Shadow of the Colossus fans working to solve mysterious new PS4 puzzle

After fans have been searching years for one last big secret in the original Shadow of the Colossus, the PS4 remaster comes with a mystery of its own.

Outside of the 16 Colossus to defeat as part of the main story, the original had two sets of optional collectables to find – Fruit Trees and Lizard Tails – both of which also feature in the PS4 remake.

The remaster has introduces a third type of collectable, which have been dubbed ‘Enlightenments’ or ‘Gold Coins’ by players, which glow and sparkle when found.

Unlike Fruit Trees and Lizard Tails – which increase your health and stamina gauges respectively – the purpose of these Coins is currently unknown.

There isn’t a Trophy associated with finding them, nor are they mentioned as part of the in-game stats summary found from the pause menu.

However, once you find your first Coin, they are logged in the bottom corner of the map screen as a number that increases with each subsequent find.

How many of these collectables are there? A video by PS4Trophies theorises a total of 79, based on a message in the end credits, thanking the “Nomad Colossus and the 79 steps to enlightenment”.

A total of 70 has been found so far, so if the theory is true, we won’t be waiting long for the mystery to be solved.

Could there be something hidden away at the end of those coins, or will finding them all simply be its own reward?

That’s not the only new addition introduced as part of the remaster, with an Easter Egg for another Team Ico game to find off the beaten path.

Shadow of the Colossus releases tomorrow (February 7) on PS4. While you wait, you can read our Shadow of the Colossus review as well as Digital Foundry’s analysis, describing it as one of the best remakes of all time .

See Also : This Is Us Reveals How Jack Died in ‘Super Bowl Sunday’ – IGN

If you stuck around after the Super Bowl for NBC’s much-hyped installment of This Is Us — either out of morbid curiosity or because you’re a legit fan — you were treated to the surreal spectacle of watching a beloved character die for our “entertainment,” using the platform of one of TV’s biggest events to amplify the drama.

— either out of morbid curiosity or because you’re a legit fan — you were treated to the surreal spectacle of watching a beloved character die for our “entertainment,” using the platform of one of TV’s biggest events to amplify the drama.

The episode, aptly titled “Super Bowl Sunday,” was a cry-fest, to be sure, because this show is used to wringing our tear ducts dry with surgical precision, but there’s no denying that the whole exercise also felt unashamedly manipulative, which is a trap This Is Us often falls into — especially when it’s trying to hide things from the audience to show us how clever it is. For viewers who tuned in for the first time after the big game (if you didn’t immediately rush to watch The Cloverfield Paradox ), it probably made the regular This Is Us audience seem like complete masochists.

The episode, aptly titled “Super Bowl Sunday,” was a cry-fest, to be sure, because this show is used to wringing our tear ducts dry with surgical precision, but there’s no denying that the whole exercise also felt unashamedly manipulative, which is a trap This Is Us often falls into — especially when it’s trying to hide things from the audience to show us how clever it is. For viewers who tuned in for the first time after the big game (if you didn’t immediately rush to

Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) has been a dead man walking since Season 1, but the decision to build an ongoing narrative and marketing mystery out of the circumstances surrounding his death — basically treating a family’s most devastating loss like the the hatch from Lost — has not only felt kind of tasteless, but now leaves the show without the storytelling engine that has been powering it since Season 1. Sure, there will no doubt be other questions raised over the course of the series (like how the hell Rebecca ended up falling for bland Miguel), but none so seismic or emotionally resonant as the death of the Pearson patriarch.

So now we’re left to wonder, what kind of show does This Is Us want to be from here on out? Will it morph into another relatable family drama like Parenthood, or will it continue trying to keep the audience guessing with new twists, treating every season like one of J.J. Abrams’ mystery boxes, albeit with more realistic stakes?

“Super Bowl Sunday” couldn’t resist throwing a few last minute curveballs our way — and perhaps that’s less about the writers trying to mislead us and more indicative of how savvy showrunners assume viewers are now, continually searching for clues and trying to “solve” our favorite shows rather than passively consuming them like we could with the procedurals of yore. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, even though this show often feels like it’s gleefully playing our heartstrings like a fiddle just because it thinks we all need the catharsis.

The first twist came before the opening titles, after Jack woke up to find his house on fire, courtesy of a faulty Crock-Pot (which, after being revealed as the cause of the fire last week, immediately sent the company into hilarious damage control mode ). After a harrowing close call while rescuing Kate from her bedroom across the hall, and then an equally harrowing ordeal of getting her, Randall and Rebecca safely outside, our heroic papa bear rushed back into the house to save Kate’s dog. The camera lingered ominously on the upstairs windows as the flames leapt higher, panning over to Rebecca and the kids’ stricken faces for just long enough to make us certain that Jack was toast (sorry) before he burst from the front door, carrying the dog, the family photo albums and Rebecca’s beloved moon necklace safely with him, because he’s. Just. That. Good.

The first twist came before the opening titles, after Jack woke up to find his house on fire, courtesy of a faulty Crock-Pot (which, after being revealed as the cause of the fire last week,

). After a harrowing close call while rescuing Kate from her bedroom across the hall, and then an equally harrowing ordeal of getting her, Randall and Rebecca safely outside, our heroic papa bear rushed back into the house to save Kate’s dog. The camera lingered ominously on the upstairs windows as the flames leapt higher, panning over to Rebecca and the kids’ stricken faces for just long enough to make us certain that Jack was toast (sorry) before he burst from the front door, carrying the dog, the family photo albums and Rebecca’s beloved moon necklace safely with him, because he’s. Just. That. Good.

But of course, it didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop. Jack seemed fine when he and Rebecca went to the hospital to get his burns bandaged up, but as soon as Rebecca’s back was turned, buying chocolate from the vending machine and calling the kids at Miguel’s to check up on them, Jack unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest brought on by smoke inhalation.

Just like Rebecca, the audience missed Jack’s final moments, only seeing the chaos behind Rebecca’s oblivious back as the doctors and nurses rushed into the room to try and save him. Regardless of any criticisms there may be about the episode as a whole, Mandy Moore’s performance was utterly devastating as she learned about Jack’s death, cycling through denial and anger to complete despair in the space of a few moments. It was agonizing to watch, and they should probably start engraving the Emmy with her name right now. (Also an unexpected treat: Legion’s Bill Irwin guest-starring as the unfortunate doctor who had to break the news to her.)

The episode’s later twist (which felt far more emotionally affecting — probably because it wasn’t so telegraphed) introduced another part of the Pearson family timeline, flashing forward to show an older Randall visiting his daughter, Tess, at work. Apparently, she grows up to be a social worker, helping kids to find foster homes like the one her family provided.

Throughout the episode, we saw an unidentified social worker (aka grown-up Tess) working with a young boy who was about to be placed with a new family, leading us to believe that this mystery child would be Randall and Beth’s new foster kid, but a poignant conversation young Tess had with Randall towards the end of the episode revealed why she would someday feel compelled to choose this particular career path, while simultaneously strengthening the bond between father and daughter. This particular reveal didn’t feel forced the way much of Jack’s storyline has, and it was by far the strongest aspect of the episode, aside from the power of the cast’s performances as Rebecca and the kids reckoned with their grief in deeply personal ways.

So This Is Us now has an opportunity to reinvent itself; something that another NBC hit, The Good Place, has managed to do on an almost weekly basis — a high-wire act that somehow never feels forced from the genius comedy, probably because its subversive spirit seems to spring from character development, rather than the needs of the plot, which is a lesson This Is Us could stand to learn.

