ICO review

You're lost in a castle full or eerie black ghosts, you've formed a wordless bond with a ghostly princess and all you have to protect yourself is a stick... welcome back Ico

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ICO is an expertly crafted, beautiful game that shames soulless tripe such as 50 Cent: Bulletproof and the like by challenging your brain, your thumbs and, ultimately, your emotions. What's more, it's just been re-released.

It strikes such a fine line between frustration and intoxicating beauty. You'll curse the clumsy combat, but your senses will be so spellbound by the bewildering scale and unearthly allure of it all that you'll immediately forgive its shortcomings. The undeniable fact is that although it's flawed, it's also a masterpiece of design, composition and ambience.

Throughout the game you're charged with protecting the waif-like princess Yorda from black, oily shadows that, if they manage to grab hold of her, will drag her into the Stygian blackness from whence they came. Initially your only way of combating them is with a bit of old twig, but later in the game you get your hands on a sword and the tables turn. Sort of. The problems with the combat system stem mainly from the fact that there's only one attack button and no combos to speak of. As a result, the game's numerous battles can become tiresome.

But it's the puzzles that make up the bulk of the game. They require the kind of Krypton Factor-style lateral thinking that would reduce most men to tears, but study your surroundings closely with the right analogue stick and the solution usually makes itself clear. The Prince of Persia guys could learn a lot from Ico, because compared to this, Sands Of Time looks like a shameless imitator.

Ico has very few fans. Not because it's rubbish, but because no one played it. But now, thanks to Sony, your chance to own it without paying £80 for a copy on eBay has come. Ico's flaws make it what it is, because without flaws there is no beauty, only blandness. Play Ico before you play 'sequel' Shadow Of The Colossus - it's the perfect companion piece.

More info

DescriptionSoft, slow and slightly soppy, there are few finer, moodier adventures around.
US censor rating"Teen"
UK censor rating"12+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)