Medium (2-10 hours)

Ico: What Will I do for an NPC? screenshot

Ico

Game released: 2001

Developer: Team Ico

Production: Commercial

Platforms: PlayStation 2

Price: Out of print

Get it from: Ebay
Jordan Magnuson's picture

I’m always looking back to find good games that I missed playing at their time of release. In this case I recently got access to a Playstation 2 for the first time, and decided to take advantage. Ico, a minimalistic, puzzle-based, action-adventure game created in Japan in 2001, is an astonishingly fresh experience, and a contender for the single best computer game I have played to date.

In the game, you play the title character, a young boy born with horns who is imprisoned in an ancient castle as a sacrifice. It is granted that you must escape, but what really makes this game a beautiful work is the interaction you have with a captive girl you find locked in a cage at the start of the game. Yorda speaks an unknown language, and is in the castle for unknown reasons; she shines, and as soon as you release her shadowy creatures are after her. The relationship you build with Yorda as the game’s story unfolds, developed entirely through body language and character action, is an astonishing achievement, and unprecedented in my computer gaming experience. There are so many good things about this game, that I will have to back up. Read more »

Anchorhead: Embroiled in Lovecraft screenshot

Anchorhead

Game released: 1998

Developer: Michael Gentry

Production: Independent

Platforms: Glulx, Z-Machine

Price: FREE

Get it from: IFDB
Jordan Magnuson's picture

I’ve known about interactive fiction for a long time, but for some reason I just never played any IF games. I think I started one or two over the years, but puzzling controls and less than stellar writing quickly made me abort. At the time it seemed to me that IF was simply a remnant of the past: something that we had moved beyond with graphical adventures (I blush to admit that even in my childhood I would hold such a ridiculous notion as graphics > text). Well, more recently IF has kept popping up at places like Play This Thing and TIGSource, but I haven’t had time to look into them. Then I started reading Emily Short’s blog (highly recommended), and I decided that I would by golly play some interactive fiction. Where to start? Well, I found Short’s interactive storytelling must-play list, and decided to dive right in to the first IF title she mentions. And I am happy I did—despite my aversion to horror as a genre.

Anchorhead is a Lovecraftian horror story loosely based on the Cthulhu Mythos. It is a story that starts out as light and easy as a summer’s day, and ends embroiled in layers of fantastical horror, with the universe turning inside-out and upside-down. It is very well-written, highly enjoyable, and quite intricate; its puzzles never seem very contrived, and when you finally come away from the game it leaves you feeling like you’ve spent a lifetime in another place—like one of those impossibly long dreams you sometimes have in the span of a few hours, but more lucid, more memorable. Read more »

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