It seems impossible to imagine that broadcast’s biggest hit in years will give up on its fondness for twists in favor of more pedestrian plotting, and there’s no reason why it should, when cliffhanger endings have now become a hallmark of the binge-watching culture kickstarted by Netflix, since networks seem paranoid that viewers won’t remember to come back next week unless they’re left with an intriguing hook.

There’s nothing wrong with leaving the audience wanting more, per se, but the effect is cheapened when a show is treating deep-seated emotional trauma as a puzzle that needs to be solved. If This Is Us wants to move beyond Jack’s death, as it seemed to imply its characters might start to do in Kevin’s therapy episode, it’s going to have to find sources of conflict that don’t revolve around a traumatic incident from 20 years ago. Likewise, if Jack is still going to be involved in the series (since there’s a lot from his past we still haven’t seen, and Ventimiglia is still a series regular), it will need to prove that it’s more interested in exploring how he lived, instead of how he died.

What did you think of the big Jack reveal? Share your reactions in comments, and check out all the biggest movie trailers and TV commercials from the Super Bowl , along with our analysis of the Westworld Season 2 trailer .

See Also : Meet the Masters of Video Game Remasters – The Ringer

In the beginning, there was Blast Factor . A twin-joystick shooter played from a top-down perspective, Blast Factor appeared in the PlayStation Network Store on November 17, 2006, the same day the PlayStation 3 debuted in North America. The somewhat-simplistic title, which was designed to be beaten in a single sitting, tasked players with piloting a microscopic craft through a series of besieged living cells, excising the infection by blasting it away. The game didn’t make much money, and reviewers largely shrugged , noting its similarity to sensation Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved , which one year earlier had become the most downloaded title on the Xbox 360’s online arcade. Gamespot declared Blast Factor “generic and forgettable,” adding that the title “leaves no lasting impression.”

appeared in the PlayStation Network Store on November 17, 2006, the same day the PlayStation 3 debuted in North America. The somewhat-simplistic title, which was designed to be beaten in a single sitting, tasked players with piloting a microscopic craft through a series of besieged living cells, excising the infection by blasting it away. The game didn’t make much money, and reviewers largely

The remarkable thing about Blast Factor was that it was finished at all. The game was the work of the two-person team of Marco Thrush and Andy O’Neil, who had spent the previous several years as developers at Austin-based Retro Studios, a division of Nintendo known for making the Metroid Prime trilogy, which had revitalized Nintendo’s dormant Metroid franchise by adding a third dimension to its traditional 2-D look. The two had grown tired of working on other people’s projects, so they’d founded their own independent developer, Bluepoint Games, in Austin earlier that year. “We wanted to go down our own path and do our own thing,” Thrush says by phone.

was the work of the two-person team of Marco Thrush and Andy O’Neil, who had spent the previous several years as developers at Austin-based Retro Studios, a division of Nintendo known for making the

franchise by adding a third dimension to its traditional 2-D look. The two had grown tired of working on other people’s projects, so they’d founded their own independent developer, Bluepoint Games, in Austin earlier that year. “We wanted to go down our own path and do our own thing,” Thrush says by phone.

Working on what Thrush describes as a “really, really short timeline,” the pair completed Blast Factor quickly enough for it to launch alongside Sony’s new console as the inaugural downloadable game on the PlayStation Network. While it wasn’t destined to be one of the system’s more talked-about titles, its impact on Bluepoint is a testament to the door-opening power of finishing first. “Because we were, in Sony’s sight, somewhat reliable … and one of the few people that actually pulled through and delivered things on time, they kind of took a little bit of a risk with us,” Thrush says.

quickly enough for it to launch alongside Sony’s new console as the inaugural downloadable game on the PlayStation Network. While it wasn’t destined to be one of the system’s more talked-about titles, its impact on Bluepoint is a testament to the door-opening power of finishing first. “Because we were, in Sony’s sight, somewhat reliable … and one of the few people that actually pulled through and delivered things on time, they kind of took a little bit of a risk with us,” Thrush says.

That risk became Bluepoint’s big break. In 2009, Sony Santa Monica, the studio that developed the God of War franchise–whose first two installments had both been among the best-selling titles for the PlayStation 2–was working on the last entry in the action trilogy about Spartan soldier Kratos and his quest to kill the gods. Hoping to hook PS3 players on the series and build anticipation for God of War III , Sony was planning to port the first two God of War games to its new console before the third installment arrived. But Sony Santa Monica knew it couldn’t keep its new system-seller on schedule while also updating its old ones. “Everybody on their team basically says, ‘Yeah, this can’t be done in the time that we have. Like, it’s just impossible,'” Thrush says. “And [Sony was] basically like, ‘Well, we know somebody who did something nearly impossible, so why don’t we give those guys a call?'”

franchise–whose first two installments had both been among the best-selling titles for the PlayStation 2–was working on the last entry in the action trilogy about Spartan soldier Kratos and his quest to kill the gods. Hoping to hook PS3 players on the series and build anticipation for

games to its new console before the third installment arrived. But Sony Santa Monica knew it couldn’t keep its new system-seller on schedule while also updating its old ones. “Everybody on their team basically says, ‘Yeah, this can’t be done in the time that we have. Like, it’s just impossible,'” Thrush says. “And [Sony was] basically like, ‘Well, we know somebody who did something nearly impossible, so why don’t we give those guys a call?'”

A week after that call, Thrush and O’Neil–who’d completed two Blast Factor expansions in 2007 but nothing of note after that–had their hands on the source code for two blockbusters, God of War and God of War II . With a tight deadline looming, they embarked on the painstaking process of adapting that code to the PlayStation 3’s superior hardware, eking out higher resolutions and smoother frame rates and adding support for the PS3’s Trophy system, which rewarded players for accomplishments sprinkled throughout the campaigns.

expansions in 2007 but nothing of note after that–had their hands on the source code for two blockbusters,

. With a tight deadline looming, they embarked on the painstaking process of adapting that code to the PlayStation 3’s superior hardware, eking out

and adding support for the PS3’s Trophy system, which rewarded players for accomplishments sprinkled throughout the campaigns.

“Andy and Marco are two very technical guys that love a good technical challenge,” says Bluepoint technical director Peter Dalton, who joined the company in 2011. “So when they hear that you can’t do God of War in three months from the day we give you the code to the day you actually ship it … there’s a part of [them] that wants to say, ‘Bring it on.’ And so I think when you look at a history of our products that we’ve released, there seems to be a common thread of, ‘Here’s a very difficult product, we’re not sure that you can do it justice.’ That’s a challenge, and we thrive on those challenges.” Thrush echoes Dalton’s take, adding, “Maybe we’re just suckers for punishment.”

“Andy and Marco are two very technical guys that love a good technical challenge,” says Bluepoint technical director Peter Dalton, who joined the company in 2011. “So when they hear that you can’t do

in three months from the day we give you the code to the day you actually ship it … there’s a part of [them] that wants to say, ‘Bring it on.’ And so I think when you look at a history of our products that we’ve released, there seems to be a common thread of, ‘Here’s a very difficult product, we’re not sure that you can do it justice.’ That’s a challenge, and we thrive on those challenges.” Thrush echoes Dalton’s take, adding, “Maybe we’re just suckers for punishment.”

Bluepoint passed its second audition, delivering God of War on time. In November 2009–four months before the release of God of War III –Sony sold both remastered titles together as God of War Collection , a discounted, single-disk duology. “You may almost forget you’re playing PS2 ports,” Destructoid ‘s reviewer raved , while IGN told fans that the newly released versions were “the definitive way to play.” Unlike Bluepoint’s low-profile first release, God of War Collection was critically acclaimed and highly lucrative, becoming one of the PS3’s 20 top-selling titles.

