Thursday 21 February, 2008
Being required to solve puzzles as to how a particular colossus should be defeated is challenging and very involving. To keep the challenge fresh and prevent the game from being too repetitive after having to defeat 16 colossi, the game adds in a few simple mechanics to make the player focus his strategy. Grabbing and holding on to the fur on a colossus is not as simple as it sounds as the player can only hold on for a limited amount of time before he falls off. There is, in fact, a "grip meter" that gauges how long a player can stay held on to the fur. This meter can be supplemented and the time to hold on extended by hunting non-agressive critters. If the player is to fall off, he will either fall to the ground, accruing damage as he does so, or he might get a chance to land on some parts of the colossus' structure that allow him to stand upright and regain some of the grip meter.
The ability to rebound somewhat from a fall, either by grabbing some more fur or by landing on one of these safe standing spots, can really come in handy when getting up onto the colossus itself was an arduous challenge. Sometimes, getting onto a colossus would require that the player accurately time a jump off horseback onto a moving patch of fur on the colossus' leg, jumping onto the wing of a massive flying colossus as it dives down at you, or grabbing on to the tail of a giant eel-like swimming beast before it gets a chance to dive under water again, etc. But there are many situations where you simply can't hold on and can't land anywhere safe, forcing you to fall completely off and have to try and mount the colossus again. Having to repeat this over again can become quite frustrating, especially if having to get onto the colossus in the first place involved one of the aforementioned strategies.
On top of figuring out how to grab on, the player must also avoid being killed. These colossi are large and for the most part, slow, but if they land one hit on you, it might be game over. Taking damage can be a result of simple carelessness and getting trampled on, falling a great distance, or being actively attacked by one of the colossi.
One such colossi wields a sword so large and has such a lengthy wind up to strike phase that it would seem impossible to actually be hit by it in the 5 full seconds it takes for the thing to actually swing at you. But even a near miss can do devastating sums of damage to you as the ground around the impact spot will buckle up and still send you flying. Even so, the awesome spectacle of seeing the equivalent of a city block length of sword swung down at you from the sky is a sight to behold. This brings me to another fantastic aspect of this game: it's visual appeal.
Much of the time I played the game, I was simply awestricken by the environment. The world you must travel through is beautiful and expansive with rolling fields and ranges of hills and mountains to gaze at. A particular thrilling visual experience is found while riding the back of a flying colossus. Being able to see the scenery fly past you at mach speeds while you stab your sword into the back of a giant flying beast instills in you the sense that you are fighting an unfathomably monumental battle.
The design of the game greatly adds to this sense of grandeur by featuring impressive cutscenes when colossi are on scene with equally epic musical scores to set the mood. The use of camera angles to depict the relative size difference between the player and the colossi truly makes you feel like you are a helpless mortal pitted against the most beastly of foes. Being able to create a fun and interesting game with the unique game mechanics found in Shadow of the Colossus is powerful as it is. This game takes it a step further and uses very effective design elements to make this game worthy of it's name.