ICO is a video game that delivers an experience unmatched by any other game that I’ve come across before or since. It was designed and directed by Fumito Ueda, whose team went on to also create Shadow of the Colossus.
Ueda’s design philosophy is evident in his work:
I was attracted, not by the idea of playing within a well-constructed set of rules, but by the idea of playing, experiencing, and adventuring within a real world. As a child, what appealed to me more than “the fun of playing games” was the emotion conveyed by the works I experienced, and the way these works brought their worlds to life.1
In creating ICO, Ueda was inspired by Eric Chahi’s Another World (also known as Out of This World and Outer World), as well as by the work of Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico.
Ueda himself painted the cover art for ICO:
As is often the case with Japanese video games, the North American release had different cover art that was egregiously inferior. I won’t bother including a picture. What I’ll instead include for comparison is “Mystery and Melancholy of a Street” by Giorgio de Chirico:
ICO and Shadow of the Colossus were originally released for Playstation 2, but they have also been graphically enhanced and released together for PS3 as The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection. It’s a high-quality re-release.
Others at Sony in Japan expanded on Ueda’s original cover art for ICO to create this image, which is used in the title screen for The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection (click to enlarge):
I bought a PS3 myself in late 2011 in anticipation of the impending release of Team ICO’s third game, The Last Guardian. There seem to have been a lot of problems with the development of that game, but I still hope to see it eventually. Fortunately, other games (such as Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls) make the PS3 worth owning in the meantime.
In an interview for Eurogamer.net, Peter Molyneux (creator of Populous and other games) described ICO as follows:
Mystery was part of its mechanic, it didn’t have real power-ups or anything. It was genius and it still remains a work of genius.
If I made something like ICO, I’d be very happy to die.
1 I don’t know the source of this quote. if you do, please let me know.