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"Ico" classic game turns 20 years old: Still a masterpiece today


A fairy tale, a work of art, a game that tells a great story about courage and humanity in just a few words. The award-winning »Ico« still shows its size even after 20 years.

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Hold your breath for the jump over the abyss: When Ico reaches out, Yorda jumps

Photo: Sony

You hold your breath briefly when Ico holds out his hand, Yorda gathers her courage and jumps over a deep abyss. She barely makes it, holds on to the outstretched hand. The two trust each other even though they have only just met. They want to escape from a fortress in the sea where they were both trapped. And experience one of the most beautiful adventures there is for a game console. Still twenty years after the game came out.

»Ico« was developed for the Playstation 2 and came onto the market just under a year after the revolutionary new console was released. The game was developed by Fumito Ueda, a hitherto unknown developer in Sony's Japanese studio. "Ico" was a gamble because it goes against the usual video game conventions. It's not loud and colorful, but quiet and intense, generating emotions that were previously unknown from games. It was the first of three games that Fumito Ueda made for Sony. With "Shadow of the Colossus" and "Last Guardian" he continued "Ico" stylistically and became a favorite with critics.

»Ico« was showered with prizes and shown in museums.

It keeps coming up when it comes to the idle discussions about whether video games are art or not.

And »Ico« has influenced and impressed a generation of game designers.

Whether "Half Life 2", "Brothers", "Uncharted" or "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time", whether "Papa & Yo", "Flower" or "Journey": In each of these and countless other games, especially in indie Area, there are traces of "Ico".

Be it in the graphics that show less bright colors, be it in the reduced gameplay, be it the way in which two characters interact with each other.

What is now being tried by many games was unique at the time.

But one thing was not »Ico«: commercially successful.

The magic has to be worked hard

If you play it again today - here the remaster version for Playstation 3 - you quickly realize why that could have been. "Ico" requires patience. The movements of the boy Ico are sometimes difficult to understand, the fights arduous and ultimately somewhat one-dimensional. Puzzles are distributed in large rooms that you often have to traverse several times. On the one hand, that's what makes the game magic, but on the other hand, this magic also has to be worked hard. With patience, with calm.

At the beginning you don't know anything, you have to listen, think, let the story take effect.

Ico is brought to an island fortress.

It towers high above the water, nested, full of stairs, doors and traps.

He is brought into a room and locked up - sacrificed because he has horns and his village casts him out.

Yorda, a young girl, whose fate is only found out much later, is trapped in the same room.

She is a delicate being, whitish, almost translucent.

So fragile that you want to help her right away.

Just like Ico.

It's a head smaller, but determined to save her - and herself -.

One of the first characters to worry about

This creates an intimate relationship with almost no language. Yorda was one of the first characters to worry about, to protect from the evil that you fought for. Ico expressed it all in his gestures, his struggle. He takes Yorda by the hand, leads her - or rather: pulls her - through the fortress, clears her way, opens doors and fights against the black, misty enemies that Yorda wants to pull into dark holes. Dogged, almost desperate, he repeatedly hits the enemy with a stick, raw and angry. It's the same with players. The fight has no finesse, no special tricks. You want to get rid of your opponents, no matter how. They should just go away.

Then you can finally find ways again, operate cranes, drive carts or bring bridges to collapse.

Take Yorda by the hand and lead, admire the intricate fortress.

Sometimes you see them in the bright sunshine, sometimes you walk through their gloomy vaults.

And again and again you enjoy the wonderful views, the landscape.

Listen to the sound of the sea in the distance, the few noises in the world of »Ico«.

Sit on a stone bench with Yorda to save your progress and take a break.

And notes: »Ico« is still a unique, wonderful, slightly stubborn game.

Minimalistic, calm, emotional and still a masterpiece even after twenty years.

»Ico« by Sony Japan, for Playstation 2, as a remaster for Playstation 3, reissued in 2011 and now playable via Playstation Now, for example.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-09-25

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