After returning to Ico, I returned to Shadow of the Colossus. And, of course, they’re both phenomenal games; I appreciate Ico more after replaying it than I did the first time through, I think, while Shadow of the Colossus is less of a surprise this time.

In particular, playing Shadow of the Colossus right after Ico gave me a different context for the game than I had the first time I played it. It turns out that there’s more gaminess in Shadow of the Colossus than I remembered, and more than in Ico: more chrome in the UI, more goodies to find, and those goodies are actually useful in terms of letting you beat the bosses (by increased grip strength). Which is frustrating: partly because it dilutes the focus of the game, and partly because the sword combat works really badly against lizards.

But still: like Ico, Shadow does a remarkable job of being focused, and a remarkable job of being a living structure. I’ve talked about the living structure aspects before; and, as for focus, this is a game that only has 16 pieces of combat in it. Which, in turn, makes you confront your motivation and your decisions: what is the impact of killing these glorious creatures, what is your your motivation in doing so, and does the latter justify the former? It’s not like you actually have a choice, other than not to play, but it’s still a completely different mindset than most games put you in: far more typical would be to have you constantly killing in the service of saving your people against an existential threat, while both your actions and your motivation are much more personal in this game.

I wish more games had followed Ico‘s and Shadow of the Colossus‘s lead in the decade since they were published.

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