To be perfectly honest I don’t care, not enough to spoil my enjoyment, because the act of playing Team ICO’s games is such a natural and wonderful experience that any pondering on the fate of the plot or the motivations of ‘the village’ are inconsequential.
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Shadow of the Colossus - The End

The most amazing ending to a game. I was absolutely blown away when I finally finished Shadow of the Colossus. The art direction is as good as any film I have seen and it's so moving to see the legacy of Wander become the legend that is Ico. Enjoy.

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Ico - The End

This is it. The ending to Ico. If you havn't finished the game yet, I would highly recommend you do. But if you can't or you just want a spoiler then watch...

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You Were There

A song to dream by. You were there; Ico OST.

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Affinity Motivation

Ico was imprisoned to his fate for reasons of speculative superstition. During his meandering attempt to escape the massive crumbling castle he was entombed within, he encounters a young girl whom he learns is called Yorda. Upon liberating her from her iron prison she is shortly abducted by dark magical creatures which attempt to sink Yorda into the castles very composition.

At the sight of such monstrous magic I myself would surely be afraid, but Ico, himself a boy with horns whom appears no older than a pre-teen shows no fear in his attempts to rescue Yorda from the beast with nothing more than a stick of wood. This selfless act of courage is quite surprising and as it turns out is essential to his survival and subsequent escape from the mysterious castle.

The motivations of Ico are unclear, perhaps he felt an affinity with Yorda as she too has been entombed beyond her will. Or perhaps Ico felt an attraction to Yorda, or even a sense of companionship in the few moments they have together before the attempted abduction. Whatever his motivations, they clearly help them both to tackle the adversity they find themselves in, because without Yordas’ help Ico would not be able to escape, and vice versa.

Despite the apparent lack of character development the player immediately feels compelled to help the avatar escape with the mildly distracted Yorda in tow. The abduction is a brilliant moment which is dealt with sensitively and with a true sense of emotion, impelling both characters into the hearts of the player to assist in their extradition. It’s one of my favourite moments in any game and one which I play with frivolous empathy.
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Another Mans’ Poison

Ico and SotC are two of the most delightful videogames of our time. I find it difficult to understand players who fail to appreciate the lure of either. There are few games which are as deep, emotional, human or beautiful, but as sales figures show not everyone agrees with this position.

As a child of the Seventies I was brought up on a staple diet of incredibly poor graphics yet extremely enjoyable games. The constant yearning for better visuals meant that many of the simple games were blessed with my own imagination to fill in the blanks left by the limitations of the gaming hardware at the time. I figure that this period in my gaming life gave me a valuable insight into why a game is enjoyable. Games such as Atik Atak or Imagine were very playable but lacked visual substance and although I wanted the visuals to improve I was rarely dissatisfied with a game.

Later in my gaming journey as the hardware became more capable, graphics have been given a more pronounced position within the design process. This design ethic leaves games feeling quite cold and empty and the novelty of the pretty pictures quickly wears off. Playing a modern frag-fest such as Gears of War for instance is a very thrilling ride, the graphics are top drawer and the game is playable, but after a few hours of play, after the billionth bullet fired I am so bored of shooting the enemy that I wish for an early gruesome death and experiment with new ways of dying before switching the game off.

Both Ico and SotC have meaningful narratives and both are visually stunning without making the aesthetics a priority. This is rare in today’s’ high definition society and is something which is desperately missing from many modern games. There are some exceptions to this; Farenheit is one highlight of recent times where the visuals are functional but the game-play is designed to encourage the player to make decisions about the development of the plot. I really appreciate games which I can really get my teeth into or games which think ‘outside-of-the-box’ or challenge modern game design to become something more than a visual feast.

The Last Guardian will become a true classic if it retains the same design code that Ico or SotC possess. As the game is on a next generation console its visuals will surely be incredible, but the narrative and game-play should be equally accomplished elevating the game beyond the melee of bump mapped moronic titles which unfortunately occupy the vast majority of the game industries sales. At least I can be relatively sure that Team ICOs’ games will continue to be produced, due in no small part to their critical acclaim, even if the majority of gamers are too shallow to understand such delights of modern design.
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It's a Tragedy...

Studying Greek Mythology as part of my English Degree has allowed me to conclude that the story behind SotC is a tragedy. I have discussed the transcript of the game with a good friend of mine, an English lecturer at Lincoln University here in the UK and we both agreed that the game can comfortably be classified as such and that this tone helps impact the game upon the moral consciousness of the player.

If the protagonist ‘Wander’ had survived the ordeal to resurrect the maiden the story would not have the same impact. Tragic events allow stories emotional weight and deliver messages or carry feelings the characters experienced during the tale to the player.

A similar conclusion can be drawn against Ico. Although in this tale the ‘hero’ did not meet death, his heroin’s fate was not clear and many speculate that she was not resurrected, but her soul became the Queens possession. Her soul therefore became a part of the crumbling castle, never to escape. The ending of Ico requires the player to draw their own conclusions about the fate of Yorda and I suppose it depends greatly on the attitude of the player, pessimist or optimist.

The Last Guardian may also have the same tone throughout, although early observations believe the story to have a warmer feel to it plainly because of the relationship between the beast and the boy. It’s safe to assume from previous experience that The Last Guardian may have some moments of bitter pain or loss equal to the fall of Agro in SotC.

Team ICO appear to portray tragedy consistently and with a purpose, to draw in the player into the game deeper than if it were devoid of tragedy. This is something I have come to expect and indeed revel in experiencing.
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Shadow of the Colossus - Artbook

Amazing, this is the only word to desribe the energy and creativity that went into designing and developing SotC.

