Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Team Ico and The Amazing Games

At E3 in 2009,Team Ico showcased a short video for their latest stunning offering to the Playstation altar. It's called The Last Guardian (in English anyway), and it looks like our expectations of Team Ico will not lead to disappointment. However, in order to understand the present, and those expectations, let's take a look into the past at the 2 hits this studio has previously given us...

Ico (the game the team is named after)
Apparently Director Fumito Ueda wanted to create a game based around the concept of "boy meets girll", and thus was Ico born.

Don't let that fool you though as Ico is so much more than a boy meeting a girl...For a start, that boy is the protagonist Ico, he was born with horns, which is considered a Bad Thing by his village, and so he is locked in what appears to be an abandoned old castle. It's in this castle he meets Yorda, and the 2 attempt to escape together.

The actual gameplay is mainly puzzle-solving, interacting with your environment in the right way to open up pathways that were previously inaccessible, and as Ico is a generally athletic kid, this WOULDN'T be too much of a problem if it weren't for Yorda...Yorda is a fragile girl (who actually seems to GLOW), and where Ico climbs chains and easily jumps gaps, Yorda needs a helping hand, or sometimes a helping piece of machinery to move a large block. As Ico you provide Yorda with that helping hand...literally. Ico can hold her hand to lead her around, pull her up to ledges she can't reach, and catch her when she inexpertly attempts to jump gaps. Thankfully, you don't have to drag her around ALL the time. Some puzzles actually require her being left behind for a while, and there is a button that allows you to call out to her to run to you.

It's not a good idea to leave her just anywhere though as there are strange shadow-things that are after her. Although they don't actually hurt Ico, they can knock him back, and then attempt to drag Yorda into the black vortex-like holes from which they spawn,if you don't save her in time from that......it's game over.

First released back in 2001, Ico was recently re-released with Shadow of the Colossus as a PS3 HD pack, and is well worth a look.

Shadow of the Colussus
Shadow of the Colossus was released 4 years after Ico, and is considered its spiritual successor and prequel (although the prequel part is how Director Fumito Ueda feels about the game,not actually story-wise.).

The game revolves around the actions of the protagonist Wander, who is on a mission to resurrect a girl - Mono.In order to do this he must kill 16 colossi.

Easy right?Wrong!

The only tools given to you on this quest are a bow and arrows (which took annoyed button mashing for me to FIND), a sword, and a horse that sometimes steers like a mule (aptly named Agro).In order to find the general location of the colossus you are currently hunting, Wander must raise his sword in sunlight, the reflected light then shines in the direction of your next target.You must then steer Agro, as best you can toward your enemy.

The colossi aren't all easy to find though, and there are some that necessitate leaving Agro behind and venturing forth alone.Each colossi has a vulnerable spot, which you must find and plunge your sword into several times.

And that spot is never somewhere EASY, say......a big toe.No, each new colossus brings a new challenge, requiring you to climb up it and find its glowy weak-point symbol whilst hanging on for dear life.There is a limit to how long you can make Wander hang in any one place though as he does have a stamina gauge. He also has a health bar, and can be killed by falls from high places (high places are also known as colossi).

Some Collosi require the use of your horse, some require imaginative use of the surrounding environment, but all are fascinating and beautifully designed,and although I spent most of my time suspicious of where the instructions on how to resurrect Mono came from, the game was exhilarating.

The Last Guardian
Finally we have the Last Guardian, or at least what we've been TOLD about the Last Guardian. The story in this third title revolves around a boy, who has no name as of yet, and a large griffon-like creature - named Trico.

The boy is trying to escape what appear to be the ruins of a castle, when he runs across Trico, who is first seen with spears and arrows in his back, chained up.Initially Trico is aggressive to the boy, as he is with other characters such as soldiers, but eventually they form a relationship.

The gameplay is billed to be similar to what we experienced in Ico - a combination of action-adventure and puzzle game, however your sidekick in this game is a help and not a hindrance.The player will apparently be able  to use Trico to solve puzzles. Don't think of him as Robin to your Batman though, as Trico continues the tradition of animals with real animal-like behaviour that Agro the Horse started in Shadow of the Colossus. He won't always be biddable or easy to control.

To make up for this, and to make puzzle solving more interesting, you can use his animal characteristics to your advantage - such as releasing a barrel that causes movement and sound and draws the creature to that spot. This may not always be an option however, and you will have to try ASKING Trico to co-operate, which means you actually have to build your relationship with him. The more you have trained him, the more he will obey.

Trico is also said to act as a tool of exploration. Let him go running off on his own in certain places and he will discover new areas for you.

The unnamed boy is initially without a weapon,and the player must use stealth and cunning to sneak around gaurds, or use the environment to defeat them, because if they catch him and manage to drag him away, then just like Yorda and the black vortices, the game is over

The Last Guardian was set to be released this year during the end of the year game rush, but has been delayed to 2012 - Apparently because the Ico Team is is trying to make the levels seem more random and natural.

We can only hope that they mean EARLY 2012,like maybe the 1st of the 1st...

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