The Collection ‘s quality and sales signaled to studios with beloved back catalogs that they were sitting on goldmines, which soon started an industry trend toward remastered material. (Sony branded its many remasters as “Classics HD.”) The Collection also established Bluepoint’s status as the masters of the remaster, a distinction that the specialist studio–which has since gone on to produce The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection , the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection , and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection , as well as standalone ports of Flower , Gravity Rush , and Titanfall –still holds today.

‘s quality and sales signaled to studios with beloved back catalogs that they were sitting on goldmines, which soon started an industry trend toward remastered material. (Sony branded its

also established Bluepoint’s status as the masters of the remaster, a distinction that the specialist studio–which has since gone on to produce

But Bluepoint’s plans go beyond basic facelifts. Following several successful releases in the God of War remaster mold, the studio is leveling up from the now-traditional HD port. Tuesday marks the release of a much more ambitious Bluepoint project: a precedent-setting “ground-up” remake of 2005 PS2 classic Shadow of the Colossus for the PlayStation 4. Shadow , which could beget clones of its own, is less a remaster than a reimagining. As such, it’s forced Bluepoint to tackle–and potentially help others solve–a problem that plagues game-makers and game-lovers alike: how to preserve past releases, and package them for today’s players, without altering what made them so memorable the first time around.

remaster mold, the studio is leveling up from the now-traditional HD port. Tuesday marks the release of a much more ambitious Bluepoint project: a precedent-setting “ground-up” remake of 2005 PS2 classic

is less a remaster than a reimagining. As such, it’s forced Bluepoint to tackle–and potentially help others solve–a problem that plagues game-makers and game-lovers alike: how to preserve past releases, and package them for today’s players, without altering what made them so memorable the first time around.

Although video games are a more modern medium than film, music, or literature, much of gaming’s past is, paradoxically, less accessible than those of other art forms. Because console games depend on platforms that are regularly phased out, every title has an effective expiration date; even backward-compatible consoles typically cover a fairly brief time frame, offering only a temporary extension of a game’s lease on life. While games may appear more permanent than products printed on paper or celluloid, cartridges, disks, and the equipment required to read them do degrade, and durability doesn’t matter whether code becomes incompatible with the devices in vogue.To avoid being left in the digital dust, a game has to stay accessible. Unfortunately, it’s not a routine task for a publisher to keep it current. A lifelong music fan may be forced to buy a favorite album via vinyl, cassette, CD, and digital download, just as a movie-watcher may own a favorite film on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. But it’s much easier to transfer a song or album to a different format than it is to get a game to run on a new system–especially in a form that won’t be off-putting to players accustomed to a higher level of graphical fidelity. A young movie viewer in 2018 may be fazed at first by black-and-white imagery, just as a young music listener may have to learn to like dated recording or production techniques. A young gamer, though, may have an even harder time adjusting to the outmoded attempts at realism that dominated the early days of 3-D.

Although video games are a more modern medium than film, music, or literature, much of gaming’s past is, paradoxically,

than those of other art forms. Because console games depend on platforms that are regularly phased out, every title has an effective expiration date; even backward-compatible consoles typically cover a fairly brief time frame, offering only a temporary extension of a game’s lease on life. While games may appear more permanent than products printed on paper or celluloid, cartridges, disks, and the equipment required to read them do degrade, and durability doesn’t matter whether code becomes incompatible with the devices in vogue.To avoid being left in the digital dust, a game has to stay accessible. Unfortunately, it’s not a routine task for a publisher to keep it current. A lifelong music fan may be forced to buy a favorite album via vinyl, cassette, CD, and digital download, just as a movie-watcher may own a favorite film on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. But it’s much easier to transfer a song or album to a different format than it is to get a game to run on a new system–especially in a form that won’t be off-putting to players accustomed to a higher level of graphical fidelity. A young movie viewer in 2018 may be fazed at first by black-and-white imagery, just as a young music listener may have to learn to like dated recording or production techniques. A young gamer, though, may have an even harder time adjusting to the outmoded attempts at realism that dominated the early days of 3-D.

To revive a game designed for an obsolete system, a programmer can either emulate it or port it. An emulator is a piece of software that mimics a machine like the PS2, allowing old code designed for that platform to run without alteration. A port, meanwhile, directly tweaks that old code to suit a new system. Like any act of translation, porting is an imperfect approximation. As game preservationist Frank Cifaldi , the founder and director of the Video Game History Foundation , explained to me and Jason Concepcion last year, “By nature, a port is a derivative work.” A video game, Cifaldi observed, is an assemblage of code “that was written specifically for a system, that took advantage of its quirks, of its video timing, of its graphical limitations.” While a capable port closely resembles the original, Cifaldi says that from his perspective, “That’s not the original game. … Because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to replicate a game exactly by porting it to a different language.”

To revive a game designed for an obsolete system, a programmer can either emulate it or port it. An emulator is a piece of software that mimics a machine like the PS2, allowing old code designed for that platform to run without alteration. A port, meanwhile, directly tweaks that old code to suit a new system. Like any act of translation, porting is an imperfect approximation. As game preservationist

last year, “By nature, a port is a derivative work.” A video game, Cifaldi observed, is an assemblage of code “that was written specifically for a system, that took advantage of its quirks, of its video timing, of its graphical limitations.” While a capable port closely resembles the original, Cifaldi says that from his perspective, “That’s not the original game. … Because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to replicate a game exactly by porting it to a different language.”

Bluepoint’s reputation depends on losing as little in translation as possible, and it’s earned the opportunity to port some of the 21st century’s greatest games by being a careful curator. Getting God of War when it did was a stroke of luck; at that point, Thrush says, he and O’Neil were looking for work and couldn’t have afforded to decline if a publisher had approached them about porting a series they’d liked less. Years later, with a string of well-received remastered releases under its belt, Bluepoint is offered more games than it has time to take on, which gives it the luxury of picking its projects. “We only work on games that we actually want to work on,” Thrush says.

Bluepoint’s reputation depends on losing as little in translation as possible, and it’s earned the opportunity to port some of the 21st century’s greatest games by being a careful curator. Getting

when it did was a stroke of luck; at that point, Thrush says, he and O’Neil were looking for work and couldn’t have afforded to decline if a publisher had approached them about porting a series they’d liked less. Years later, with a string of well-received remastered releases under its belt, Bluepoint is offered more games than it has time to take on, which gives it the luxury of picking its projects. “We only work on games that we actually want to work on,” Thrush says.

On occasion, a game that Bluepoint has to turn down gets ported by a studio that, in Bluepoint’s opinion, produces a suboptimal product. “Sometimes the reason why we work so hard on these games is because we don’t want to fuck it up for ourselves [as gamers],” Thrush says. “Like, we enjoy these games, we would want to see this game done justice. … It hurts me seeing other companies just taking it and basically doing it for the money.”

Without optimization, a remastered release can make games look and play worse , as higher resolutions call attention to a lack of detail in the original assets (much as HD cameras can expose signs of age on actors’ faces). High-definition ports of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell , Devil May Cry , Beyond Good & Evil , and others have drawn criticism for their low-effort implementations. The most notorious HD port is probably Silent Hill HD Collection , whose re-release introduced an unwelcome clarity that leeched a lot of the atmosphere from a horror game fueled by its foggy, oppressive ambiance.

, as higher resolutions call attention to a lack of detail in the original assets (much as HD cameras can

, whose re-release introduced an unwelcome clarity that leeched a lot of the atmosphere from a horror game fueled by its foggy, oppressive ambiance.

