Ico is a very simple game with a simple story that was way ahead of its time.
In Ico you take on the role of the horned protagonist of the same name as he helps a princess escape a castle, the premise is simple but it is how the game conveys the story with little dialog that is most impressive.
Ico, at its core, is a puzzle game, you need to figure out how to get to the next area all the while holding the hand of Yarda the princess. If you don’t hold her hand you could either find her in trouble (resulting in game over) or an obstacle that you need her to open. It’s a simple idea but extremely effective in this setting. And as one of the first games on the PlayStation 2 it is most impressive. The graphics are pretty much what you would expect of a game at the early stages of the PS2.
The gameplay of Ico is pretty much as described above. You need to solve platforming puzzles with the help of Yarda. But there is also some combat, the combat is a simple swing of a stick to defeat shadows that come in a handful of forms. Essentially Ico is invincible but if he gets hit he falls down for an extended period which leaves Yarda particularly vulnerable. What does make the combat frustrating is that it can be difficult to hit the enemies as they tend to jump away when you get close. Therefore you have to lure them into Yarda before you can get any licks in. Checkpoints and save points can also be an annoyance, I often found myself making small mistakes or accidentally leaving Yarda a room behind, getting game over and having to redo half an hours work.
Ico is truly a game changing game, for a game that is 18 years old you can still see why it became such a classic in terms of its unique storytelling and gameplay. If it were released today it would probably still have the same impact it had back then and that makes the game truly special.
+ Unique gameplay puzzles
+ Unique storytelling
+ Ahead of its time
– Combat and checkpoints often frustrating