For a taste of the best that Team ICO offer you may want to get hold of this book all about their creation of a legendary game. Although there is no English translation this book is full of beautiful works of art that you can gaze at for hours. Surely a collectors item. My orders in already.

Related Links
Shadow of the Colossus Art Book
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Yawara! Ico

YAWARA! anime, also known as Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl, is a Japanese manga series by Naoki Urasawa. I just thought I would post this video showing Yawara as Yorda as it made me wrinkle my forehead then laugh out loud. Very strange...

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Fumito Ueda Talks to Eurogamer

Fumito Ueda discusses the trailer and the development of The Last Guardian with EuroGamers' Ellie Gibson. In the discussion he reveals some interesting ideas about the flow of development and the lengths that Team ICO go to convince the player that the characters are (almost) real. A very interesting read indeed. Follow this link for the full interview.

Related Links
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The Last Guardian Official Site Launched

Sony has finally launched the official (Japanese) site for The Last Guardian. In addition to this a flurry of screenshots have been released as well as an interview (see below) with Team ICO on their developement of their latest creation.

Watching the subbed interview it's clear that a great deal of thought is going into the game. The devil is definately in the details in The Last Guardian. There is also a short trailer at the end of the interview which is also worth the wait.

Related Links
The Last Guardian Official Site
The Last Guardian Screenshots (download)
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The Next Generation for Ico & Shadow of the Colossus, Maybe...

Fumito Ueda has hinted in a recent interview with Kotaku that both Ico and SotC may be enhanced and re-released on the PS3, just like the God of War games enjoyed last month.

"I do have an interest in that. Next week, I'll have a meeting [about the possibility] ... But it might not be so easy, because, with both titles we really stretched the limits of the PS2. It's complex. So it's not such an easy transfer to the PS3. But I want to discuss it." said Fumito Ueda.

The prospect of running Ico or SotC on enhanced hardware is so lush. I'd love for Sony to allow this to be developed and I'm sure it would help raise the profile of both games. Team ICO would have involvement but a dedicated team called BluePrint Games would handle a majority of the code as they did with God of War. No official announcements have yet been made but I will be sure to confirm the moment I hear anything.

Related Links
BluePrint Games
Buy God of War
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Pikols Secret

This video by Pikol shows the mysterious geometry hidden within SotC. Using a hack this wanderer has managed to travel further than any adventurer before him. Watch the whole video to see for yourself what he found...

Related Links
Pikols' Channel
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The Ico Mace

Escaping a castle isn't easy, especially if the only weapon available to you is a stick of wood. Ico does eventually find a sword which becomes essential in completing some of the tasks at hand. But hidden behind a secret door in one of the many gardens is a Mace. Obtaining the secret weapon involves Ico to shoot-some-hoops. Watch the video to learn of the Maces' location and instructions on how to retrieve the secret weapon.

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Ico and the Little Big Planet

If you haven't played Little Big Planet on the Playstation3 then you really are missing out. The game consists of a building set where you can literally create any kind of level you want and share them with the rest of the world. It's also 2 player and is a real laugh, a lot of fun indeed.

Here we have pretty much the entire Ico game faithfully reproduced. The designer Mushroom_Samba has been very clever to get all the game in there. I've posted it because I'm really impressed with this and I hope you find it amusing too. Enjoy.

Related Links
Little Big Planet
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Shadow of the Colossus, The Movie

Just when you thought it was safe to return to the cinema news spreads from an announcement made on Hollywood's Risky Biz Blog, ahem: 'Shadow of the Colossus to become a movie.'

The writer, Justin Marks seems to have a passion for the game but I really don't see that Hollywood is the right stage to tackle such a cult and sensitive game onto the big screen. Kevin Misher is set to be the producer but non of his previous films have blown me away, only the late Public Enemies, the story of John Dillinger starring Johnny Depp and directed by Michael Mann, was worth noting.

I'm torn between being fascinated to see what Hollywood will make of the Colossi themselves as I'm sure they will be magnificent, but the story will not be faithfully reproduced nor will the film harbour the same feeling of desperation and solitude. Perhaps it will but for all the wrong reasons.

If Hollywood does make it into a film I'm sure I will go and see it, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm almost certain I won't be though. I can't help but be a pessimist on this subject as Hollywood primarily is a money making business and does not pander well to an artists interpretation of any subject. I suppose only time will tell however and I will keep pessimism in check until I finally see the movie.

Related Links
Risky Business Blog
Kevin Misher
Justin Marks
Michael Mann
Johnny Depp
Buy Public Enemies
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Shadow of the Colossus Music (live)

This video is the music from SotC played by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra will be performing an event called 'A Night in Fantasia' and tickets are on sale now from Ticketmaster. Hiroaki Yura, founder and director of Eminence Artists said in a press release:

We are really looking forward to presenting A Night in Fantasia 2009 as it's going to be such a huge event, featuring so many wonderful pieces of music, musicians, world class composers and other special guests...

The score of tracks to be performed include AFRIKA, Ace Combat V, Darksiders: Wrath of War, Dragon Age: Origins, Metal Gear Solid, Prince of Persia, Red Alert 3, Shadow of the Colossus and a wide range of anime titles, including Astro Boy (which will hit cinemas in September), Studio Ghibli, Totoro, Laputa, Princess Mononoke, Death Note, Steamboy and many, many more...

I wish I could make it as it's sure to be amazing, but it's a long way from the UK. If you have the chance to attend I would highly recommend it. The concert will be performed at The Sydney Entertainment Centre on 26th September 2009.

Related Links
Buy A Night in Fantasia, Ticketmaster
Eminence Online
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Pans' Labyrinth Director Talks Gaming


Guillermo del Toro, the director behind the dark and enchanting Pans' Labyrinth spoke to Edge Magazine recently. He describes his childhood influences and what he feels makes a great game just that. I really like his films which include the excellent Hellboy series and I value his opinion. I read with great interest the interview, but the defining moment for me was when he was asked, on the subject of current games:

What’s impressed you recently?