The little things seem to bother Bluepoint as much as those major oversights. Thrush cites an unnamed game that originally ran in a 4:3 aspect ratio with black bars at the top and bottom borders of the screen during cinematics. With the weary scorn of an audiophile lamenting a muddy mix of a re-released album, he describes how the remastered edition, which added support for widescreen displays, neglected to extend the black bars all the way to the left and right sides of the screen. While shortened black bars might not be as glaring a restoration sin as, say, infamously defacing a certain fresco , Thrush regards the oversight as emblematic of an attitude that’s anathema to his team. “It’s just, you don’t even care,” he says. “It’s not respecting the original source material and all the hard work that the original developers poured into the game.”

The little things seem to bother Bluepoint as much as those major oversights. Thrush cites an unnamed game that originally ran in a 4:3 aspect ratio with black bars at the top and bottom borders of the screen during cinematics. With the weary scorn of an audiophile lamenting a muddy mix of a re-released album, he describes how the remastered edition, which added support for widescreen displays, neglected to extend the black bars all the way to the left and right sides of the screen. While shortened black bars might not be as glaring a restoration sin as, say,

, Thrush regards the oversight as emblematic of an attitude that’s anathema to his team. “It’s just, you don’t even care,” he says. “It’s not respecting the original source material and all the hard work that the original developers poured into the game.”

Each new source that Bluepoint imports presents the studio with distinct demands. On Titanfall (2014), the company was charged with porting a game designed for Xbox One and Windows to the less powerful Xbox 360, recreating the core experience despite working with a weaker processor and less memory. On Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (2015), Bluepoint had to re-render every cutscene, improve performance, and cram three games onto one disk. “We have core technology and processes that we carry from game to game, but the minute you start a new game, it throws a wrench in the whole cycle,” Dalton says.

powerful Xbox 360, recreating the core experience despite working with a weaker processor and less memory. On

“We have core technology and processes that we carry from game to game, but the minute you start a new game, it throws a wrench in the whole cycle,” Dalton says.

“It hurts me seeing other companies just taking it and basically doing it for the money.”–Marco Thrush

The source code Bluepoint receives when it starts a project–essentially, the final build of the game that’s sent to the publisher when a product is ready for retail–is an almost impenetrable black box, the patchwork proceeds of years of complex labor. Bluepoint’s first task, Dalton says, is “to tear it apart and figure out how it works, how it’s assembled, and reverse-engineer the entire thing, and then you look at it and say, ‘How do we fit this within our processes and our pipeline, and how do we need to modify our existing processes to fit what they were trying to do?'” While games are written in a limited number of programming languages, each developer has its own dialect, full of phrase and idioms unique to its work. In theory, Bluepoint can consult with the original architects if the studio runs into something that doesn’t make sense. In practice, though, Bluepoint tries not to pester its partners, which would eat into the time they save by outsourcing. “That’s why a lot of publishers like us,” Thrush says. “We’re pretty independent.”

For the first several months of a project, Bluepoint’s goal is fulfilling the minimum requirement of making the game playable on the target console. Only then can the company build on the basic port, using the flexible Bluepoint Engine that Thrush and O’Neil built for Blast Factor to make nips and tucks to older code. “Under the hood, you’ve got pieces of the original source code, running in conjunction with our engine, and so our technology has to be adaptable and configurable so that we can go through and make sure that we run both game engines basically side by side,” Dalton says. “Then we take certain aspects of their game engine and we basically pipe them over into our engine to do things like get better rendering results, or areas where maybe we want to increase the bones in the skeletons, or new animation techniques.”

For the first several months of a project, Bluepoint’s goal is fulfilling the minimum requirement of making the game playable on the target console. Only then can the company build on the basic port, using the flexible Bluepoint

to make nips and tucks to older code. “Under the hood, you’ve got pieces of the original source code, running in conjunction with our engine, and so our technology has to be adaptable and configurable so that we can go through and make sure that we run both game engines basically side by side,” Dalton says. “Then we take certain aspects of their game engine and we basically pipe them over into our engine to do things like get better rendering results, or areas where maybe we want to increase the bones in the skeletons, or new animation techniques.”

In the years since Sony first considered handing Thrush and O’Neil the keys to God of War , Bluepoint has peeked behind the coding curtains of several of the most storied designers of the past 20 years, including Sony Santa Monica, Team Ico, Konami, thatgamecompany, Respawn, and Naughty Dog. It’s as if the studio has studied a library of brush strokes by master painters, or shots framed by legendary directors. And not just the output, but also the process–the mix of oils on the painter’s palette, or the lighting and blocking that the director’s camera captured. “It’s eye-opening,” Dalton says.

, Bluepoint has peeked behind the coding curtains of several of the most storied designers of the past 20 years, including Sony Santa Monica, Team Ico, Konami, thatgamecompany, Respawn, and Naughty Dog. It’s as if the studio has studied a library of brush strokes by master painters, or shots framed by legendary directors. And not just the output, but also the process–the mix of oils on the painter’s palette, or the lighting and blocking that the director’s camera captured. “It’s eye-opening,” Dalton says.

After almost a decade of playing with other companies’ code, Bluepoint’s employees are programming polyglots. “If you just look at one approach, you just have that point of view,” Thrush says. “But having a bigger point of view of getting to see, oh, ‘Developer X does it this way, Developer Y does it this way,’ you can kind of combine the best approaches of what everyone is doing and learn from that.” When Dalton combs through the Bluepoint Engine, he says, he spots techniques that the studio picked up from each project. The company’s tech is a kind of Katamari that makes Bluepoint “bigger and stronger” every time it rolls over a Respawn or absorbs a new Naughty Dog. “You look at our technology, and it’s evolving, and it’s picking and choosing things that we feel like work really well and pulling those in,” Dalton says. “It’s part of what enabled us to do Shadow .”

After almost a decade of playing with other companies’ code, Bluepoint’s employees are programming polyglots. “If you just look at one approach, you just have that point of view,” Thrush says. “But having a bigger point of view of getting to see, oh, ‘Developer X does it this way, Developer Y does it this way,’ you can kind of combine the best approaches of what everyone is doing and learn from that.” When Dalton combs through the Bluepoint Engine, he says, he spots techniques that the studio picked up from each project. The company’s tech is a kind of

that makes Bluepoint “bigger and stronger” every time it rolls over a Respawn or absorbs a new Naughty Dog. “You look at our technology, and it’s evolving, and it’s picking and choosing things that we feel like work really well and pulling those in,” Dalton says. “It’s part of what enabled us to do

Shadow of the Colossus is the creation of Japanese designer Fumito Ueda, an auteur whose three games– Ico (2001), Shadow (2005), and The Last Guardian (2016)–are known for their fragile beauty, evocative themes, and, less gloriously, awkward controls, performance problems, and production delays. Ueda’s slow-paced, contemplative work, which spurns the traditional trappings of the medium–collectibles, timed challenges, quick-twitch combat–may be gaming’s most effective ambassador to other corners of culture. In 2008, director Guillermo del Toro called Ico and Shadow the “only two games I consider masterpieces,” and when Roger Ebert inflamed the internet by arguing that games couldn’t be art, it was Shadow , he said , that dissenting respondents cited most often when trying to sway him to their side.

