Ico for Sony PlayStation 2
Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment

Ico is not so much a video game as a wistful glimpse into an elusive subconscious world. It connects with you on a level that normal games do not. Most of my time playing Ico was spent merely panning around and taking in the scenery, knowing that this was the closest I might ever come to being in a lucid dream.

The brilliance of Ico lies not in what it shows you, but what it almost reveals. There is so much that is left maddeningly on the horizon of the imagination. There is no story to propel you, nor is there any task at hand other than to escape the monstrous fortress in which you have been imprisoned by your fellow villagers.

The conflict centers around a spectral girl you find in a cage suspended from the ceiling of a towering chamber. You are chased by the smoky, nightmarish minions of a strange, otherworldly queen, in between solving the various puzzles and challenges that come your way in every room. The way the game involves you with all this is very straightforward, which is to say: deal with it. You don't know what is going on, but you keep moving forward, hoping that at some point, all will be revealed.

But as in any dream, nothing is revealed. You are left as mystified at the end as you are at the beginning.

The castle that is the backdrop of your adventure is like something out of an Escher work. Gigantic in scope, staggering in complexity. Getting from point A to point B is never as easy as it seems. Your voice echoes off the walls of the empty chambers, creating an atmosphere of isolation. And as an added element of strangeness, you save the game by sitting on a couch, which you will find in various locations throughout the environment.

There are times playing Ico where you want to just put down the controller and stare at the screen for hours, reaching out for an ethereal reality that is just beyond your grasp. It is a brilliantly conceived game, with an equally brilliant execution. Ico is the apotheosis of the argument that video games are an art form.

Shining Noodle

Loud Bassoon rating scale

Review by Bock Lee Temjin