Ico – Retro Roots

Hello everyone, Tony here. We’re back with another Retro Roots. This time it’s not too retro but getting there. I thought I’d chime in with one of my all-time favourite games, Ico. Created by Ico Team, first released on PlayStation 2 in 2001, and the predecessor to Shadow of the Colossus.

In 2001 so many awesome games were released: Final Fantasy X, GTA III, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, and Ico. Before 2001, games were these cool things that I played to kill time, have a bit of fun, and chill out. My older brother pretty much hogged all the consoles. I had to wait my turn or sneak into his room when he wasn’t there. I loved fighting games like Street Fighter, Killer Instinct and Altered Beast but it wasn’t until I played Ico on PS2 that I realised games are so much more. In my mind Ico doesn’t seem that old but it was first released nearly 15 years ago, which makes me feel old.

Puzzling Platforming

Ico is described as a puzzle adventure platformer. I see it more as coming of age story. There’s nothing like a good coming of age story in my opinion; some of my favourite movies are coming of age tales too. I guess I like to go on that journey that changes you forever in a way I absorb the character’s experiences and add them to my own. I found an instant connection with the boy named Ico. He was sent away from his community for being different. I felt sorry for the character, he seemed scared and confused, and I wanted to help him find his way home.

Ico looking into the vast tomb where he was left

The puzzles were seamlessly integrated into the eerie castle setting, not once did it feel like a puzzle, it really felt like you were trying to escape from the fortress. The castle itself felt so real; you could almost feel the cold floors and chilling draft through the medieval-esque windows. Whilst figuring out your way through the castle you come across a girl, Yorda, all in white radiating innocence and fragility, she too seems lonely and sad. Your aim quickly turns from wanting to get out of the castle to rescuing your new friend.

A Scary World

Armed with only a stick and having next to no verbal interaction with Yorda, the outlook isn’t in Ico’s favour. Evil creatures repeatedly pour out of the shadows to take your only friend away. What affected me the most in this game was the atmosphere. You didn’t need dramatic dialogue or a narrator to explain the world, you could just feel it. The quietness of the castle, the echoes of your footsteps, the expansive scenery hammered home Ico’s feelings of isolation and rejection.

Ico & Yorda link hands

So, whilst working on the plot for The Flawless: Art’s Tale, which is a coming of age story about a young boy called Art, I couldn’t help myself reliving those feelings Ico evoked. Art finds new friends amongst the cats of the strange world of Typha. Like Ico he quickly becomes attached to his new feline companions. His aims change depending on who he meets. Once a boy rejected by his peers he has now found a world where he feels at ease and this world is in crisis. At the heart of The Flawless’ plot is friendship. Its about the great lengths people will go to, and sacrifices they will make for their best friends. Art faces a lot of difficult decisions for young boy. It will be up to you to help him figure them out.


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Tony Leavy is a director and writer at Bare Knuckle Development. When Tony isn’t writing plots for BKD games or articles for our blog she can be found travelling the world taking amazing photographs. She is also passionate about education and using video games to make education more inclusive and a more motivating experience.

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