(2016)–are known for their fragile beauty, evocative themes, and, less gloriously, awkward controls, performance problems, and production delays. Ueda’s slow-paced, contemplative work, which spurns the traditional trappings of the medium–collectibles, timed challenges, quick-twitch combat–may be gaming’s most effective ambassador to other corners of culture. In 2008, director Guillermo del Toro

the “only two games I consider masterpieces,” and when Roger Ebert inflamed the internet by arguing that games couldn’t be art, it was

Generally regarded as Ueda’s best work, Shadow puts the player in control of protagonist Wander, who rides his horse, Agro, to a deserted, dreamlike land and beseeches a mysterious entity named Dormin to help him resurrect a lifeless girl. To do so, he must mount and mercilessly slay 16 stony, fur-covered Colossi that roam the stark cliffs and plains, mostly minding their business. In contrast to most of today’s quest-strewn open-world adventures, Shadow ‘s environments are blessedly barren; the whole world is Wander and his next target. If it seems strange that Wander doesn’t encounter any other adversaries, it’s because, as Chris Suellentrop once noted in The New Yorker , “the natural order of a video game is reversed. There are no enemies because [the player is] the enemy.”

puts the player in control of protagonist Wander, who rides his horse, Agro, to a deserted, dreamlike land and beseeches a mysterious entity named Dormin to help him resurrect a lifeless girl. To do so, he must mount and mercilessly slay 16 stony, fur-covered Colossi that roam the stark cliffs and plains, mostly minding their business. In contrast to most of today’s quest-strewn open-world adventures,

‘s environments are blessedly barren; the whole world is Wander and his next target. If it seems strange that Wander doesn’t encounter any other adversaries, it’s because, as Chris Suellentrop once

, “the natural order of a video game is reversed. There are no enemies because [the player is] the enemy.”

Although Thrush and O’Neil still preside over Bluepoint as president and vice president, respectively, the original two-person team has expanded significantly over time. It temporarily swelled to 60 to tackle Shadow , although it’s since scaled down to roughly 43 upon completing the project. The studio’s increased head count while working on Shadow reflected the enormity of the undertaking: While Bluepoint has produced multiple remasters within the span of a single year, Shadow has been under construction since late 2015. “As far as comparing workflows and processes, we treated this much more like an original development than anything we’ve done in our recent past,” says Bluepoint producer Randall Lowe, who worked as a tester on Shadow ‘s PS2 edition during his days at Sony.

Although Thrush and O’Neil still preside over Bluepoint as president and vice president, respectively, the original two-person team has expanded significantly over time. It temporarily swelled to 60 to tackle

, although it’s since scaled down to roughly 43 upon completing the project. The studio’s increased head count while working on

reflected the enormity of the undertaking: While Bluepoint has produced multiple remasters within the span of a single year,

has been under construction since late 2015. “As far as comparing workflows and processes, we treated this much more like an original development than anything we’ve done in our recent past,” says Bluepoint producer Randall Lowe, who worked as a tester on

To produce their previous HD remasters–including the Shadow remaster that they worked on after finishing God of War –the Bluepoint team would import the original models designed for the standard-definition game and boost their fidelity by running them through a preexisting pipeline and doing additional touch-ups by hand. But there’s a limit to how good a game designed for a system that launched in 2000 can look, and Bluepoint had already bumped up against that ceiling for Shadow on PS3, which Ueda had endorsed as the then-definitive version of the game.

–the Bluepoint team would import the original models designed for the standard-definition game and boost their fidelity by running them through a preexisting pipeline and doing additional touch-ups by hand. But there’s a limit to how good a game designed for a system that launched in 2000 can look, and Bluepoint had already bumped up against that ceiling for

A remake like the new Shadow relies less on recycled assets than the remasters did; it’s the difference between trying to fine-tune a fainter, scratchier recording of a symphony and hiring a bigger, better orchestra to rerecord it with more sensitive mics. To harness the PS4’s power, Bluepoint broke down the old Shadow ‘s bones and built them back up again. “The original world exists in kind of a skeleton format for us to then go back and start plugging in assets and … really just fleshing out the world to the point where what you’ve seen on screen now is something that represents a current-gen title,” Lowe says. “From that aspect, that’s completely ground up. The Colossi, the characters–we looked at the originals and said, ‘Here’s our guideline, now go build it fresh.’ And that process was repeated throughout the game for every asset.”

relies less on recycled assets than the remasters did; it’s the difference between trying to fine-tune a fainter, scratchier recording of a symphony and hiring a bigger, better orchestra to rerecord it with more sensitive mics. To harness the PS4’s power, Bluepoint broke down the old

‘s bones and built them back up again. “The original world exists in kind of a skeleton format for us to then go back and start plugging in assets and … really just fleshing out the world to the point where what you’ve seen on screen now is something that represents a current-gen title,” Lowe says. “From that aspect, that’s completely ground up. The Colossi, the characters–we looked at the originals and said, ‘Here’s our guideline, now go build it fresh.’ And that process was repeated throughout the game for every asset.”

The result is an amalgam of cutting edge and tried and true, a state-of-the-art chassis overlaid on leftover legacy code. The logic that controls the Colossi is borrowed, with a few fixes and tweaks, from the PS2 title (via Bluepoint’s PS3 port); animations are modeled on the original movements, and PS2-era sound effects, vocals, and score are updated, remixed, or reprocessed. But the user interface, art assets, and particle effects are redone from scratch, and the Bluepoint Engine serves as MC, keeping the content flowing. The new version’s PS4 underpinnings are obvious: Shadow ‘s shadows, lighting, and physics are more lifelike, its vistas vaster, its streamlined controls and camera no longer as bad for the blood pressure . It looks like a brand-new game.

The result is an amalgam of cutting edge and tried and true, a state-of-the-art chassis overlaid on leftover legacy code. The logic that controls the Colossi is borrowed, with a few fixes and tweaks, from the PS2 title (via Bluepoint’s PS3 port); animations are modeled on the original movements, and PS2-era sound effects, vocals, and score are updated, remixed, or reprocessed. But the user interface, art assets, and

are redone from scratch, and the Bluepoint Engine serves as MC, keeping the content flowing. The new version’s PS4 underpinnings are obvious:

‘s shadows, lighting, and physics are more lifelike, its vistas vaster, its streamlined controls and camera no longer as

“It’s more important to me how the millions of people feel who played the original version of the game and play this version of the game than the 30, 40, 50 people that worked on the game.”–Marco Thrush

A pre-release email from Sony laid out Shadow ‘s new specs like a luxury-car commercial, trumpeting the remake’s stutter-free frame rate, “dynamically generated” fur, and compatibility with 4K HDR displays on the enhanced PS4 Pro . Polygon counts , it claimed, have increased from an average of 20,000 per Colossi to 250,000, with one Colossus spiking to seven figures. But for fans of the PS2 version, the idea of a souped-up , pristine port might sound almost heretical . The original Shadow was hazy, blurry, and bleak; the new Shadow replaces impressionism with lifelike simulation. One might wonder whether the Bluepoint Engine is unnecessarily swoll , or even actively impeding the designer’s original intent. Maybe Ueda intended for far-off objects not to be visible. Maybe the controls and camera were wonky on purpose so that the player wouldn’t feel super-powered. (Ueda did submit some requests for the Shadow remaster, although he declined to specify what they were.)

‘s new specs like a luxury-car commercial, trumpeting the remake’s stutter-free frame rate, “dynamically generated” fur, and compatibility with

, it claimed, have increased from an average of 20,000 per Colossi to 250,000, with one Colossus spiking to seven figures. But for fans of the PS2 version, the idea of a

Any objection of this nature that a player could raise Bluepoint has already examined internally. “That gets discussed every day,” Thrush says. Porting isn’t a purely paint-by-numbers process, and by wrestling with whether a feature was originally inserted by choice or out of necessity, the company exerts creative control. Dalton says it’s common to encounter Bluepoint-on-Bluepoint debates, with “one side arguing that it was a design choice and the other side arguing that the existing hardware at the time did not have the power or the processing to do it.” Although Bluepoint tries not to bug its partners with coding questions, it sometimes asks creators for conceptual input. Still, the studio doesn’t always adhere to their vision. Bluepoint’s primary loyalty is to the player, and the fact that a feature may have been the intent of the original team, Thrush says, “doesn’t mean that meshes with what people out there playing the game actually have in their head.”