I love the engine of GTA IV. I’m not a big fan of the actual game: I’m not into break-ins or running people over, but the engine is incredibly beautiful, and the sandbox is very complete. The same goes for Medal of Honor Airborne, Call of Duty 4 or Army of Two. There are only two games I consider masterpieces: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

Good man Guillermo, I for one agree with your opinion, well apart from the bit about the Medal of Honour games and Army of Two, those games were absolute gash. It's refreshing however to hear that Ico and SotC are singled out as masterpieces. This helps reinforce the position that Team ICO are masters at what they do. Now if only he made a movie of either game...

Related Links
Guillermo del Toro talks to Edge Magazine
Buy Pans' Labyrinth
Buy Hellboy 1, 2
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Enemy Zero

Fumito Ueda has not only worked on Team ICO games. In 1996 Famito was the CGI animator on a Sega Saturn and PC game called Enemy Zero. Kenji Eno was the lead writer and producer along with many other of Team ICO's current employees who were employed under the name Warp Inc.

The game did not enjoy great success and the gaming community largely missed this game due partly to the weak sales of the Sega Saturn. Although reviews did no favours for the game either, it showed promise in it's unconventional design by combining the puzzle and shooter genres and the unique idea of locating the enemy acoustically instead of visually.

If you would like to play the game it is available at a bargain busting £2.57 from

Related Links
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Ico - Prototype PS1

This video shows development prototype for Ico, which was initially destined for the Playstation1. I for one believe that Ico should've been released for Sony's debut console as it would've given Team ICOs' games great symmetry, like the way every generation has a Kubrick movie, every one of Sony's consoles would have a Team ICO game. And I'm sure that the impact of the game would've been more profound as the visuals haven't lost much of their fidelity which is some achievement. I don't mind though, I'm just glad Ico was released and I'm eternally grateful for that.

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Team ICO Tribute

As the title suggests, a tribute to Team ICO. Put together by ScOULaris, an experienced video editor. Enjoy.

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Shadow of the Colossus Awarded at the CEDEC

After last year's CEDEC (CESA Developers Conference), where Ico was awarded with the Special Award for Visual Arts, it's now time for Shadow of the Colossus to have the spotlight.

Last year Ico was awarded with the Special Award for Visual Arts at the CEDEC(CESA Developers Conference) and quite rightly too. This game alone sparked a thousand discussions about whether games could be art?

This year however it was time for Shadow of the Colossus to be heard. Fumito Ueda and Hajime Sugiyama collected the coveted Programming Award on behalf of the entire Team ICO staff for their work on SotC.

I would like to congratulate the team for an amazing achievement and look forward to more games from them in the near future.
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Shadow of the Colossus Unlockables

There are no cheats in SotC but you can unlock hidden extras with persistant play. Here is a list of those unlockables and how to obtain them.

Unlock Hard Difficulty
Beat the game and save your data at the end of the credits. You can now start a new game on Hard Mode from the Main Menu.

Unlock Time Attack And Integral Game Cheats
Beat the game and save your game at the end of the credits. You can now enter Time Attack Mode by pressing the Circle Button to pray in front of a Colossus statue. By beating the Colossus under the required time limit in Time Attack mode, you can unlock new weapons and items.

Below are the rewards, in the order that you'll receive them. Collect them from the pool at the end of the hall in the temple. They are unlocked every two colossus beaten.

2. Whistling Arrow - Distracts a Colossus when you fire it.
4. Cloak of Force - Increases the amount of damage your sword will do to a Colossus.
6. Mask of Strength - Allows you to inflict deeper wounds into a Colossus.
8. Lizard Detection Stone - Allows you to find the white tailed lizards throughout the land.
10. Fruit Tree Map - Allows you to find the Fruit Trees around the map more easily.
12. Mask of Power - Allows you to inflict more grievous wounds on a Colossus.
14. Cloak of Deception - Makes you invisible to the Colossus.
16. Flash Arrow - Explodes and can damage a Colossus without hitting its vitals.

Hard Time Attack Mode unlocks more options and this version of Time Attack is unlocked after clearing the Story Mode on Hard difficulty.

2. Harpoon of Thunder - A new Colossus-whacking weapon.
4. Sword Of The Sun - Allows the light beacon to operate even in patches of shadow.
6. Fruit Tree Map - Identical to the cheat earned in Normal Time Attack.
8. Shaman Cloak - Wanders' defenses increased and he takes less damage.
10. Lizard Detection Stone - Identical to the cheat unlocked in Normal Time Attack.
12. Shaman Mask - Increases Wanders defence. This cheat's effects stacks with the Shaman's Cloak.
14. Cloth of Desperation - Hand-made parachute allows for soft landings.
16. Queen's Sword - An Ico easter egg. It has the side benefit of killing a Colossus with great ease, just a couple of strikes and a colossus falls.

Unlockable - Brown Horse
You must first get all the items in Normal Time Attack mode. Then hold down Square button at title screen.

Unlockable - White Horse
You must first get all the items in Hard Time Attack mode. Then hold down Circle button at title screen. Alternatively defeat the game four times on Hard mode after collecting all the items to unlock this cheat without using the toggle on the menu screen. You will get a white Agro icon to the left of the menu screen showing that this has been unlocked. You will also notice a white Agro during the opening cut scene and throughout. Use the toggle cheat to return to a black horse.
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Shadow of the Colossus Easter Eggs

Easter eggs, apart from a chocolate treat at Easter, are items hidden within games. SotC contains many easter eggs all of which I have tried to list here and instructions on how you can find them.

