Shadow of The Colossus is the spiritual successor to Team Ico's ICO, but is a vastly different game. While ICO mostly focused on puzzles, Shadow of The Colossus is all about action and the great colossi which you have to take down. The game begins as the protagonist, Wander, and his horse, Agro, travel to a forbidden land in search of the ancient power of Dormin, an entity which is said to be able to restore the souls of those which have been lost. In his quest to restore the life to the girl he has brought with him - Mono - he is met by spirits of the land, and the assembled voices of Dormin which receive him tell him that if he is to restore Mono to life, he must defeat all the colossi of the Forbidden Land.
Just like with ICO, Shadow of The Colossus is a quiet, isolating game (apart from the crashing and wailing of the colossi during battles that is). Once you defeat a colossus you are brought back to the Shrine of Worship in the centre of the land, and are given the details on your next target which you can find by holding up your sword in places of light and following where the points converge. The Forbidden Land is a massive place and before and after colossi battles it is simply Wander and Agro traipsing the open and almost-empty world. Apart from the colossi there are no enemies; the feeling of cold, lonely isolation found in ICO continues in SoTC as you traverse the differing and beautiful terrains. Lush, verdant gardens, waterfalls, sandy deserts, temples, dried-up lakes, barren wastelands, cliffs, steamy forests - you will encounter and pass through all sorts of terrain in Shadow of The Colossus and the alluring aesthetics of the game as a whole (and not just its environments and surroundings) immerse you in the world so much more and add to that feeling of exile and seclusion as you begin to really understand just how vast and different the world of these forbidden lands is. Team Ico have done such a wonderful job of nailing-down this feeling of isolation that despite the fact that you are evidently close to and opposing other creatures in this world, even during battles with the various colossi in the lands the sense of your own insignificance and solitude in such a grand world furthers itself even more, as the fantastic size and power of the majority of the colossi enable you to see how out of place, comfort and normality you are.
Team Ico created and used a graceful and wonderful soundtrack for Shadow of the Colossus. There are much louder tracks which usually kick-in when you find yourself grappling onto the colossi and which (probably, unless you're replaying the game and know exactly what's going to happen) echoes your own heartbeat while you jam the R1 button back into the controller as you try and hold on to dear life. But the opening track of the game, Prologue - To the Ancient Land, is undoubtedly one of the best and gives the player a wonderful feel for the world you're about to become a part of, as the sensuous yet grand Eastern feel of the track characterises the game so well. Even just riding about the Forbidden Land with the track on in the background for a couple of minutes and simply taking in of the wonderful ambience of the land is a perfect example of its beauty and effect.
Colossi battles in Shadow of the Colossus for the most part aren't as puzzling as you might expect. They do of course have puzzling features but usually it all comes down to how to simply knock a tall colossus down to a level where you can catch on to it, or how to keep a creature that goes in and out of a different geographical feature (like water) above the surface where you can damage it. Each colossus has an weakpoint sigil somewhere on its body which you have to locate and then stab with your sword in order to deplete its life gauge, and on most of the later colossi there may be more than one sigil. But things aren't as simple as that as you have your own stamina and health gauges, the former of which is whittled away the longer you have to hold on without any footing or the longer you have to hang on while a colossus attempts to shake you off. Some of the colossi you will encounter are monstrously-large and incredible to look at, while others may be a lot smaller but are typically harder to deal with as they may be more agile and can thus do more damage to you than slow-moving ones which usually find it troublesome just keeping up with Wander. The pure beauty of these battles, however, is in taking a second just to look at the stunning clashes you are playing out in each of these amazing encounters and appreciating the skill it took Team Ico to first of all come up with these battles (and in such a large number) and to use so many different ideas in order to keep most of them relatively fresh, and to then actually incorporate them into a video-game so well.
Unfortunately, though, there is one very large drawback in Shadow of The Colossus and that is the controls. From simply riding Agro to trying to climb up some colossi, SoTC suffers from a big lack of control responsiveness much of the time and can be extremely clunky, and while it isn't as big of an issue as it could have been, there are issues with the camera and the angles it presents you with in some areas and fights. Let's take riding your horse as an example. Just trying to mount the horse isn't as simple as standing next to it and pressing triangle like it should be. Triangle is used to jump and to mount Agro, but when standing next to Agro it can take at least 2, 3, sometimes even 4 or 5 times to get Wander to actually mount her instead of just pointlessly jumping with his hands aimed at the sky. Then when actually riding Agro you begin to notice the lack of fluidity and responsiveness of movement as you find that there's no flow to riding, you just simply have to constantly mash X over and over and over again (and probably quite angrily) or else Agro will more often than not come close to a complete stop without your heralding her to do so. If you couple these issues with the awkward and changing camera angles during boss battles while horse riding you've got yourself a nice slice of irritation pie in your hands, especially in colossi battles where you need Agro and when you need to time moves almost-perfectly.
Then we come to Wander and his own floundering ways. Particularly while climbing (mostly at steeped angles) you will notice how stiff the controls are. At times you'll attempt to jump up to a higher position and he just won't do anything no matter how long you hold down the triangle button, he just stands there tugging on the colossus' hair and will then randomly do it afterwards as if to say "oh, are you talking to me?"; other times you'll be desperately trying to yield your sword high in the air to attack the colossus' weakpoint sigal before you are shaken away and again, Wander just doesn't respond at all which leaves you mashing the square button in order to get the sword ready to strike and which will inevitably just end up in a quick and useless strike.
Shadow of the Colossus is a gorgeous game in many ways - for its aesthetics, its environment and ambience, its enemies, its creativity, its wonderful story (which, just like ICO, is almost as immersing as a story can get despite how little dialogue and few scenes are in the game), but unfortunately the title is let down by its poor controls, and the issues with them really do make themselves evident since the gameplay in SoTC is almost completely based on platforming. Nonetheless, Shadow of The Colossus has achieved status as a classic and with good reasoning: it is a unique experience which you can't really compare to many (if any) other games out there on the market for its game style - how many other games out there place you in such majestic, awe-inspiring battles? It's just a shame that for the beauty that the game holds which has launched it to its status as a classic, its fun and fluency can't be held in a similar light.