Shadow is brought to you by the same creative team that made Ico, a quirky, precious adventure that was hailed as a giant leap forward on the video games path toward becoming an artistic medium in its own right.
Shadow more than fills these enormous shoes, thanks to its giant characters. Each of the 16 titular Colossi is like a living, moving monument. At 50 stories tall, their scale is so impressive that youll catch your breath when they emerge from behind a quiet mountain or a deep gorge to stare you down. Youll have to slay all of them if you hope to bring your dead girlfriend back to life.
The game play is as easy as falling off a horse ... which will, in fact, happen the first time the giants fearsome, Buick-sized fists pound the earth around you. Hunting each Colossus feels like Grand Theft Auto on horseback: You clip-clop across the vast landscape, guided by a beam of sunlight that acts as an ancient GPS system.
Each Colossus dwarfs you as though youre Vern Troyer at an NBA party; the challenge is discovering how to destroy something 100 times your size. Think Luke Skywalker versus the Imperial walkers in The Empire Strikes Back. The best way to fell these beasts involves climbing them like furry skyscrapers and finding their weak spots, which glow bright blue. But it takes patience and timing -- they shake you like youre a rag doll on a massive mechanical bull.
The Colossi are the stars of the game, and each is an awe-inspiring, personality-filled wonder to behold. They grunt and follow you with their beady eyes and swat at you like an irritating gnat when you climb their massive bodies. When you stab deep into a Colossus and unleash a Tarantinoesque spray of blood, youll actually feel bad for these noble beasts. Instead of a rousing celebration march at the end of the battle, a solemn and mournful orchestral score marks the bittersweet victory.
Some will find Shadow too relaxed in pace, the journey to each beast the equivalent of taking the scenic drive home. Other than the 16 Colossi, the lush landscape is devoid of anything but lizards and birds -- no enemy encounters, power-up mushrooms or coins to collect. Other games would be quick to choke the landscape with baddies to hack up, but exploring the postcard beauty of Shadows serene locale is its own reward.
The only problem with this epic of giants is that its just too short. You can breeze through regular mode in about 10 hours. The unlockable hard and time attack modes provide a bit of extra game play, but youll still be left wanting more.
Nonetheless, Shadow stands out as a David among Goliaths. It takes artistic, unusual chances and succeeds on its own merits. Pay attention, Hollywood: Shadow proves that a moving, emotionally evocative story can be the biggest special effect of all.