Ico - If you’ve completed Ico and the save game file is on the same memory card as your SotC game file then Agro will display a small ‘i’ on his for-head instead of a diamond shape.

Doves - Every time a Colossus is defeated an extra white dove appears around the alter in the temple.

Petting - If you pat Agro by pressing the circle button with no weapon equipped (you can do this either standing next to her or sat astride) your stamina is replenished twice as fast.

White Agro - When SotC has been completed on the hard mode more than 4 times a white Agro will be granted to you permanently.

Climb Trees - The trees dotted around the landscape can be scaled by climbing up the green moss on the trunks.

Fruit - The trees contain fruit which can be dislodged with an arrow and eaten. This increases your health.

Crouch - Your health replenishes twice as quick when Wander crouches.

Food of the Dead - The fruit in the trees of the secret garden is poisonous and takes life instead of giving it, reducing your health.

Obscured - When your stamina reaches such a large level the gauge becomes ghosted to prevent it from obscuring the screen.

Zorro - To make Agro rear up and gallop from a stand still, pull sharply down on the left stick when tapping X.

Wild Riding - It is possible to grab the wildlife such as the doves in the temple, the eagles on the plains and the fish in the water by holding down R1.

White Tailed Lizards - White tailed lizards can be found on every save point and their tails increase your stamina when collected. You can either kill the lizard to collect the tails or for an even harder challenge, shoot the tails off the lizard with an arrow without killing the lizard.

White tailed lizards are not only found on save points. They can also be found along cliff walls hidden within crevices. They are sometimes hard to find and patience is required to locate them. Agro actually scares them away but you can make Agro run away by aiming your Bow and Arrow at her(don’t shoot her, it’s cruel).

The Secret Garden - The secret garden can only be accessed via the vines of the south eastern wall. You will need a lot of stamina to be able to get to the top beyond the gate located at the top of the spiral walkway at the end of the hall of the temple. I wouldn’t recommend attempting this until you have the cloth of desperation as a high fall will kill Wander.

Reminiscence Mode - Defeated Colossi can be re-defeated in a mode called Reminiscence Mode. Simply find the ‘corpse’ which will be located wherever the Colossus was slain and prey at the foot of the corpse. This will replay the Colossus from the moment it was found, but with all your ‘powers’ reset making the challenge harder. It also provides a nice ‘memory’ effect where everything is sketchy, like an old film.

Circus Tricks - Wander can perform great feats on Agro. Press and hold R1 and X while galloping and he will stand up on the sadle. Agro can be steered but not stopped while performing this acrobatic.

Quick Turn - Agro can perform a quick 180 degree turn. When galloping, simultaneously, and sharply, press down on the left analog stick twice and the X button twice. Agro will stop and turn around to run the other way.

Emergency Stop - Agro can also stop quickly while galloping. Simultaneously press down on the left analog stick and the X button.
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The Long Wait

The Last Guardian will be one of the greatest games of this decade. Now I can say this with absolute confidence because of Team ICO’s track record. Although only two games old, those two games are quite simply amazing. ICO is regarded as one of the best games of the 20th century, SOTC is one of the most beautifully orchestrated games in history. The Last Guardian is sure to follow the same suit.

Although not much is known about the game, the interview with Famito Ueda gives some indication as to what to expect from the developer. Huge open vistas, an intelligent creature with oodles of personality, an avatar whose past is surrounded in mystery and game mechanics similar to their previous games, this is a recipe for greatness.

The Last Guardian has been in development for the last three years and although I am itching to play the game I am also happy to wait as long as it takes for Team ICO to make this game as richly detailed as their previous games. With the rest of the games development community happy to churn out sequel after predictable sequel it’s reassuring to see that Sony Computer Entertainment Japan happy to allow Team ICO to take as long as they need to completely finish the game properly.

Back in the 1990’s there was a game released for the N64. This game single headedly made the fledgling console a success. The game was called Goldeneye and it was so good that the N64 was saved from an early death because Goldeneye was an N64 exclusive and many people bought the console just for that game. Exactly the same happedened with the X-Box, had it not Halo from launch perhaps the modern games scene would be quite a different place. Although the Playstation3 is not in the same situation as the N64 or the X-Box I’m sure that The Last Guardian will be one of those exclusive titles that warrant some to buy a PS3 just for that game. I only hope that the pressure on Team ICO’s development cycle does not undermine the integrity of the team.

Related Links
Goldeneye, N64
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The Devil is in the Details

SotC is an amazing game. Few games can compare to the mood, story, animation, or characters encountered in this game. Personally it is the details which contribute to making this game special. Here is a list of those details in no particular order, and the reasons why I think they are important.

1. Agro – she is the most amazing character I have encountered in a game. Possessing more personality than any other game character I have ever seen in my 20 years of playing games. I love the way she moves, the animation of this horse is like nothing else. Having played Assassins Creed and riding a horse in that game, despite the additional processing power of the X-Box 360, Agro’s fluid motion on the Playstation2 is a marvel of programming and attention to detail which surpasses any other.

2. Wander – as an avatar I sympathise with his position immediately. The love he shares for the maiden is a love which has taken him to the end of the world to do battle with giant un-godly creatures and risk his own life to restore hers. At every point he displays emotion from the way he stares at his love, to the way he rides Agro. Everything about him is so full of meaning a thought that few avatars have ever come close.

3. Colossi – The stars of the game. The Colossi are quite simply one of the most amazing things ever seen in a video game. The way they move, the way they stare at you, to the way they react when injured. Towering above you with complete dominance they create an air of mystery and fear.

4. The Landscape – The Forbidden Land is vast, but this size is necessary to making you feel small and alone. There are areas of the map which feel so well accomplished that they make you feel you are part of something very special and change your mood accordingly such as the rocky waterfall paths, the dark forests and the huge open dessert complete with sandy ruins and dunes.

