Friday, November 3, 2006

Why you should buy a PS2

I just bought a PS2. That’s right, just another newbie bitten by the virulent bug of gaming, and a little behind the times. Only I’m not. My first video games were Nintendo handhelds and two pong machines. And through a distinguished Atari 2600 career, a Mattel IntelliVision, countless hours of Sierra Online’s ‘Quest’ series, down to losing much of my life to Half Life, Baldur’s Gate 2 and their ilk, I’ve been gaming pretty much forever. So the question becomes, why am I getting a PS2 so incredibly late in life? Well, partly because until a few years ago, I was a card carrying member of the ‘consoles are for immature kids, only PC gamers are true sophisticates’ brigade. And when that changed, the evil empire got me, and I got an Xbox. And was recently considering a 360, so a PS2 wasn’t even on the radar.

It took half an hour to change all that. One holiday, I spent a few hours at my brother’s place and suddenly, I had to have a PS2. I can sum this transformation up in four words: Shadow of the Colossus. I happened to play for an hour or so, and soon any set of circumstances that could prevent me from playing, owning, experiencing, living this game was inconceivable. And so, I bought a PS2. The thought that there may be other games this good, and not owning this console meant I might be missing out was honestly just an afterthought.

Shadow of the Colossus is an incredible experience, serving up a cannot-ignore mix of action, art, emotion and philosophy that transcends mere gaming and crosses over into something more. Several reviewers, while sharing my sense of awe at this game, have begun their take on it by saying that at its core, Colossus is a platform jumper. To me, that’s like saying that Pro Evolution Soccer is basically a game of Pong. At its core, of course.

You play a young warrior/traveler who is seeking to restore to life a young girl who was killed to save her from a cursed fate. His quest (over the course of a long, almost painfully slow cut scene intro) takes him to a distant land where he finds a mysterious presence known as the Dormin, who tells him that in this land, he might indeed achieve his objective. All he has to do is find and hunt down the 16 colossi who roam the land. Dormin also casually mentions that the young man might have to pay a very heavy price indeed for this, but he doesn’t really seem to be listening. And so, with your trusty steed Agro for constant company, you set off.

So as you can imagine, you set off, heroically astride your horse, holding your sword up into the light to guide you, roam this vast, desolate land that is all the more beautiful for it’s complete lack of inhabitants. And eventually, you will find your first colossus. And colossal it is. You quickly find that you are roughly half the size of it’s little toe, so any thoughts of using your warrior like skills to hack it down are quickly banished. After shooting a couple of arrows at it which will not even get it’s attention, you then figure that you need to run at this thing, cling on to it’s fur for dear life and climb all over it’s body as you look for it’s ‘weak spot’. Which you then need to stab at repeatedly, while it uses every bit of its colossal strength to shake you off.

I won’t even begin to describe these battles, you have to experience one to believe it. The heat and grime and dust and mud are as real as anything you’ve felt. And the consistently brilliant mood enhancing score completes the picture, perfectly complementing whatever you’re feeling every moment of the game. But it’s only when you bring your first colossus down that you realize why this game stops being a game and becomes a work of art. As you watch the cut scene of the creature’s death, the first voice of doubt nags away at you…. And therein lies the beauty of it. It is impossible not to feel sorry for these colossi, yet you cannot help yourself as you are compelled to find the next one and bring it down. And I’m not talking about the character in the game, I’m talking about YOU. You end every battle with a bit of a bad taste in the mouth and yet you are driven to find and kill each one of the colossi. Corny as it sounds, the moral compromise inherent in destroying these lonely, isolated creatures in order to restore the life of a loved one is inescapable to anyone with even a molecule of sensitivity.

Many of them have no intention of harming you at all until provoked and even then, they’re merely defending themselves. What compounds your feelings of guilt is the consistently excellent character design, and the fact that you have no option but to watch as each of the deaths is played out in front of your eyes. As the adrenaline wears off, the guilt kicks in. Every time. But one cut scene later, you’re off in search of the next one.

I’m only half way through the game as of this writing, but four battles were enough to have my entire family glued to the tube in the way that the best movies can achieve. And, albeit temporarily, to make me my four year old nephew’s hero. I’m told that Roger Ebert said that games could never be art or something like that, but he’d better have four thumbs for this one, so he can point them all skyward.


  1. Welcome Koidy - You are now officialy a grumpy old man of gaming. :-)

    Great review. I must play this now considering what I've read of it.

    On that note, ICO is a must. It was done by the same folks who developed Shadow...

    ICO is a relatively old game but the music and animation is true production beauty. It reminds me how awesome a good game can be irrespective of when it came out.

    Go Koidy.

    AXe out.

  2. Sensational debut by Koidy. Finally finished that Hellbrandt Grimm novel, eh? More. We want more! Cake Gauge!

  3. Truly sensational.

    There are a few people who I trust more than the best review sites out there...

    Koidy is one of them. I played HL only because of how he described it to me. And he also is the only other person who I know (apart from yours truly, aight!) who finishes games COMPLETELY and IMO, that's truly the most informed, best kind of gamer.

    Ya - also cake gauge is best. :)

    Give us more Dhahiram. Especially in the adventure game area. I still have Grim Fandango on my list...

    AXE out.

  4. Thank you, thank you. Btw, i've just changed the title of the post on Anand's request, , so don't be confused. Also took care of that annoying font problem.

    Any list that has Grim Fandango on it is a good one.

  5. Axie,

    Ohhhh - only you and Koidy finish games, eh? Okay, machaaaan - that's how it is, eh?

  6. Yeah machaan! Only Koidy and I finish games. Also, unlike you, we're not closet Deer Hunter fans. :-P

    That gives me of an idea for a post...

    AXE out.

  7. That's TOTALLY unfair! I've finished many games like Tetris, FreeCell, and the original GPCGA several times.

    BTW, are you done with your well-worn copy of TROPHY BASS FISHING ? Why are you jealously not lending it to anyone?

    And what happened to that Weightlifting Title you were designing? Any progress?

  8. What a lovely find, this site. Great review. I have played the game, and finished it, which in fact is my gripe. For all its stunning visuals and accouterments (if you like those warrior type environs, beasts and all) it is also quite a short one. That, plus the similitude of all the different beasts. They're all big and hairy. When they're collapsing, they die with a flailing mess which means you spend a lot of time sticking to their looming bodies than in fighting them! On the good side, the fights are among the most thrilling, fact-paced action sequences ever built into a game. (PS: Where's the RSS feed of this site if I want regular updates of posts and comments?)

  9. You are the first person I have come across that owns an xbox, and yet went ahead and bought a PS2.

    I have an XBOX myself but found that consoles still didn't get me glued down as much as my gaming PC, inspite of the XBOX's cutting edge graphics. So I went ahead and bought 2 gaming PCs and hooked them up over a LAN.

    I find it intriguing that you still chose to add a PS2 to your gaming gig. Is it really worth the additional rack space?