Crispy Gamer

Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus, Part 4

Read Parts One, Two, Three and Five of Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus.

Colossus Ten (Sunday, 12/21)

I wake up with a sense of dread. I read in the morning paper that today is the winter solstice, making this the longest night of the year. My parents arrive. And so begins the annual holiday tradition known as the Emptying of the Van. My parents always haul so much junk north; this year is no exception. My dad sits double-parked and curses as my mother and I try to move their stuff into the lobby of my building. There's a bag of oranges, a Coleman cooler, a sleeping bag, bags of wrapped presents (my underwear and t-shirts, no doubt), etc. The effete gay man who lives on the first floor makes a sour face at us as he's exiting the building. "Moving in, are we?" he asks. My mother laughs and tries to joke with the man, but he moves on without a word to her.

Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus, Part 4
My Aunt Dottie used to live over there...

My apartment is large by New York standards, but small by rest-of-the-world standards. I still have a Colossus to kill, and while my mom putters in the kitchen, and my dad naps on the couch, I quietly close the doors to my office and try to discreetly take care of Colossus No. 10.

It's a sandworm that that looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie. It plows through the sand, knocking Agro about (yes, he's in the way again) while I stand on a nearby rock, and plot my strategy.

Nothing I do seems to have any impact on the sandworm. After an hour, I've made absolutely no progress. I hear my father stir in the living room. "Where's Scott?" he asks my mother. "He's in his room playing one of his games," I hear my mother say. This makes me furious. Suddenly, instead of being the 30-something-year-old man who's built a respectable life for himself, I'm instantly eight years old again, trying to figure out how to beat King Hippo in Punch-Out!! while my mom calls me for dinner.

What the f***ing f***.

The sandworm Colossus is one of the most challenging battles in the game. Spoiler Alert: If you don't want to know how to put this Colossus down, don't click on the video. You've been warned.

I hear my father open potato chips in the other room. He lets out a big burp. They've only just arrived, but already I feel irritated by them.

Then it dawns on me. I realize that I actually need Agro this time. I climb on Agro, get him up to a full gallop. As I speed around the environment, the sandworm gives chase, exposing his big, vulnerable eyes. I look backward, target the left eye with an arrow, and let fly. I repeat the process, targeting the right eye this time. Suddenly, the blinded sandworm pops out of his protective sand-bed. I locate his weak spots. Stab, stab, stab, stab. The sandworm is dead.

"Are you finished playing with your toys?" my father says when I emerge from my office.

I can barely contain my anger. "You know, you and Mom can always sleep out in your beloved van tonight, if you like," I say.

Colossus Eleven (Monday, 12/22)

I head into the Crispy offices for a few hours in the morning for meetings. When I return home later in the afternoon, I find my dad sitting on the couch, dozing in front of "Judge Judy." My mother has her laptop open and she's playing a knock-off version of Poppit. After years of admonishing me for wasting my time with games, she's actually become a gamer late in life. She plays small word and puzzle games almost constantly now. How I love the irony of it all.

With my parents both distracted, I decide to go after the 11th Colossus.

As I make my way towards the next battle, I study the man/boy. The way he runs is very childlike: arms swinging with abandon, legs in full stride. He's like a boy chasing after an ice cream truck. There's nothing dignified, or adult, about the way he moves; there's no grace whatsoever. And his tattered little cape looks like it was fashioned out of an old dishcloth. His gangly build, his ill-fitting clothing; everything about him makes him appear to be a boy who's trying very hard to grow up in a short period of time; a boy who's trying, in an instant, to be a man.

Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus, Part 4
I also use my sword to put jam on my toast in the morning.

One other small observation: His appearance seems to be changing ever so slightly as I make progress in the game. Maybe my eyes are deceiving me, but his hair seems to have gone from a reddish brown to dull purple color.

Today's Colossus is almost laughably small. He looks like a rock-covered rodeo bull. Yet, as I quickly learn, he's mean as hell. The bull corners me and rams away, not allowing me to regain my feet. I can't get away from him. Each time I try to get to my feet, he rams me again, lopping huge chunks off my health meter. I die. Restart.

The bull's "room" features four short pillars with flames flickering on top of each. I climb one, and when the rock-bull blindly rams the pillar, a burning stick falls off the pillar to the floor. I grab the stick and menace the rock-bull with it. I wave the stick in his face, and he keeps backing up, obviously afraid of the fire. He continues to walk backwards, until he finally slips and makes the long fall off the edge of the temple to the ground below. The fall shatters his rocky exterior, exposing a blue tattoo on his back. I climb aboard before he wakes up. Once he does, he sets about trying to buck me off. I hold on, stabbing the weak spot whenever I can. The bull bucks me off once, but I manage to get on him again. A few more stabs, and he's down. Glowing black spaghetti. Hello, shrine.