5. The Wildlife – Lizards, doves, eagles, fish and even tortoises. The lizards are quite hard to catch. On my first run through SotC I wasn’t even aware they existed. It was only after I managed to obtain the Lizard Detection Stone that I realised they were there and that they played an important role by increasing ones stamina. I love the way they react to Wanders presence and try to hide.

The doves appear around the alter in the temple every time a colossi is defeated and the eagles track your journey across the landscape. At the time of writing this I am yet to find a use for the tortoises, they are just there. The same goes for the fish, though I suppose a pond wouldn’t be complete without them.

6. The Save Points – Games rarely incorporate save points into a game with such thought. Usually they either crop up without warning or they are a sub menu in the pause screen. SotC makes them a part of the landscape and they work them into the game with meaning by allowing Wander to ‘pray’ whenever saving a game. When a game is loaded Wander is found dozing with his head in his arms giving the impression that little time has passed but while you were away he had a well deserved rest.

7. The Sword – Wanders arsenal of swords help him in different ways. The default sword lights his way to the next colossi as well as helping him take it down by lighting up the vitals on a colossi. The sword can also be used to kill various wildlife for Wander to eat and the un-lockable swords, such as the sword of the sun can help light Wanders way in darkened caves.

8. The Bow and Arrow – My favourite weapon in the game. The Bow and Arrow help Wander grab the attention of the colossi so he can goad them into a certain position or location. They also allow him to capture the elusive lizards, shoot birds, fruit from trees and fish from the water. Shoot an arrow into a pond and it behaves realistically by diving, then re-emerging on the surface and floating about. If you already have the bow drawn with an arrow and you don’t want to take the shot it can be cancelled by pressing the circle button whilst aiming. Wander replaces the bow into its holster.

9. The Wind – Without the windy weather I doubt SotC would carry the same atmosphere (excuse the pun). Constantly tearing at the clothes and hair of the duo and making a wonderfully earthly noise, the wind makes me feel so lost in the wilderness and somehow makes the landscape seem much larger and older than it appears.

10. The Map – As the forbidden land is vast and mysterious it would be a shame if the map was too helpful. Fortunately it isn’t. Mostly covered in cloud until explored it simply acts as a guide and does not show you exactly where to go, only where you’ve been. The map is quite vague in parts and cannot be relied upon which, in my opinion is the way it should be.

These are simply a drop in the ocean of what SotC has in terms of details and accomplished design. No other game has come close as far as I’m aware and it is a shame that developers don’t replicate Team ICO’s design ethic to create games with such flair, feeling and thought as SotC has.
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Ico - I'm With You

I love the way the lyrics seem to have been written for Ico. Cheesy song, brilliant video.

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Cut Colossi

This is a video of the Colossi that didn't make it into the final game. Some of them, particularly the huge dragon look amazing. It's a shame that they will never be seen again. I'd love to battle a dragon...

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Ico - Theme Tune

I love this tune, simply wonderous.

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Shadow of the Colossus - Run

The song 'Run' by Snow Patrol suits this video for SotC so well I simply had to post it. I became quite emotional when I first watched it. It was through my experiences with the game that made me feel sad or lonely or even frightened at times and this video managed to tune into that feeling.

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A Bridge Too Far

The long stone bridge which connects the outside world to the tower at the centre of the landscape in SOTC is truly massive. Having reached the secret garden I wanted to explore further and I was aware that, having rode underneath it so many times, the stone bridge was massively long and very high.

With the destination in view I set off from the tower along the bridge. Now I never really appreciated just how long this bridge was until I undertook this wandering. Literally five minutes later of running along the narrow bridge I was still someway off the end and the entrance to the forbidden land.

Looking down at the ground as I ran became slightly hypnotic, each new tile blurring into the next and giving the appearance that the journey was not preceding. This continued for another five minutes until I finally bumped into the wall at the end and fell over.

I got to my feet somewhat bemused and bruised and attempted to exit the forbidden land but due to the weather I was not able to escape. A strong wind refused to allow me to walk through the corridor between the two pillars guarding the entrance. Every-time I tried I was blown off my feet and cast to the ground. So it appears that once you enter you are a prisoner, your only chance or survival is to eat the lizards and fruit and chase tortoises until you finally die of age.

Having reached the other side I was in no mood to walk back again. I gave out a long hard whistle to my loyal horse Agro. After a few minutes she finally arrived below the bridge, running in circles and calling to me. Equipping the Cloth of Desperation I jumped off the bridge and used my chute to drift slowly down onto Agro’s back. Pulling sharply on the rains Agro reared up and we galloped off into the dusty distance towards the tower to hunt the next Colossi.
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A Pale Horse

When you have completed SOTC for the fourth time you are rewarded with a white Agro instead of the standard black. I discovered this when I restarted the game and watched the opening sequence. Instead of a black horse, Wander was riding a white horse. At first I thought it was a glitch but upon continuing the game I was surprised to see Agro was white. Normally I would have to enter a ‘cheat’ code to get the white Agro after completing the Hard Time Attack mode, but when the game has been completed four times or more you no longer need this cheat to ride a beautiful white Agro.

The saved game files, upon each successive completion of the game do carry a marker to indicate this fact. So I have continued to complete the game up to nine times at last count. I suspect that there may be further rewards for completing SOTC so many times. At present I am yet to receive anything but it isn’t going to stop me and besides, I enjoy playing.
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The huge tower at the centre of the landscape in SOTC houses, at the midpoint a secret garden. If you’ve ever completed the game itself and watched the closing credits you will have seen the girl and Agro transcending the stairs to the garden. This garden is reachable by Wander but to access it is a challenge of patience, skill and persistence.

