Shadow of the Colossus review: Giants' cause way too good to miss
Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)
This is what clubbing a seal to death must feel like. Except you were duped into thinking the seal was an evil monster.
Shadow of the Colossus shrouds its storyline in pseudo-religious obscurity - an uneasy pact to slay beasts in return for the gods reviving a comatose woman. But it quickly telegraphs that little is what it seems in this desolate but beautiful land populated by shuffling giants.
First published in 2005 on the ageing PS2, SoTC's haunting power was apparent even then. The second of Fumito Ueda's melancholy trilogy that includes Ico and The Last Guardian has been remastered for the second time but this version has been expertly rebuilt from scratch to harness the graphical clout of the PS4.
The result is a searingly gorgeous landscape, but even that pales beside the magnificence of the colossi themselves, a disparate group of fantastical creatures seemingly fashioned from hunks of rock, hair and metal. The gods demand you kill all 16 beasts and so you set out on your steed to hunt them down one at a time. Each confrontation follows a similar script in that you must divine how to clamber up their gigantic, swaying bodies - effectively "solving" their contours like a platforming puzzle - before plunging a sword into their brain.
What seems like a triumph as the towering giant crumbles to the ground soon acquires a darker tone as you're hurried to the next fight. To say any more would spoil the brooding atmosphere, but be assured that SoTC is a stunning series of memorable encounters that should not be missed.
Lost Sphear (PS4/PC/Switch)
You can't say they don't make 'em like this any more, because "they" do, just in much more limited quantities. Like its predecessor I Am Setsuna, Lost Sphear yearns for a simpler time in Japanese-style turn-based RPGs, shorn of elaborate cut-scenes and fancy-schmancy 3D visuals.
That it still stands up fairly well is testament to its solid grounding in storytelling and some novel gameplay mechanics.
Unlike Setsuna, members of your party can move around during their turn, offering strategic advantages for correct attack positioning and raising the stakes nicely in battles. Canny timing also offers the opportunity for extra attacks during your turn. However, the introduction of superpowered mech suits is almost wasted by their huge resource requirements, which will lead many players to simply ignore their skills altogether.
Ultimately, Lost Sphear inevitably feels too retro for its good and riffing on classics such as Chrono Trigger earns it only so much leeway.