Colossus Twelve (Tuesday, 12/23)

The pop-up architecture book finally arrives. Gift-giving Armageddon averted at the 11th hour. My father gets the idea that he wants to paint the entryway in my apartment. He likes to do little home-improvement projects whenever he visits me. We go to the local hardware store to pick up supplies. We buy a plastic paint tray for 89 cents, which seems terribly reasonable to me. "Reasonable? Are you kidding? You can get these for 14 cents in Florida!" he says.

We get the necessary supplies. Then he asks me if I have some old clothes that he can wear. My dad has lost a lot of weight in recent years, so much so that my mom took him shopping for a winter coat recently in the Boys section at a local department store. He puts on the old clothes I give him. "You look like one of the Little Rascals," I tell him.

My mom and I laugh. My dad doesn't.

Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus, Part 4
Agro, aka The Brown Menace, gets in the way. Again.

The day's Colossus is located in yet another remote body of water. As he rises out of the sea, all I can think is that he appears to be a coral reef come to life. This thing looks like it could have been one of the monsters that Godzilla fought in the series of cheesy Toho films from the '70s and '80s. And thanks to a vicious cannon thing that fires from his tusks, he's very dangerous.

My instinct is to seek shelter inside one of the islands that have bandshell-like structures on them. This gets me nowhere.

I get back into the water. I locate a bare platform. As counterintuitive as it seems, I climb onto the bare platform and begin shooting arrows at him. His eyes go red with anger. He approaches the platform, plants two feet on either side of me, and hauls himself out of the water, just high enough to allow me to grab his lower, stone lip. I quickly scale his face, seeking safety -- and a resting place -- on the top of his head.

Surprise: There's no vulnerable spot on his cranium. Only a series of what appear to be inverted, and very rotten, molars. I strike the head-molar on the left, and the Colossus, turns left. Right, and he turns right. He's difficult to control, but I'm steering him around.

I "drive" him towards a nearby bandshell. Then, after some trial and error, I manage to leap from the safety of his head to the rooftop of one of the bandshells. Again, I make him angry with my arrows; he plants his feet on either side of the bandshell, and hauls himself out of the water to a great height, exposing the big, blue tattoo on his belly. I leap onto the belly and commence stabbing. Black blood is everywhere. After more than an hour's worth of work, the Colossus sinks back into Tokyo Bay. Er, I mean the sea.

Colossus Thirteen (Wednesday, 12/24)

I take my parents to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. My mother makes a disappointed face. "It's smaller than the one last year," she says. We're standing near the skating rink, when everyone suddenly vacates the ice. A man leads a woman to the center of the rink. He gets down on one knee. The woman puts her hands to her face.

"What's happening?" my father asks.

"He's proposing to her," my mother explains. She looks at my father. "It's romantic. Something you wouldn't know about."

The crowd around the skating rink lets out a cheer. "What they don't show is six years from now when they're throwing frying pans at each other and taking turns sleeping on the couch," my dad says.

"You're so negative," my mother says to me. "How I've spent my life with such a negative man is a mystery to me."

"You can't resist my charms," dad says as he runs a hand through his gray hair.

I notice how much shorter he is than my mother. She practically towers over him. From a distance, the two of them almost resemble a mother and her teenage son.

Man Versus Shadow of the Colossus, Part 4
Flight 68 is now boarding at Gate 9.

It's Christmas Eve, so I've got a small window of time in the late afternoon to squeeze a quick Colossus in. This one flies above the distant desert, and looks like a cross between the Hindenburg and a pterodactyl. I target the big, puffy sacks on its underside with arrows -- they're practically begging for arrows -- and once I've hit all three, it lowers its pair of massive, flapping wings. I get Agro galloping at full speed alongside the wings, and like a bandit jumping onto a moving train in an old Western, I leap from Agro onto the wing and begin to climb.

Up top, as the creature slowly flies through the air, I proceed along its back, searching for vulnerable spots. I find two before it manages to shake me off. Back on the ground, I again target the puffy sacks. Again the wings lower. Again I climb. This time I finish it off. The big, gangly beast crashes into the desert, "ass over tea kettle," as my high school gym teacher used to say.

This Colossus, like the earlier ones, was basically a big, harmless creature. Not exactly lovable, but not unlovable either. He was minding his own business, enjoying a leisurely afternoon flight above the sand beds, when I came along and f***ed up his day. Like the eel-Colossus, this one also doesn't have a face. I'd probably feel worse if it did.

Only three more to go. The end is near.

Check back tomorrow for Part Five of this feature.

Read Parts One, Two, Three and Five.