When you start the game afresh your stamina is too low to hang onto any surface for more than 30 seconds, indeed to climb the walls of the tower to reach the garden requires more stamina than you start with. The only way to do this is to collect the white tails of certain lizards which increase your stamina marginally.

The instinct to climb this tower was so strong in me after conquering all the colossi that it seemed the next logical step and one which was going to take plenty of time to execute. It took me 3 months to find enough lizard tails until my stamina was literally occupying the right quarter of the game screen. There is another method utilising diagonal jumping but you will still need a lot of stamina to reach the path to the secret garden.

When I finally reached the top I was so overjoyed my hands were shaking. I cried out “Yes!” as Wander dragged himself over the last edge and stood up on the path leading up to the secret garden. Upon reaching the garden my expectations were fulfilled as the garden itself was quite lovely, full of animals and birds, trees and big blocks of granite carved into the walls. As I explored I speculated that one could climb higher into the clouds and possibly reach the very top of the tower. This unfortunately is not possible. I have since tried everything to reach the summit of the tower but my efforts have been in vain. I only wish that this was possible and if you’ve ever heard of anyone reaching this summit I would very much like to hear from you.

There are many reasons why Team ICO may not allow players to reach the top.

1. There wasn’t enough time to program all the ledges for Wander to cling onto.
2. There isn’t enough space above the garden to allow the geometry for such a tall platform.
3. It wasn’t meant to be reached adding to the air of mystery surrounding the tower.

I for one wish that it was possible, I believe the view to be wondrous but I suppose it wasn’t meant to be. So the summit remains unconquered but at least I know I did everything I could to reach it.
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Ico - The Sequel?

Ico was the first game released by Team ICO and SOTC the second. But this does not necessarily represent the order of things. ICO is possibly the sequel to SOTC, not directly but one can speculate that the boy with horns called Ico is a descendant of the tiny horned child discovered by the princess at the end of SOTC. This of course is only speculation but it is an idea that is widely accepted.

Whether the boy with horns from Ico or the child with horns from SOTC is related is not proven. But I enjoy entertaining the fact that they could be. It makes the stories from both games just a little more intriguing and, when playing either game; I am consciously looking for clues to that relationship. Team ICO’s next game in development; The Last Guardian has a creature which also has horns and while that in itself is not remarkable, it is intriguing to me as to why this creature has horns at all and whether the creature shares a relationship to either Ico or SotC. I suppose I will never know for sure, but that is the way I like it.
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The Giants Cradle

Shadow of the Colossus is a huge game. The vastness of the open plains, the towering cliffs and the tall ruins make exploring the landscape a real challenge and one which I relish. If you’ve ever explored the landscape as I have, looking for white lizard tails and fruit trees, you will have found plenty of hidden nooks and crannies. I love finding new areas for myself and Agro to traverse and navigate through and sometimes we even get completely lost making the journey even more ‘fun.’ Exploring the southern eastern area you will find a huge dessert, a lonely fruit tree silhouetted against the sea, an oasis containing a lake with fish and a huge cave full of lizards.

Some of the best locations are to be found along the cliff walls, simply choose a cliff and follow it. There’s even a secret beach at the bottom of a cliff on the southern side. There are still a few areas I haven’t explored simply because I went left instead of right that time and I haven’t been back there yet. I love the contrast between some of the areas, the lush dark forests hidden over the north eastern bridge or the narrow cliff path snaking its way toward the thundering waterfall. Each location feels as accomplished as the next and each have their own unique feeling and purpose. Exploring the landscape sometimes feels like climbing a giant colossus and one can only wish, after 3 years of wandering, that the landscape went on forever.

There is one area of the map that is clouded, permanently inaccessible by traditional methods. Even grabbing a ride on a hawk does not permit access to this area. The north eastern part of the map is completely unreachable and to this day I am yet to find a path through to its secrets...
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About a Boy

Imagine inheriting something that sets you apart from your friends and family; a physical feature you cannot hide but which will see you cast out from your homeland.

A tragic inevitability haunts your birth - you know you will never reach adulthood. Alone and entombed, exiled from your family as a harbinger of bad luck, isolation is your only friend...

Now imagine finding a kindred spirit in the darkness that surrounds you. Looking up and seeing a light so bright that it illuminates your path and asks for your help.

Suddenly, escape seems possible. There are two of you now, and together you know much can be achieved. You know that a friendship like this can overcome whatever lies in your way...
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Relationships with a Pixel

Team ICO’s games are enjoyable because they capture a feeling for the player that is seldom explored in games. If you’ve ever played a modern videogame then chances are you will have had a relationship with your on-screen avatar whether it be to shout at them for not doing what you want, to feeling a little sad when they are killed to even feeling fear for them when threatened.

Team ICO tends to exploit this feeling by showing the player this relationship on screen between two characters. By doing this the player can’t help but feel in some way connected to the characters, like a surrogate parent nurturing the on-screen relationship and protecting it. In Ico for instance, the relationship between Ico and Yorda is so innocent and childlike that one can’t help feel for them both and every effort is made by the player to protect them both.

I have played other games where this doesn’t happen. Tomb raider for instance; my time with Lara Croft was quite a dominant relationship to the point where I would find interesting and gruesome ways for her to be killed. I think this happens because I don’t feel protective of the avatar and indeed she is there to obey me. In Ico, Yorda and Ico are relying on each other for protection and look to me for guidance therefore I immediately feel a different kind of connection other than to dominate.

It’s this dynamic which is at the centre of Team ICO’s games and one which I look forward to exploring with each new release. From what I know of The Last Guardian, this dynamic is again exploited in the relationship between the young boy and the creature, Trico.

