Since I knew Ico would be a short play, I decided to do a straight run. I clocked in at a little under eight hours split over a period of two days, and, I must say, this one is a keeper.
I originally set out to tell the story in one post, with follow-up posts about the mechanics, but the story got away from me. Obviously, a game is more than its story, but Ico‘s story, intertwined with its simple gameplay, makes a great experience. In other games where I’ve had to drag around a companion, I only felt frustration. Aside from a few frustrating moments, I didn’t experience that with Ico, so I was able immerse myself in Ico and Yorda’s story.
I’d like to share that story, and I’ve split it into three parts.
The game begins with hooded men riding through the woods. A young boy sits with one of the hooded figures on his horse.
The road ends at a cliff, exposing the wide river and the fortress it protects.
Using canoes, they enter the fortress, retrieve a glowing sword, and use the sword to open doors that are protected by magical totems.
They lead the boy to a chamber. Its walls are lined with large stones inlaid with glowing designs. One of the stones opens,
and they chain the boy inside. As the tomb closes, one of the men says, “Do not be angry with us. This is for the good of the village.” The glowing designs fade, and the men leave. Through a slit in the stone, you can see the boy struggling with his restraints.
Time passes, and a small earthquake runs through the fortress, jarring the boy’s tomb lose. It falls and cracks open, freeing him and allowing him full reign of the fortress. He discovers a girl locked in a cage that is suspended from the ceiling. Finding his way above it, he jumps on top of the cage – the extra weight breaks it from its chain, freeing the girl.
Frightened, the boy explains to her that he’s Ico, he has horns, and his village brings kids with horns to the fortress. Her response, which is in a different language, is cut short by a dark ghost that emerges from the floor and grabs her.
Using a nearby stick, Ico attacks the captor and the others that appear. One by one, they dissipate, leaving the girl on the floor. Ico holds out his hand to help her, and she takes it.
So begins the complicated relationship between Ico and the girl. While the two explore the fortress looking for a way out, they are accosted by different types of ghouls – all of which want to capture the girl and carry her away. Ico works to figure out the puzzles that the ancient fortress holds, and she opens the totem doors, allowing them to get one step closer to freedom.
Anytime they move, Ico either holds her hand or waits and calls for her. They may not know each other’s language, but they can communicate through gestures and signals. Ico waves for the girl to jump so he can catch her, and she shakes her head to say that the jump is too far. Ico wanders aimlessly, trying to figure out a puzzle, and the girl points out a key component for him. This is how they build their friendship.
Working together, they find the main entrance, which, to Ico’s surprise, is open. The stone bridge has been pulled out, so they should be able to walk to the other side of the river.
As if someone heard him, the large doors begin to close. Ico grabs the girl and they run toward the bridge.
They’re too far to make it, but Ico keeps running, anyway. The girl falls, and, instead of continuing, he goes back for her. As the doors close, lightning begins to build up around her, and a black hole appears.
A woman engulfed in smoke and mist emerges from the hole.
First she speaks to the girl in their language, then she addresses Ico, explaining that the girl he “rescued” is Yorda, her daughter. “Stop wasting your time with her,” she says. “She lives in a different world than some boy with horns!”
That hits Ico hard, and, once she sees that, the woman adds, “Now know your place and leave.” A clash of lightning, and she’s gone. As Ico helps Yorda to her feet, the women’s voice surrounds them, but she’s speaking to Yorda in the language Ico doesn’t understand.