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Home > Review Archive > Video Games > Results: ICO

ICO
by Dr. Matt J. Carlson
April 04, 2004

A slow-moving puzzle/exploration game reminiscent of Myst gone platformer. The graphics are outstanding and the entire game just screams "mood" at you. A bit low on the action scale for the younger set.

Reviewed for PS2.

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Scroll down for our Kid Factor.

GamerDad Seal Of Approval - 10+.  Click to learn more about our review seal. A slow-moving puzzle/exploration game reminiscent of Myst gone platformer. The graphics are outstanding and the entire game just screams "mood" at you. A bit low on the action scale for the younger set.

This platform/adventure game can be summed up with a single word, mood. ICO has a distinct mood and buckets of it. The storyline seems somewhat simple at first, a little boy banished to a prison of an ancient castle just because the boy was born with horns on his head. However, the blowing wind, the consistent brickwork of the castle, even the types of puzzles you must solve all blend together in amazing ways that continue to draw you into the storyline. Running along a high parapet wall, if I made a miss-step and the little boy's hands began to wave in the air as if he might fall, I would feel a jolt of adrenaline run through my body as I tried to save him from the peril of falling. It is this establishment of mood and setting that sets apart ICO from other recent platform or adventure games.



The game itself is a slightly slow-moving adventure puzzle style game where you are introduced to an environment that contains everything you need to progress to the next area. However, you must figure out how to get yourself and your accompanying almost helpless friend to that area using the objects on hand. This puzzle aspect is briefly disrupted from time to time by nasty shadow-creatures who try to steal away your friend. If you ever fall to your death or lose your female friend, the game is over. Thankfully, save game spots in the form of a friendly glowing couch are scattered liberally throughout the landscape. Sit down with your friend on it and you can save the game.

It is difficult to describe in words the intricate castle landscape you must explore in order to escape the castle and finish the game. It is a lovely yellow, aged stone brickwork affair that is contrasted with the lovely summer day and nicely groomed foliage that is interspersed throughout the castle. One feature in particular that sets the mood is the large, open spaces. The very first goal in the game involves spiraling up high into the top of a central dome of the castle. Once you near the top, you can look down to the bottom floor and marvel at just how far you will fall if you accidentally miss a jump.

One of the few strikes against the game is the difficulty of the puzzles. Most puzzles are fairly straightforward and once you make a thorough investigation of your local environment, the solution is not too difficult. Occasionally, a particular puzzle will be difficult until you can figure out what combination of abilities of the little horned boy or his companion are needed to find the solution. Although the puzzles can be a bit on the easy side, they allow the story to progress at a good pace and prevent you from getting stuck or bored at the speed that events unfold.

ICO is a masterful platform adventure game. It is distinctly different than a Spyro the Dragon or Super Mario style platform game, but still very much an enjoyable platform game. It is what I expect a platform game crossed with the old Myst adventure game might look like. Run out and buy it if you want to experience a platform game and not just play one.

Kid Factor: This game is very beautiful, but is also slow paced. The puzzles might be too hard for younger kids to figure out as well. The biggest concern for this game would be the brief action sequences. Since the game is so spooky (big empty castle, trying to find your way out), the scenes where a black hole appears and little night-black bird shapes try to fly up and haul away the princess down into the black hole. These types of scenes can be quite scary. There is no blood or gore, you are just fighting shadows. However, the imagery and the mood of this game is established so well, I would think this is the sort of thing that could cause nightmares in young kids. I know I was slightly disturbed at the opening cutscene when a poor little boy was locked away in a cell (almost an iron-maiden type thing) in a castle just because he had horns on his head. ICO is an EXCELLENT game, but because it is so good at establishing suspense and mood, I wouldn't advise it for sensitive kids in middle school or below.




Reviewerï¾’s Recommended Ages: 13+
ESRB: T-Teen
Developer: Sony
Producer: Sony







Click to learn more about GamerDad's Kid Factor review section. This game is very beautiful, but is also slow paced. The puzzles might be too hard for younger kids to figure out as well. The biggest concern for this game would be the brief action sequences. Since the game is so spooky (big empty castle, trying to find your way out), the scenes where a black hole appears and little night-black bird shapes try to fly up and haul away the princess down into the black hole. These types of scenes can be quite scary. There is no blood or gore, you are just fighting shadows. However, the imagery and the mood of this game is established so well, I would think this is the sort of thing that could cause nightmares in young kids. I know I was slightly disturbed at the opening cutscene when a poor little boy was locked away in a cell (almost an iron-maiden type thing) in a castle just because he had horns on his head. ICO is an EXCELLENT game, but because it is so good at establishing suspense and mood, I wouldn't advise it for sensitive kids in middle school or below. Kid Factor by Dr. Matt J. Carlson

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Home > Review Archive > Video Games > Results: ICO
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Game Info:
Platform(s):
PS2

ESRB rating:
T - Teen

Score:




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