- Original release year: 2001
- Consoles: PS2 (later: PS3)
Ico was a fascinating game to me back when it was first released. All I knew was, the North American cover art sucked hard, the Japanese and European cover art was beautiful (why in God’s name did they ruin it for North America!?), critics called Ico a masterpiece, audiences ignored it, sales were poor and then the game reached cult status. The prices of second-hand copies of Ico shot up, as gamers largely cottoned on to the fact they may have missed out on a masterpiece and the game became out of print. Fortunately, it was eventually re-released (at least here in Europe) in 2006, allowing gamers to experience it at a decent price (the PS3 HD remaster also came out in 2011).
The art direction in Ico is truly stunning. That coupled with the wonderful bond between the protagonist, Ico and the young girl, Yorda really makes Ico an engaging game; a work of art, even, if I were to be a little bit pretentious. As Ico, you explore the castle you find yourself in, guiding and helping Yorda across obstacles with you, solving puzzles to progress further through the game.
In retrospect, it’s almost criminal that gamers largely ignored Ico in 2001 and 2002 when it was released. Sure, gamers had Grand Theft Auto 3, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for a more quant, beautiful adventure game like Ico, featuring superb game and sound design. It’s fortunate, that Team Ico eventually received the sales and high critical praise they deserve with Ico’s grandeur and even more impressive follow up, Shadow of the Colossus.