Shadow of the Colossus is an action-adventure game developed by Team Ico. The game technically consists of nothing but sixteen boss fights (Colossi), which are scattered throughout a vast, realistically rendered land. The game is often credited for being unorthodox, innovative, and altogether artistic, sometimes called the Citizen Kane of video games. The game is also different in that there are no typical video game mechanics, such as levels, stats, new equipment, keys or dungeons. Everything you will use is available to you at the start of the game, providing a more realistic, immersive experience.
It was later officially confirmed that Shadow of the Colossus is a prequel to Ico.
The game opens with a man named Wander, carrying a veiled figure on your horse, Agro, as you travel rugged terrain. Eventually, Wander crosses a immense bridge, entering a forbidden land where the god Dormin, who is said to have the power to ressurect the dead, resides. Wander desires to resurrect the veiled figure, a young woman named Momo, who was sacrificed for unknown reasons, and begs Dormin for its help. Dormin states Wander's wish may be possible, provided that he finds and destroys the sixteen Colossi scattered throughout the land. While Dormin warns Wander that doing so may come at a great price, Wander brushes the warning aside and proceeds to track down and kill the Colossi. Every time a Colossus is slain, black tendrils, revealed to a fragment of Dormin's essence, shoot from the Colossus's body and enter Wander, sending him into unconsciousness. As the story progresses, Wander's physical appearance noticeably deteriorates: his skin becomes paler, his brown hair darker, his clothing dirtier, and dark streaks begin appearing across his face.
Shadow of the Colossus consists entirely of boss fights. In between these bosses is nothing but a landscape over which you travel. You begin at the Shrine of Worship, where Dormin gives you a hint as to the nature of the next Colossus. From there, you can raise your Magic Sword in the sunlight, and point it in various directions. The light from your sword will gather into a single beam when it faces the direction of the next Colossus. This is how you navigate the land to find these enemies, but it only works in places where there is sunlight.
The land is vast, but not desolate. There terrain can vary, with long draw distances. Riding on horseback makes traveling faster, but Agro cannot climb or swim. There is also the occasional wildlife, such as turtles, lizards, and hawks. Some can be killed, but are not considered "enemies."
There is a pink circle meter which displays Wander's stamina, determining how long he can stay underwater or grip terrain, such as rock formations or the body of Colossi. This meter will recharge as long as Wander is not gripping any If this meter is depleted, he cannot grab anything until it regenerates. You can expand the pink circle by collecting more lizards.
When Wander finds a Colossus, he must find its weak point, find a way to access it, and then stab it until it dies. The weak point can be found by shining the magic sword until it points to it. It is designated by a glowing mark. After a few stabs, the mark will disappear and move elsewhere. It is up to the player to find this new weak point to continue killing the Colossus.
Each Colossus is different. Some walk on two feet, some gallop on four, some fly. Almost all of them are complete giants. To kill them, they must be scaled. But not every part of their body has a grip. The player must often manipulate the movement and actions of the Colossus in order to reveal suitable climbing point. It may be as simple as waiting for the Colossus to strike with its club, so that the player may climb the weapon. Other times, the player may hide in a small cave, causing the colossus to try and find you, possibly giving you a point of access.
Once on the Colossus, players climb & jump their way to the weak point. This is made difficult by the limitations on grip, so the player must often find some level ground or platform on the Colossus to rest & regenerate his grip. A fall from high distances will damage Wander, which will eventually lead to his death. All the while, the Colossus will be trying to shake off Wander, making it hard for him to stay on, let alone stab the weak point.
- Many reviewers have said that the frame rate often slows down and becomes quite choppy in very intense moments.
- It is also often commented that the controls, especially the ones for camera, are too clumsy.