Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus, Part 2
Colossus Four (Monday, 12/15)
It's Monday morning. I wake up imagining a memo going out to the Colossus community at large. WARNING: A small man/boy has been recently murdering Colossi in their homes. Keep your doors and windows and valleys locked. And cover up any tattoos, as he seems to be targeting tattoos. Sincerely, the Colossus neighborhood watch program.
It's cold this time of year in New York, but for some reason, no matter what the temperature, it always feels a little bit colder in the Crispy Gamer office on Mondays. Elise says, "Did you kill your Colossus today?"
"Not yet," I say. "But he's on my list of to-dos."
My mother calls to tell me that she and my father have decided to join me for Christmas this year. My 60-something parents are making the 25-hour drive from Sarasota, Florida in their increasingly unreliable minivan. Which worries me. Instead of a hotel, my parents usually insist on pulling into a random rest area on I-95 to sleep for a few hours during these trips. As usual, I beg them to stay in a hotel this year. I lapse into my speech about how these rest areas aren't safe. These areas, I say, are populated with lonely truckers, traveling criminals, and gay men cruising each other. "That's no place to spend the night," I say.
My mom laughs. "You worry too much," she says.
"Get a hotel. Please? Just this once. I'll pay for it," I say.
"OK, I'll talk it over with your father. But you know how he is."
Back at my apartment, I start up the PS2. The fourth Colossus is a skeletal horse which looks like something from a Ray Harryhausen movie. It is easily the least intimidating Colossus so far. The previous Colossus taught me that any aberration in the environment is there for a reason. I notice a cross-section of four Hobbit-like hills, with doors in each hill that lead to interconnecting underground passageways.
After a few minutes of floundering, I figure out what I need to do here. I disappear into one passage. The horse-thing heads for that hole and peers into it, not unlike when daddy leaves for work in the morning and his dopey kids stare at the door thinking that daddy is just behind it. While the Colossus is busy waiting at the door for me to come back out, I notice a conveniently placed tailbone on its backside that looks suspiciously like a ladder. I leap for it. I'm onboard. I clamber up its bony back, locate its glow-tat, and jab away. Poke, poke, poke. Eerie music. Collapsing Colossus. Glowing black spaghetti. And it's back to the old shrine with me.
Colossus Five (Tuesday, 12/16)
The day gets away from me, and suddenly it's almost midnight, and I'm catatonic in front of my TV, and I haven't gotten around to killing my Colossus yet. I go to bed, but can't sleep. My apartment feels overheated and dry. I get out of bed, head for my office, start up the PS2.
The second-best Colossus in the game is this airborne bugger. Part moth, part bird, part 747, figuring out how to get onto this son-of-a-gun is half the battle. Spoiler alert: Don't watch this if you don't want to know how it's done.
There are little touches throughout Shadow of the Colossus that I never really noticed before. There's the strange hawk that always seems to be following me and Agro, no matter where we go. There are those lizards that are so pixilated, they look like they wandered in from an Atari 2600 game. There's life here. Rivers run. Waves lap shorelines. Even the clouds in the sky slowly move. (That stationary sky: always a peeve of mine in games.) The game world manages to at once be lonely and alive.
I ride Agro to another murky lakeshore. I leave him behind, and dive into the gray deep. I swim through an underwater archway, climb a ladder, and suddenly I've triggered the Colossus "reveal." Against the cloud cover, a concrete bird/bat thing flaps and squawks overhead.
It perches on top of a structure in the distance. It sits there, eyeing me, giving me the creeps.
The structure I'm standing on, high above the water below, is conspicuously missing a chunk of stone. And like a kid diving into The Scariest Swimming Hole in the World, I make the virtual 100-foot drop into the water.
Swimming in the water while the high and dry Colossus gives me dirty looks from its column makes the hair on my neck stand. I find a series of square platforms -- again, these things must be here for a reason -- climb out of the water, and shoot an arrow at the Colossus.
Welcome to Colossus Land DMV. The line starts over there...
It takes flight, crossing the sky. It banks. It turns. It's coming for me. As it approaches, I spot a hairy patch on its shoulder. Thank god for hairiness. At the last possible second, I leap into the air, press R1, and to my utter shock and pleasure, the Colossus and I take flight. It's in this moment that I fall in love with the game all over again. If there has ever been a more exhilarating moment in gaming, I can't think of it right now. Nothing comes close.
I locate the blue tattoos -- one on each wing (I must wait for the bird/bat to level out, and then, like a daredevil, quickly scamper the length of each hairless wing to reach each weak point), and the third and final one on the tail. The demise of this Colossus, in particular, is downright miserable. It crashes into the lakebed below, sending up a huge spray of water. It's like watching a 747 go down. What a glorious creature. My girlfriend, again, offers her opinion: "What did he ever do to you? He was just flying around his land, minding his own business. And you went in there and shot arrows at him. Then you climbed on him and killed him."
I don't even argue with her.
Colossus Six (Wednesday, 12/17)
My mom calls the next morning to tell me that they will arrive in New York on Sunday. This means they'll be here on Saturday, especially if my dad, who recently had cataract surgery, decides to drive straight through the night from Florida.
I remember last year when they drove north. They said they'd be here on Monday, but my phone woke me up at 7 a.m. on Sunday. It was my mom announcing that they'd "just passed through the Holland Tunnel." I'd set Sunday aside to run the vacuum and get my house in order. I had a mountain-range of laundry in my bedroom, and a sea of beer bottles on the kitchen counters. I couldn't possibly clean up any of this in the 20 minutes it would take for them to get to my apartment. I munched a handful of Advil. There was nothing I could do but laugh at the absurdity of it all.
"I think there's a White Castle just over the next hill, Agro..."
I urge them again to stop at a hotel and get proper rest this year. I hang up the phone and decide to tackle the day's Colossus. I guide my little protagonist through a series of obstacles, winding my way to the bottom of an underground stone structure. Once I reach the bottom -- surprise! -- the Colossus crashes through the wall behind me and gives chase. I'm so busy running away from the big bastard that I can't get a look at him. He's this thundering presence behind me, destroying everything in his path. Most of the Colossi so far have been passive, hurting you only once you've hurt them. Clearly, this one is different.
I scale the wall in front me. Smash. He breaks it down. I scale the next wall. And the next. And the next. Smash, smash, smash. There's no stopping him.
Finally, at the far end of the room, with no more walls left to climb, I duck into the shadows of a strange cave-like place, and hide behind the columns. I notice hair on the back of the creature's hands. That could be something. But as he lowers his head to peer into the structure, his ZZ Top beard swings into view. Here's my chance. I grab the beard and climb his face. I locate his weak points -- one on the chest, one on the head. He falls. It's over. I leave his giant corpse behind in this underground tomb. The black spaghetti carries me back to the shrine.