Never has a game left me truly breathless. I have never been in true awe to the point of dead silence and clear mindedness due to the stunning or horrid actions on screen. I had been immersed by games like Pokemon and Oblivion, and sure I had been lost for hours in the Kanto Region and Cyrodil, but never was I impacted by a game—that is, until Shadow of the Colossus. When I stepped into that world, I knew that I was about to experience something entirely different. The atmosphere was of calm, yet with a chilling sense of what lay beyond.
For those unfamiliar with the game, you start as a young lad only known as Wander, who is searching for a forbidden land in order to resurrect his dead girlfriend. The intro cut scene shows that he finds an enormous temple within this deserted land. When reaching the temple a voice calls to Wander and gives him the task of defeating 16 beasts called ‘Colossi’ to bring his loved one back from the grave. After that you set off into the world on your own.
The first thing you’ll notice about the world is the creepy eeriness that emits from its core. There’s not a soul in the starting temple. Using your horse, Agro, you’re able to traverse across what are seemingly empty fields, valleys, and lakes.
You’re equipped is a simple sword and bow combo, but also the ability to climb walls and other various objects—probably my favorite aspect of the game. Game designers can’t seem to grasp that simplicity can be such a useful tool in game design. Slash, shoot, climb, and ride are the only tools available to you and it makes for some of the most fun I have had in quite some time. There aren’t any RPG elements to deal with, and there are no annoying NPC characters. There is, however, that mysterious voice from the temple who speaks to you, but he only shows up in between fights with the Colossi.
Speaking of the Colossi, they aren’t called that just to have an awesome name. These giants are the size of skyscrapers (Mostly)—as well as being the only enemies in the game. Each one is an intricately designed boss fight containing a different approach to their demise. They usually just involve the usual jump and grab onto their fur strategy, but it isn’t long before you’ll require a more thoughtful strategy. As you hold onto them there’s a grip gauge that slowly decreases so you will have to worry about falling off as well as stabbing the oversized hawk’s tail you happen to be clinging. The first time playing this game makes your heart nearly drop at the sight of the enormous entity that emerges from the earth. They sometimes appear to be statues, or crumpled buildings until it all starts to move or conjoin into another stony giant.
It’s probably because Wander is just an ant compared to the Colossi that the game feels so gleefully intense. Every step and movement made by the Colossi feels like an earthquake which is what makes them feel gigantic. There aren’t many games that can compare to the experience of clinging for dear life to a 200-foot-tall gorilla, as it thrashes about in an attempt to kill you. When you do finally decipher the strategy that beats them and reach the top of their head to land the final crushing blow, you will never feel more triumphant.