There are examples of this in other games within the industry. Games of note are ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ for the PS2 and the Gamecube, the relationship between Jade and Pey'j. You may also want to look at the recent ‘Prince of Persia’ game and the relationship between the Prince and the Princess, although this is less successful due in part to the lack of substance the game presents. Team ICO seems to understand this dynamic more than any other game developer and this is one of the reasons their games tend to feel much more human than the crowd.
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Fumito Ueda Discusses The Last Guardian

Published in Famitsu Magazine on 6th March 2009, an interview with director Fumito Ueda(Director/Lead Designer) that blows the door open on both the trailer and everything else that he and his team are aiming for with their first publicly-announced project in four years.

The trailer's focus is naturally on Trico, the "great man-eating eagle" of the game's Japanese-language title and a creature with a bit of bird, cat, dog, and everything else you can think of in him. Did the game's core concept begin with this guy's design? "We thought we could take the relationship you built with Agro as you went through Shadow of the Colossus and make that more of the main focus of the game design," Ueda said. "Also, both the PlayStation 3 and Japan-made video games in general haven't exhibited a lot of energy lately, so we chose a theme for our game that instead offered a very strong presence."

Discussing Trico's design, Ueda revealed that his team's primary focus was to create a virtual creature that was interesting to interact with while being as realistic as possible. "Replicating a real-life dog or cat is not impossible, but if you have a dog or cat in real life, you're always going to notice the unnatural idiosyncrasies of the virtual animal first," he said. "The current design is a product of thinking about what works with the game's design while looking as natural as possible. It's a mixture of features from many animals, and even I think it's a pretty strange combination. That's what we were aiming for, though. We kept it deliberately unbalanced because looking strange was important here.

"There are lots of games that have cute-looking characters, but that 'cute' is mostly a symbolic 'cute,' taking real life and deforming it. The traits of a real animal are much more complex, but I think video games, and in particular the power of the PS3, have the power to express them. The challenge for us is to show truly animal-like expressions -- the way the eyes move and open, or the way it moves or raises its hackles."

In The Last Guardian, the player controls the boy seen in the trailer, interacting with the eagle as he explores the game world. Exactly how the boy and eagle meet up is still a secret, but one scene in the trailer seems to show the boy giving the eagle some food. "You can feed the eagle, as well as take out any spears or harpoons stuck in his body," Ueda said. "You're free to interact with him at any time, but having to care for him constantly would be annoying, so we're striking a balance. Building your characters and solving puzzles are important parts of any game, but an animal strikes a presence in your life simply by looking at it. There is an air of mystery to them, since you can't be sure what thoughts could be crossing their mind, and that's another reason why animals are a main theme of the game."

Interacting with your griffin-ish friend is not going to be smooth going from start to finish, however. "The eagle does not simply follow all of your directions," Ueda said. "Throwing something that catches his interest will get him to move -- you aren't working with him and giving him orders, but you're more taking advantage of his natural behavior. Sometimes, you'll need him to sit still in order to finish a section, but he'll run off on you instead. He's not all that smart, and he won't necessarily do what the player wants all the time."

As Ueda put it to Famitsu, the classic Ico/Colossus gameplay -- climbing up, grabbing on to things, figuring out how to get from point A to point B -- will be the main thrust of The Last Guardian as well. "This game, unlike the previous ones, runs on a full physics engine, but it's not just for the purposes of technology," he noted. "I think it's important that any piece of technology you use contributes to the themes you're trying to express. We're very serious about this -- for example, in the scene [in the trailer] where the eagle grabs the barrel and swallows it, that's not simple animation; the barrel makes interactive contact with his mouth, and physical momentum drives it down his throat. We learned a great deal about AI processing in Ico and transformative collisions in Shadow of the Colossus; here, we've put the two together and brought them up to PlayStation 3 level, and that lets us make this world the kind of inviting, 'I wish I could go there' place that Ico and Colossus had."

Sony Computer Entertainment announced at E3 that The Last Guardian is a 2010 release, and Ueda declined to go into further specifics, other than to say "there is definitely a reason why we are announcing this when we are." Online compatibility is still up in the air -- "There are things I'd like to do with the online environment," Ueda said, but "I can't definitely say whether it will happen."

Article taken from Written by Kevin Gifford.

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Ico is the first game from Team ICO. Released in 2001 on the Playstation 2, Ico was originally destined for the Playstation 1, but it was decided by Sony that the fledgling consoles weak game line-up at launch needed stronger better games. And so Ico's release on the PS1 was cancelled and it was developed and released for the PS2 instead.

Ico is very unusual and is not like most other Playstation games. Ico blends soft flowing imagery with harsh angular architecture to produce a dreamlike quality which is rarely seen in games.

Ico is also the name of the playable character, a young boy with horns. His aim is to escape a dark crumbling castle in which he was imprisoned. Early on he rescues a young girl called Yorda from a cage suspended from the castle ceiling and they both must escape while avoiding being captured by strange dark creatures which also inhabit the castle. These creatures are not unlike those seen standing around Wander in SOTC every-time a colossus is defeated. The creatures attempt to kidnap Yorda if she’s left alone for too long and you have to call to her or grab her hand and pull her to safety while attacking them with a stick or a sword. It’s all very tense at times and the creatures are quite persistent.

The main attraction is the castle which is quite simply massive. Each room contains a puzzle or a path which is related to another rooms puzzle. It’s quite difficult to understand how the rooms link together and you must keep track of where you are and where you came from. This is the challenging part of Ico, the castle is a massive puzzle of interlinking rooms and pathways that for the most part don’t give any clues as to how they relate to each other. Only persistence and careful thinking about how the rooms relate to each other will allow you understand the puzzles.

