Review: Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Robfozz, posted Apr 9, 2019
Apr 9, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): October 18, 2005
  • Release Date (EU): February 17, 2006
  • Release Date (JP): October 27, 2005
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: SCE Japan Studio
  • Genres: Action Adventure
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: PlayStation 3, Retro
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
I'm gonna get crucified for this one.
Games as art. Every single time somebody talks about Shadow of the Colossus you hear that phrase alongside it. In the current year, it's shocking that this is still an argument sometimes. Games can absolutely be art. There are even games that I love more for their storytelling and artistic integrity than the actual gameplay(Metal Gear Solid is one that comes to mind for me personally).

So why is this game lauded for it's "artistic expression". What about it makes it *the* "games as art" game? Wellllllllllll...

I legitimately have no answer for you.

I tried to find out why. I played all 3 releases of this game looking for the answer. I got the platinum trophy on PS4. Short answer is just I don't know why this game has the reputation it has. Quite frankly, it doesn't deserve any of this praise. I'm actually shocked that, not only do I never see a negative thought even uttered in it's presence, but that its not completely panned by literally everybody because it seriously deserves to be.

Let's just break it down.

So there's this guy named Wander and he wanders on in with his horse to this place where his presumably girlfriend is asleep or dead or something. Some mask says to kill the 16 Colossus to wake her up. That's it. Super award winning story here, is this the art? Or is the art that there isn't actually really any story? Whatever maybe the art comes from some other part of the game.

Anyway, every time you kill a colossus, black tentacle things go inside Wander. I guess that symbolizes that maybe what hes doing isn't so good. Ooh, guys, slightly subtle symbolism, that's pretty damn artsy never seen that before.

On the way to the last colossi, your horse falls down a trench and dies. You're supposed to be sad but I was filled with joy because fuck Agro he is one of the worst horses ever put into a video game. Also he just comes back later completely unscaved so really nothing was lost here.

After the last colossi, Wander turns into a big shadow monster and kills like 3 guardsmen who aren't really explained much but I think they told him not to come to the Colossus land or something, it's hard to tell with all this artistic integrity in the way of the story.

Then wander isnt a big shadow monster anymore but he gets sucked into a little pool of water, turns into a baby and his now awake girlfriend picks him up and leaves with Agro who's back for literally no reason. This must be the art.

This story is worthless. I can tell it really trying to make me feel something the like 3 times anything even happens but its undeserved and does not work. But it's ok guys, its supposed to be vague because art.


The gameplay of Shadow of the Colossus consists entirely of riding your horse around a large empty map and fighting 16 bosses one by one until the credits roll. Littered around the map are shrines you can kneel at to restore your health even though there are no enemies to hurt you besides the colossi and your health is automatically restored afterwards, so they're completely useless. So, you hold your sword up and it shines a light in the general direction of the next boss fight and you start going that way on your horse because the world is way too big to travel by foot. The horse has the worst AI in any video game ever made. It will try to take control all the time, you call for it like 100 times it doesn't come, it gets stuck often, just the absolute worst and I hate him. There is also a bunch of cool tricks you can do on the horse but there's absolutely no purpose to them. That's a weird trend with this game, theres a bunch of mechanics that don't even get used but they're fully implemented. Almost as if the games a rushed piece of shit oh wait it is oops.

The Colossus bossfights, despite being literally the only thing to do in the game, aren't even all good. Some of them just feel like repeats or one fight split into 2 halves, like the two small dog-like ones. A lot of them just end up feeling samey, and the few that stand out as unique are annoying as hell.

The game also just straight up insults your intelligence at times by displaying basically the solution in big bold text in the middle of the screen if it decides you're taking too long. There were times where I was even doing it correctly and it displays the hint anyway. So unless you go in knowing the tricks to beating some of the more puzzley ones, you're not even going to have the satisfaction of figuring it out.


The game looks ok. Its nothing to really ride home about. The visuals aren't bad and there is some really nice lighting effects at times, my real criticism is that the world is visually boring more often than not. There are maybe 3 or 4 areas that are visually distinct, and those look great, but they're a rarity among the empty, grey, rock structures. Yes, Im well aware the game is supposed to be bleak and empty because its art fuck you asshole its the best thing ever made. I don't care, its uninteresting.


There's like 1 good song and its the one everyone knows. Next.

In Conclusion

The entire game feels like they got "enough" boss fights working and then they just shipped it. Its like 10% of a package. There should be overworld combat, maybe zelda-like dungeons, cool items to play with, and at the very least more colossi or at least better ones than what we got. Art is no excuse for anything this game tries to pass off as acceptable. It's just bad period.
+ Decent music sometimes
+ The visuals are alright in the rare moment the game has a visually interesting location
- Empty and boring world
- Buggy physics
- The entire game is just 16 boss fights and they couldn't even make it so they we're all unique and fun to play
- Story has no impact because it's not present enough
- Horrendous horse AI
- Game does not respect me enough to let me figure out how to beat a colossus on my own after more than 5 minutes
- Garbage framerate
- Assbackwards control
- Several game mechanics that are fully implemented and flat out unused
8 Presentation
Game looks decent visually. Nice lighting effects sometimes, some of the colossi look cool but the framerate is abysmal. The world is empty and only sometimes has something visually interesting.
5 Gameplay
The only gameplay in the entire game is against the 16 colossi. Most of them feel like repeats of ones that came before or slightly altered. I really only enjoyed a couple. They really should be better since they are literally the only things to do in the game.
5 Lasting Appeal
There's some unlockable items but all they do is to help make the colossi even easier than they already are. There's a NG+ as well but again, do you really need to play the game even easier than it already was? They did try to make the game replayable but it just isn't worth doing.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
This game isn't art. It's a lazy, rushed out, clearly development troubled piece of garbage under the guise of being "art" to make it somehow seem acceptable that it was released in the state it was.


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