Sadly, the shine is dulled by technical failings, the by-products of overambition. The frame rate is only acceptable, leading to muddy jumps and a jarring delay between button presses at key moments. The tenth colossus is evil, requiring you to ride at full speed and rely on the auto-lock while traveling backwards... and you've done nothing like it in the battles before. More often than not, you'll ride up an outlet cave and out of the level, or into a rock, because you can't steer you horse and aim at the same time. Come to think of it, we rarely mounted our horse first time in the entire game - you always seem to perform a crappy jump first before the animation aligns properly.
The 13th colossus is equally maddening, as you must hang off pillars and goad it to knock them down. Problem is, it often can't see you, so you've got to let go and force it to chase you again to set events in motion - and it only gets worse when it repeatedly rams you into a cheesy, inescapable death since there's no way to get up faster.
Furthermore, some bosses are so big that you spend so long tweaking the camera you don't know which way to climb, and your grip meter fades prematurely - a huge issue on the last boss, where you have to make blind jumps at the risk of tumbling five screens.
As you awake in the temple, staring at the same beam of light, from the same angle after beating, say, the 10th colossus, the hypnotic structure verges on boring. But when you reach the final encounter, you're overcome by sadness that it's over. How could you wish something so beautiful away? It's an intense sense of regret - like that point on your summer holiday where you lapse into routine and almost get bored, only to spend all winter wishing you could go back.
If Ico is a game about the raw beauty and boundless optimism of falling in love, then Shadow is about what happens when love dies - and the single-minded obsession, lack of perspective and self destructive tendencies that follow. Without giving too much away, there's a moment of such heartbreaking futility in the conclusion that encapsulates the bittersweet madness of love. Pretentious? Horribly, but try saying that about FIFA.
It's the best-looking, most cinematic, most awe-inspiring experience on PS2, with an ending of near-unparalleled emotional magnitude. As with eating at an obscenely expensive restaurant, it's not always comfortable and you're never quite sure how to tackle the next course. But pause to savour the grandeur, and it's an experience you'll never forget.
Not as perfect as Ico, but one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking and imaginative experiences on PS2 which deserves to be played by everyone who loves games
- Intuitive horse riding, innovative battles.
- Staggering scale, aching sunsets, stunning animation.
- Heartbreaking strings, stirring dynamic orchestration.
- Controls are a little sludgy. Frame rate not ideal (
- now fixed in HD update). Er, maybe a bit quiet for some.