It took me about a year to complete Ico. When I did it felt very rewarding. I won’t spoil the ending for you, needless to say it is worth the effort should you choose to undertake such a task as beating the castle and its secrets.

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The Last Guardian

I am simply beside myself with joy at the prospect of playing the next game from Team ICO. The popularity of SOTC should ensure the developers new game gets a warm welcome.

The Last Guardian(TLG) was unveiled at this years E3 and seems to share many similarities with Team ICO’s previous games. The playable character has to care for a creature (or person) and the game is built on this relationship between an NPC (non-playable-character) and the avatar. I remember being devastated by the ‘death’ of Agro in SOTC or feeling afraid when the dark creatures were kidnapping Yorda in Ico.

During the video shown at E3, the boy(avatar) seems to be feeding the creature and in return the creature helps the boy in many different ways. This dynamic is at the core of Ico and SOTC and I’m sure will be an essential part of TLG. One can also speculate that the creature can communicate with the boy, perhaps not using a vocabulary but with gestures and calls. The creature itself appears to be based on both a cat and a bird and is reminiscent of a legendary creature called a Griffin.

The visuals in this game are sure to be breathtaking and I can only hope that they share the same dreamlike quality that their other games do. Team ICO’s work on the PS2 utilised the consoles architecture brilliantly making SOTC one of the best looking games on any console in recent times. The raw processing power of the PS3 cell engine is sure to make TLG look incredible.

There are hints that the landscape the game is situated is either the same as or inspired by SOTC. The architecture of the castle is also reminiscent of Ico and shares the same dark looming structure. Though they have never confirmed that either Ico and SOTC are related it is popularly believed that SOTC is the prequel to Ico. I am hoping that the saga continues with TLG being related either directly or indirectly to Team ICO’s previous games.

So here’s to baited breath while we await the coming of the third game from Team ICO and the knowledge that we can expect the same dynamics, the same clarity for a visual style and the re-assurance that TLG will be an incredible game.

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The First Encounter of a Massive Kind

After watching the intro movie (it helps set the scene in any game) and thinking how beautiful the game world looked with it’s tall structures and watercolour palette, Wander and I set of on our trusty steed toward the light as ordered by the voice in the sky.

Getting outside for the first time I witnessed a huge area of grassland framed by tall cliffs on all sides. Holding aloft my sword in the sunshine I saw a beam of light piercing from the blade heading straight ahead. Crossing the plain toward the light I came across a cliff wall. Looking up I could see a path up the cliff so I jumped down of my horse whose name I had learnt was 'Agro,' and proceeded to scale the vines upon the cliff.

After a few acrobatics I reached the top at which point a cut-scene played showing the colossus walking past, shaking the ground and the trees. I was in awe at the sight of this giant of rock and fur and my mind wondered at how I was going to kill such a beast.

I scrambled up the rest of the cliff and walked slowly toward the colossus which had his back to me in the distant mist, plagued by a flock of birds. He started to turn. His eyes looked on me and I felt fear as I engaged the colossus for the first time.

Running toward his feet while looking up at the huge towering beast, his club came down, smashing the ground and causing me to lose my balance. Then his foot landed just short of my head and I was thrown about the ground causing myself injury.

I got to my feet and looked about his. Surely I must scale this giant to take it down? Jumping at his heels I finally managed to grab his thick hair and was tossed onto his calf. I stood there for a moment before his leg swung violently, flinging me off onto the ground again.

I quickly composed my self and again headed for his heels being careful not to get trod on. Eventually I managed to get onto his calf again and this time I noticed a gash on his leg. I raised my sword and brought it down into the giants ‘flesh.’ He roared with pain. I did it again, this time with more aggression and the giant fell to his knees.

I continued climbing the giant using his fur to scale his legs toward a small platform I found on his back. Up further still I climbed, all the while the colossus writhed about, trying to get me off himself.

I finally reached his head where I found a glowing patch of white skin. He wasn’t happy I was there and flung his head about violently trying to remove me. I prevailed and raised my sword to bring it down into his skull. He roared with pain as black magic spewed from the wound. I raised my weapon again and drove it into his head several more times, each time the dark gas spewed forth until finally he fell to the ground, tossing me off his head.

I got back to my feet and looked at the slain beast. He was completely still and silent, like a statue. He was being enveloped by a dark layer of mist along the length of his body until he was entirely consumed. I hadn’t notice that at the same time thick black spines were whirling about the sky. They sought me out and impaled my fragile body through the heart at which point I collapsed into the dust beneath my feet.

The world became serene and I faded out into a tunnel of light.

I awoke back at the temple, my horse had returned and as I tried to make sense of it all I heard a deafening noise behind me as one of the statues was pierced with white light and came apart into a thousand pieces.

I then heard the voice in the sky telling me ‘thy next foe is…’

I was terrified, but I couldn't wait to see the next!
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The Shadow of the Colossus

There is no other game I have ever played which made me feel the way Shadow of the Colossus does. The attachment I have to this game means that I will probably play it for the rest of my life.

Released onto the PS2 in 2005, I remember the first time I heard of this game. I am an avid reader of Edge magazine and the review gave it nine out of ten, which in Edge is a very high score indeed. Rarely do games get a score as high, indeed only Ico beat it with a perfect score of ten out of ten. I read the review with great interest and after reading it I hatched a plan to get a copy as soon as possible.

After two and a half years of playing SOTC I finally completed it for the ninth time. Even though I have played it so much and for so long it still surprises me every-time I pick up the joypad. The last thing it taught me was that patting Agro recharges your stamina quicker.

For me it’s the tiny details and minor touches that make a game uniquely playable and enjoyable. SOTC has never let me down and will continue to be regarded by myself as one of the greatest pixellated adventures you can buy.

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Shadow of the Colossus
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