It’s easy to forget that it’s only on this thin rind of human history that art is relatively accessible to everyone. Netflix, ebooks, Spotify, and a host of other technologies put the entire history of any art form at our fingertips. Recently, remaster- and rebuild-mania in the game industry has meant cult titles and major hits alike get a burnishing and a second chance at life.
But video games are unique as art forms, where the rules that dictate the art and story are the art. It’s one thing to intellectually understand why seeing a brushstroke on a painting is important and another to make the painting yourself, and where Shadow Of The Colossus (PS4, $50, available today) starts to feel dated is when you pick it up and play it.
As everyone knows by now, the plot is simple. There’s a hero, a horse, a comatose princess, 16 colossi to find and kill, and that’s pretty much it. Aside from killing the local wildlife, all you do is hunt down the various colossi, vast creatures that are essentially platforming puzzles as you figure out how to climb them and stab them to death. It’s all a very solemn, atmospheric story, where it’s not clear that the colossi are really all that bad or that you’re doing anything that’s a net positive to this barren world.
The PS4 game isn’t a remaster, but a complete rebuild from the ground up, and yes, it’s absolutely stunning. It looks good, it sounds good, and, in the tradition of these games, it’s still somewhat annoying to play. The controls are better than the original, mind you, and everything that makes this game hard to play is there for a reason. You don’t automatically climb up ledges outside of combat, because you’re supposed to feel every tug and pull of climbing a ledge. Falling off a colossus and having to do the same complicated sequence all over again is supposed to be aggravating. But understanding this intellectually doesn’t make any of it any less irritating.