Bluepoint’s ports are living documents. While remaking Shadow , the studio discovered a U-shaped river that fed two waterfalls but lacked its own source. To resolve that apparent impossibility, the team added an incoming river. “As much as we can without it destroying the original game or really having a negative effect on the original game, we try to fix these inconsistencies now that we have the chance,” Thrush says. At other times, Bluepoint’s commitment to Primum non nocere demands that something strange stay put. In one Colossus encounter, forceful waves break on a beach, even though their origin is only a small lake, not an ocean. But because the waves push the player out of the water, serving a gameplay purpose, their presence is non-negotiable.

, the studio discovered a U-shaped river that fed two waterfalls but lacked its own source. To resolve that apparent impossibility, the team added an incoming river. “As much as we can without it destroying the original game or really having a negative effect on the original game, we try to fix these inconsistencies now that we have the chance,” Thrush says. At other times, Bluepoint’s commitment to

demands that something strange stay put. In one Colossus encounter, forceful waves break on a beach, even though their origin is only a small lake, not an ocean. But because the waves push the player out of the water, serving a gameplay purpose, their presence is non-negotiable.

Bluepoint knows that no choice will satisfy everyone, so as part of this pioneering release, it gives the gamer more options. A sentimental player who wants the washed-out PS2 look can recreate it by dialing down the contrast. A player who prefers 30 frames per second to 60 can play that way. And if, for some sadistic reason, a player liked the classic control scheme, he or she can keep it. Modernity is mandatory only up to a point.

Bluepoint knows that no choice will satisfy everyone, so as part of this pioneering release, it gives the gamer more options. A sentimental player who wants the washed-out PS2 look can recreate it by dialing down the contrast. A player who prefers 30 frames per second to 60 can play that way. And if, for some sadistic reason, a player

Although Bluepoint often earns praise from the developers and publishers that entrust their IP to its care, the studio seeks validation from the public, not from their ports’ progenitors. “It’s more important to me how the millions of people feel who played the original version of the game and play this version of the game than the 30, 40, 50 people that worked on the game,” Thrush says.

It’s ironic, of course, that a studio formed for the explicit purpose of doing its “own thing” rather than working on someone else’s ideas has become the best-known steward of other developers’ properties. In embracing its identity as the industry’s port authority, Bluepoint has largely subsumed its ambitions to start its own series, though Thrush says “there’s been tinkering here and there on the side.” What the studio set out to do, and what it ended up doing, are two drastically different endeavors. “Original development is very much, ‘Yeah, we have no idea where this game is going to be by the time we ship,’ and so there’s a lot of trial and error,” Thrush says. By contrast, Bluepoint can always envision what the end of their port projects will look like. As Thrush explains, “We know exactly what our code has to be capable of doing by the time we finish.”

Someday, Bluepoint may return to its original objective and, armed with the wisdom gleaned from its uncommonly intimate knowledge of other games’ innards, produce an original title that makes more waves than Blast Factor –a game that will itself become fodder for remasters or remakes. But it would be a mistake to dismiss Bluepoint as the industry equivalent of a skilled cover band. Bluepoint’s ports are more than mimicry. They’re formidable demonstrations of technical prowess, yes, but they’re also innovative acts of creation and preservation.

Someday, Bluepoint may return to its original objective and, armed with the wisdom gleaned from its uncommonly intimate knowledge of other games’ innards, produce an original title that makes more waves than

–a game that will itself become fodder for remasters or remakes. But it would be a mistake to dismiss Bluepoint as the industry equivalent of a skilled cover band. Bluepoint’s ports are more than mimicry. They’re formidable demonstrations of technical prowess, yes, but they’re also innovative acts of creation and preservation.

Bluepoint’s approach to Shadow of the Colossus –faithful to its source material, but not slavishly so–has met with a warm critical reception. As of the game’s official street date, its aggregated review score is tied with that of the PS3 remaster that combined Colossus and Ico , slightly edging out that of the original Shadow release. “I think it’s a compelling way of doing things,” says Cifaldi, who sees Shadow ‘s blend of old and new as “a hybrid approach: remaster some of the source material, but also put a coat of paint on top of it to ‘modernize’ the game.” He adds that if Bluepoint had tried to stay totally faithful to the 2005 game by retouching old assets rather than redesigning them from scratch, “it would have been a ton of effort to make a product that would probably look exactly like the PS3 version. I think if the goal was to make Shadow of the Colossus a mainstream AAA release on the PS4, this was probably the smartest approach they could have taken.”

–faithful to its source material, but not slavishly so–has met with a warm critical reception. As of the game’s official street date, its

“a hybrid approach: remaster some of the source material, but also put a coat of paint on top of it to ‘modernize’ the game.” He adds that if Bluepoint had tried to stay totally faithful to the 2005 game by retouching old assets rather than redesigning them from scratch, “it would have been a ton of effort to make a product that would probably look exactly like the PS3 version. I think if the goal was to make

“We have to be true to what people remember about the game.”–Randall Lowe, Bluepoint Games producer

Opinions vary on Shadow ‘s revolutionary nature: Polygon ‘s Chris Plante argues that Shadow ‘s cross between restoration and reproduction “doesn’t have an obvious precedent in art other than, say Gus Van Sant’s bizarre shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho .” Eurogamer ‘s Oli Welsh concurs, calling it “an unprecedented feat in game preservation.” Cifaldi, meanwhile, cites a 2011 3DS remake of 1998 Nintendo triumph The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a similar exercise, but believes that the closest comp could be 2008’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix , which replaced the 1994 fighting game’s sprite -based backgrounds with redrawn digital artwork that would scale more smoothly to widescreen, high-def displays. The list of close cousins includes Capcom’s 2002 remake of 1996 franchise-starter Resident Evil , as well as various fan – driven efforts to remake old games in new engines. Unique or not, Shadow represents the most salient example of a game given this type of treatment on consoles. Like the long-ago God of War Collection , its framework may inspire imitators, although they’ll face a much more daunting task than the copycat remaster-makers did.

“doesn’t have an obvious precedent in art other than, say Gus Van Sant’s bizarre shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s

-based backgrounds with redrawn digital artwork that would scale more smoothly to widescreen, high-def displays. The list of close cousins includes Capcom’s

represents the most salient example of a game given this type of treatment on consoles. Like the long-ago

, its framework may inspire imitators, although they’ll face a much more daunting task than the copycat remaster-makers did.

Cifaldi, who hopes that more “artistic remixes” along the lines of Colossus will be made, sees the latest version of Shadow as a complement to the original rather than something that supplants it. “If someone wants to experience the artistic work that was Shadow of the Colossus , I would never recommend this version,” Cifaldi says. “This is not a judgment of it as a game; this is just reality. No remake is ever going to perfectly capture an original.”

as a complement to the original rather than something that supplants it. “If someone wants to experience the artistic work that was

, I would never recommend this version,” Cifaldi says. “This is not a judgment of it as a game; this is just reality. No remake is ever going to perfectly capture an original.”

