Monday, April 22, 2013

ICO and the waterfall

My previous dealt with why ICO as an escort mission works, although the order is out this started out about one particular mission - the Waterfall. I don't think anyone playing through ICO for the first time has ever 'got' the waterfall section the first time around and what doesn't help is that nearly ever walkthrough gets this wrong.

ICO is a minimalist game and that works, there's no on-screen displays no menu or map screens to flick through; no objective arrows or compass. You have to work things out yourself with the occasional help of Yorda's pointing or a cut-away to a reaction to an event. Heck there's not even an in-game tutorial; it expects you to read the manual.

Because it truly is such a perfectly constructed game what would be considered a handicap becomes a strength; it's just part of the game itself. Where this fails is the waterfall level.

Having escorted Yorda up a very long ladder then a shorter one, through a pressure pad controlled door and across a short fenced off bridge you'll find yourself in a large split level room. At the bottom against the same way you came in is a closed off door and some piece of inactive machinery. Opposite that is a ladder.

With nothing else to do, climb the ladder. At the top is some pipework which it's possible to hang on to and shimmy across. At one point the pipe is broken. This is something that has never been encountered before what do you do?

There's no other choice but to continue across and you fall slightly and grab the end of the next length of pipe. Shimmy across to a platform, drop and then onto yet another pipe to shimmy across to another platform with another pipe and both a switch and a ladder leading down.

At this point walkthroughs instruct to "make your way to the window" there is a window, but not that one, the window they're discussing you can't reach via the pipes. The correct course of action is to flip the switch, this starts the machine down below. Now climb down and drop off the end of the ladder to where you originally came in and head to the machine.

It's a piston. It's sits at one stage, drops and then fires upwards. Climb onto the piston, when it's at the rest stage, it will drop and shoot you up, but not far enough. In this instance timing is everything. Press jump when the piston drops. Because of the delay Ico will jump at the highest point and you'll be catapulted up to a ledge. Make your way up and then down a ladder leaving Yorda behind for a moment.

Head around the stairs and pull the lever which will open the closed off door leading to Yorda so she can rejoin you.

[At this point there's a secret - hit the tree next to the switch and you'll get a bouncy nut. Take the nut back into the room you just left and head between the stairs of the split level. Push one-side of the differently coloured wall (it pivots) and take both Yorda and the nut in with you. Stand on the platform and then have fun trying to shoot for the basket]

From the switch heading away from the door is a block, there's nothing that can be done with this except to push it into the water. A cut scene will show it disappearing down the waterfall.

Again at this point walkthroughs get it wrong and instruct you to "climb the ladder" there is a ladder but it cannot be reached from the ground. Instead you need to do something that will probably result in tearing out chunks of hair.

The previously ignored waterwheel has spiked edges, but the paddles themselves can be grabbed. Climb the axle support and jump onto a paddle when it reached the top, then turn and jump onto the metal handle. When (not if) you fail to do this, you'll fall into the water. You have to reach one of the lower sides and pull yourself up. If you don't you go over the waterfall and have to climb all the way back up to the top again.

Once you've finally done this the water flow will stop and the bottom of the waterfall (where the block fell) drains away. Make your way back down to this point and the Idol gate.

Why this particular section fails is that you're having to do things with no apparent rhyme or reason (unless you want a whole heap of backtracking) and how far failure can throw you back. There had been no launching piston's before this. No need to 'throw away' a block and beyond the windmill no sections where grabbing onto something that is moving has been required; and in that case not one where the boundaries have been bordered by impregnable spikes.

No wonder this is the hardest section and the one most to get stuck on.