EDR & the best games of the decade. Part VIII

The excitement is growing – even the FTSE 100 leapt up by some points and stuff earlier today when I leaked an early version of the below to The Financial Times – and we’re getting closer and closer to the last two Games of the Decade. It’s too much to bear, but damn it, we won’t rest until every game has been revealed. Up next is…

"Let's be fwends." "No. I'm going to stab you in the eye."

Shadow of the Colossus!

My very-nearly-the-best-game-of-the-decade is a beautiful game and the first – and last – game on my list to feature solely on the Playstation 2. Shadow of the Colossus is both a stand out title and, weirdly, one that seems oft forgotten despite its brilliance. In truth, SOC probably didn’t really do anything radical, but it’s how it did it that mattered.

Essentially a mixture of action and platforming, SOC was a close companion to Ico (also very good) and a recognisably Japanese game. Your avatar was Wander, aptly named because it was your job to roam a forbidden land seeking out sixteen colossi with the intention of destroying them to bring a young girl, Mono, back to life. Deceptively simple, both in terms of plot and structure, the game was astonishingly touching.

Your role in the game world is never truly clear. Your goal may be to revive Mono, a no doubt honourable thing, but it’s never explained quite why you’re doing this. Is it because of lost love? Is it guilt? Is there something darker lurking beneath the surface? In any other game, this could be passed off as a poorly written script, but in SOC, it’s more subversive.

The sixteen colossi (what a great word, by the way), for example, are completely innocent. They’re beautiful, magnificent and endangered beasts that pose no real threat to you or to the world. And yet you destroy them. Considering that Wander’s own motives aren’t clear, this task seems senseless and is compounded further when your own trusty steed, Agro, sacrifices herself to save your life. It’s one of the saddest moments in gaming, and comes as complete surprise given the relative lack of exposition on offer.

In truth, to play SOC isn’t to play anything particularly revolutionary. The controls are well implemented and the style of play is imaginative, but it can’t compete with Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed for sheer joy of control. Not that this is a problem, its more than competent at holding its own against more expensive games, and the sheer scale of the world is a real surprise – especially when you realise that this is a Playstation 2 game.

SOC is a rare gem in a quarry of gravel and is so close to being my absolute game of the decade it even surprised me, but it really shouldn’t do. It’s a mature, confident and very nearly perfect. If you’ve not played it, you’re missing out. Big time.

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One Comment on “EDR & the best games of the decade. Part VIII”

  1. Paul S Says:

    Good call. We’re full of surprises.

    Cracking game, this. I lost interest after the first few (also, it made my girly PC gamer’s fingers ache with all the desperate hanging on to the triggers) but it had a strange unworldy quality which I loved. It felt like playing inside a painting.

    I think the difference with games like ACII or POP is fear. In either of the others, the movement is a thing of joy and speed, leaping and gallumphing all over the place looking glamorous and revelling in movement. In SOC, it feels terribly dangerous. Hand cramps are not surprising. You always feel seconds from messy death, but are forced to balance the risk of death with the chance of making that perfectly timed leap onto the colossus’ shoulder, or ear, or whatever. Genius design, and a brilliant example of all the parts of a game working in concert.

    Also, it made me feel rather guilty. I was a genocidal rotter in that game. I think in the end, the main character gets what’s coming to him though – and that is rare. Wonderfully mature game. A good example of games writing too, in that there barely is any. The story is undoubtedly there, however, but the designers make you find it for yourself, and form your own opinions on what’s going on.


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