No one who has one need discard their old copy, but after playing the PS4 version, it’s hard to feel as concerned as Cifaldi about first-timers bypassing the original game. This week, many grown-up gamers will measure the remake against the 2005 PS2 title and discover that it has the same spirit as the version they played on a tiny TV in a childhood bedroom, college dorm, or dingy starter apartment. They’ve long since sold their old systems and discarded their old screens; their new screens are bigger, their PlayStations are more powerful, and Shadow of the Colossus looks better than ever before, living up to the image in their adolescent minds’ eyes. The present has its perks. “We have to be true to what people remember about the game,” says Lowe. “That’s kind of our motto here. We rebuild the game to be the way people remember it, rather than what it actually was.”

No one who has one need discard their old copy, but after playing the PS4 version, it’s hard to feel as concerned as Cifaldi about first-timers bypassing the original game. This week, many grown-up gamers will measure the remake against the 2005 PS2 title and discover that it has the same spirit as the version they played on a tiny TV in a childhood bedroom, college dorm, or dingy starter apartment. They’ve long since sold their old systems and discarded their old screens; their new screens are bigger, their PlayStations are more powerful, and

looks better than ever before, living up to the image in their adolescent minds’ eyes. The present has its perks. “We have to be true to what people remember about the game,” says Lowe. “That’s kind of our motto here. We rebuild the game to be the way people remember it, rather than what it actually was.”

After fans have been searching years for one last big secret in the original Shadow of the Colossus, the PS4 remaster comes with a mystery of its own.

Outside of the 16 Colossus to defeat as part of the main story, the original had two sets of optional collectables to find – Fruit Trees and Lizard Tails – both of which also feature in the PS4 remake.

The remaster has introduces a third type of collectable, which have been dubbed ‘Enlightenments’ or ‘Gold Coins’ by players, which glow and sparkle when found.

Unlike Fruit Trees and Lizard Tails – which increase your health and stamina gauges respectively – the purpose of these Coins is currently unknown.

There isn’t a Trophy associated with finding them, nor are they mentioned as part of the in-game stats summary found from the pause menu.

However, once you find your first Coin, they are logged in the bottom corner of the map screen as a number that increases with each subsequent find.

How many of these collectables are there? A video by PS4Trophies theorises a total of 79, based on a message in the end credits, thanking the “Nomad Colossus and the 79 steps to enlightenment”.

A total of 70 has been found so far, so if the theory is true, we won’t be waiting long for the mystery to be solved.

Could there be something hidden away at the end of those coins, or will finding them all simply be its own reward?

That’s not the only new addition introduced as part of the remaster, with an Easter Egg for another Team Ico game to find off the beaten path.

Shadow of the Colossus releases tomorrow (February 7) on PS4. While you wait, you can read our Shadow of the Colossus review as well as Digital Foundry’s analysis, describing it as one of the best remakes of all time .

A hidden The Last Guardian Easter Egg is one of the few new additions of the Shadow of the Colossus is PS4 remaster.

Unlocking one of the game’s Trophies, Boon of the Nomad , it’s surprisingly close to the start of the game, allowing you to find it within five minutes of the opening cutscene wrapping up, if you were particularly keen to track it down.

, it’s surprisingly close to the start of the game, allowing you to find it within five minutes of the opening cutscene wrapping up, if you were particularly keen to track it down.

First, head to the Shrine of Worship (the temple where you start the game in the middle of the map) and take your horse Agro in a south-west direction.

You’ll see some thin towers in the distance, and some rocks on the right. You’ll want to turn into here, where you’ll find the entrance to a forest.

From here, continue going in a south-westerly direction, over a stream, until you come across a cave entrance in the ground.

Here’s the specific location on the map – it’s in segment E5, with the forest and its river represented by the squiggling line.

Seem familiar? This is just like those you’ve seen in The Last Guardian. Throwaway Easter Egg, or subtle sign there’s more to connect these games than meets the eye?

This Easter Egg is not the only new addition to Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 – it looks like there’s a new mystery to solve in the form of additional collectables, one of which can be found in this very cave.

This Easter Egg is not the only new addition to Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 – it looks like there’s a new

Editor’s note: As if we’d let the PS4 outing for Shadow of the Colossus pass by without returning to this – an article that’s been republished as many times as the game has been remastered, at least. Craig Owens’ piece was first published back in 2013 (and if you wondered what Craig was up to himself, he’s at Rocksteady working on whatever mystery the Arkham Knight developer is up to next).

It’s not hard to find, though you must trot through caves and gallop across a desolate grass plain to reach it. The real question is why would you want to? There’s no colossi to be found perched on this craggy jut at the southernmost tip of Shadow of the Colossus’ Forbidden Lands. There’s just a stunning ocean view, a thin grassy strip to walk upon, and a flock of seagulls quietly wheeling their way through the air below. It’s peaceful, certainly, but so are dozens of other beautiful, tucked away corners of Team Ico’s evocative landscape.

Yet Michael – better known by his username Ozzymandias – was stood here all the same, and he was doing something rather strange. He was studying the seagulls. Time and time again he’d load the game, steer Agro towards this postcard-perfect view, and then dismount from the steed. While Agro trotted away quietly Ozzy would carefully walk up to one of the many rocks overhanging the edge of the bluff. And he’d wait, watching the birds fly by.

Ozzymandias’s journey to that cliff-face had started three years before, when Shadow Of The Colossus emerged.

“I’m pretty sure I just sat down and played the entire thing through front to back”, explains Ozzy, who’d fallen in love with Ico and had patiently awaited the team’s next game. “By the end, I was picking my jaw off the floor thinking they’d done it again, but it was mixed with this really intense sadness that after all this waiting and anticipation it was over.”

Ozzymandias is just one of the secret seekers, a group dedicated to unearthing Shadow of the Colussus’ big secrets.

So Ozzy turned to forums filled with likeminded, passionate devotees. At first he was looking for canny ways to defeat colossi faster, but he soon discovered something far more mesmerising. The hidden garden at the top of the Shrine of Worship, glimpsed during Shadow of the Colossus’ final cutscene, was accessible in-game. This is Shadow Of The Colossus’ biggest Easter Egg, teased by the mossy growths, handholds and ledges that weave around the exterior of the structure, but not actually reachable until you’ve completed the game multiple times. The Secret Garden, as it became known, is a final reward for the most dedicated of colossi-hunters: one last challenge and a glimpse of verdant green beauty in a starkly austere land. But it wasn’t enough for Ozzymandias and his fellow fans.

“Are there other places you can get to?” Ozzymandias wanted to know. “What else is there?” he asked.
“What else can you do?”

“Are there other places you can get to?” Ozzymandias wanted to know. “What else is there?” he asked.

Even now, it’s easy to understand why Shadow Of The Colossus kept so many people so enthralled. Playing through the game again, I’m startled by the sense of history that suffuses Team Ico’s landscape. Crumbling ruins lead into bleak ash plains, empty cities and stunning, temple-ringed lakes. Everything feels like a secret in the Forbidden Lands, because the game utterly sells the idea that yours are the first human eyes to cast upon it for thousands of years. On my way to visit Ozzymandias’ skydiving spot I get lost, and end up stumbling upon a sparkling grotto sealed off by the mountains surrounding it. It feels like a discovery, not least because Shadow Of The Colossus is coolly indifferent as to whether you find this stuff at all.

We’re used to playing through spaces with purpose . Skyrim offers a landscape as large as SOTC’s, as well as a wintry beauty of its own, but the homeland of the Nords is utterly crammed with function and padded with lore. Every cave has a quest attached, every NPC a task. There are no secrets in Skyrim, just one epic to-do list.

. Skyrim offers a landscape as large as SOTC’s, as well as a wintry beauty of its own, but the homeland of the Nords is utterly crammed with function and padded with lore. Every cave has a quest attached, every NPC a task. There are no secrets in Skyrim, just one epic to-do list.

But in Shadow Of The Colossus all you can do is stare at a ruined shrine in the middle of a desert, and wonder what it’s for.

Ozzymandias and the other secret-seekers had found a home on Sony’s official forums, where they congregated in order to figure out where Shadow Of The Colossus’s remaining secrets and Easter Eggs might be. Early speculation fixated on the idea that there was way to climb beyond the top of the secret garden, to the roof of the temple beyond. More ambitious secret-seekers hoped that, were the right requirements fulfilled, players could somehow unlock a secret ending to the game. And the most fanciful theory of all was that there was a hidden 17th colossus, somewhere in the Forbidden Lands.

Ozzymandias and the other secret-seekers had found a home on Sony’s official forums, where they congregated in order to figure out where Shadow Of The Colossus’s remaining secrets and Easter Eggs might be. Early speculation fixated on the idea that there was way to climb

the top of the secret garden, to the roof of the temple beyond. More ambitious secret-seekers hoped that, were the right requirements fulfilled, players could somehow unlock a secret ending to the game. And the most fanciful theory of all was that there was a hidden 17th colossus, somewhere in the Forbidden Lands.

Along the way secret-seekers unearthed tricks that aided their exploration of the game, many of which involved some clever exploitation of Shadow Of The Colossus’s physics. Agro-launching is a crucial skill for any would-be secret-seeker to learn. Jump off Agro at precisely the right moment as the horse clambers up an incline and Wander will be hurled into the sky and, maybe, into hidden corners of the map. Other, more daredevil secret-seekers started launching off the colossi themselves, using the creature’s attacks and animations in order to fling themselves to otherwise inaccessible part of the beast’s lairs, or to simply defeat the monsters in record time.

Still, there was a scrappy, disorganised air to the early years of the secret hunt: “Someone had a theory, they would start a thread, nobody would be able to take it anywhere and it would sort of fade,” Ozzymandias recalls. And then that changed.

Secret-seeker Ascadia-PSU had a theory that shifted focus away from the central shrine and towards another ruin to the north. But much more importantly, the man had a sales pitch.

Ascadia’s thread explains his Theory of Intersecting Points in such comprehensive detail that it’s hard not to be caught up in his enthusiasm upon the first read. Drawing from exposition at the start of the game, studious analysis of maps of the Forbidden Lands and some creative interpretation of arcane symbols dotted about the game, Ascadia concluded that Team Ico was pointing players towards the lair of the 11th colossus, Celosia, and a mysterious, bricked up the door. Behind this door was where the The Last Big Secret (as he coined it) would be found. The problem facing the secret-seekers was this: how to open it?

explains his Theory of Intersecting Points in such comprehensive detail that it’s hard not to be caught up in his enthusiasm upon the first read. Drawing from exposition at the start of the game, studious analysis of maps of the Forbidden Lands and some creative interpretation of arcane symbols dotted about the game, Ascadia concluded that Team Ico was pointing players towards the lair of the 11th colossus, Celosia, and a mysterious, bricked up the door. Behind this door was where the The Last Big Secret (as he coined it) would be found. The problem facing the secret-seekers was this: how to open it?

Many theories were tried. Celosia was the only colossus fought with an extra tool – a flaming torch. Flaming torches were used in Ico as puzzle-solving devices. This was a clue, surely? But no – no matter where players Agro-launched themselves to there was no hidden brazier to set light to, or lever to find. In time, the Theory of Intersecting Points fell by the wayside. But the thread survived.

At five hundred and fifty-nine pages that thread is an enduring tribute to the dedication and passion of the secret seekers. Started two years after the release of the game it still receives occasional updates today – because even after the Intersecting Points idea was abandoned Ascadia’s detailed analysis and persuasive arguments turned his thread into the focus point for all subsequent secret-seeking. At peak, barely a page goes by without the discovery of a new glitch or a beautiful geographical find. And barely a dozen pages can pass without a new theory being mooted, eagerly seized upon and then left behind.

Inevitably, some theories were more desperate than others. “One thing that I thought would be key”
recalls Ozzymandias, with an ever-so-slightly embarrassed tone “was the catacombs en route to the 16th [and final] colossus. Most of us recall the first big gaming Easter Egg as the one in Adventure where you find the dot in the catacombs and it opens a door for you”, he continues. “So, yeah, I had a harebrained theory that I could run around in these catacombs pressing Wander against the walls and eventually I would find the dot, so to speak.”

recalls Ozzymandias, with an ever-so-slightly embarrassed tone “was the catacombs en route to the 16th [and final] colossus. Most of us recall the first big gaming Easter Egg as the one in Adventure where you find the dot in the catacombs and it opens a door for you”, he continues. “So, yeah, I had a harebrained theory that I could run around in these catacombs pressing Wander against the walls and eventually I would find the dot, so to speak.”

“I never found the dot,” admits Ozzy. “There was no dot. So yeah, that didn’t work. But everybody’s ideas were going to these kind of places, because the lowest hanging fruit had already been eliminated.” Other dead-ends included a mysterious, walkable piece of water on the south-eastern fringes of the map. Sadly, what at first seemed like an invisible bridge to parts unknown was soon dismissed as wayward collision detection.

Still, the secret-seekers did make some discoveries. Not the Last Big Secret, perhaps, but these quirky hidden features of the game are a reflection of their dedication. Someone found a beach eerily reminiscent of a similar piece of shoreline seen in Ico’s closing scenes. Another player found two ponds with actual, animated fish hidden in the world. But my favourite find is the Lokis. There are birds flying all over the Forbidden Lands, and it didn’t take long for players to realise that Wander could leap and grab them. But the secret-seekers found three special birds, unlike any others in the game. These giant hawks weren’t tugged down by Wander’s weight when players grabbed them – meaning they’d take players off on a flying, sightseeing tour of the surrounding landscape. But not, sadly, into a hidden colossus’ lair.

“They were probably four or five times the size of other birds in the game,” Ozzy recalls. “Their flightpath never changed, but it was exciting, and there was no doubt it was intentional. They must have been meant to be there.”

Ueda originally intended there to be 48 Colossi – the number was cut drastically come the final product.

It was a different set of birds that brought Ozzymandias to his clifftop, however. While other players were Agro-jumping into unintended corners of the map, many with half-finished textures and unreliable collision planes, Ozzy was convinced that, if there was a Last Big Secret to be found, then it would be uncovered by more legitimate means. What’s more, he’d found a promising lead. Down at the southernmost part of the Forbidden Lands were a flock of seagulls whose flightpath, just like that of the Lokis, brought them for a tantalising moment within range of Wander’s grasp. There just one problem: the player had to jump off the cliff first.

“I remember seeing them and watching them for like five minutes,” Ozzy recalls, “before they’d make that split-second pass. I was watching them for an excruciatingly long time. But I knew the jump was possible. I don’t know how many times I died trying to do it.”

And then it happened: Ozzymanias jumped from the clifftop and grabbed a fistful of seagull on his way down. “I thought for sure it was going to take me to secret cave within which I’d find a 17th colossus that nobody had seen before,” Ozzy recalls, laughing.

The bird carried Ozzy around for a short while, before his weight dragged them both to the ocean where they drowned.

By now, however, the quest for the Last Big Secret had entered a new phase. And the moment of transition can be marked precisely. Midway through 2008 a new user joined the Official PlayStation forums, and started posting strange clips containing impossible to replicate bugs – such as land-bound colossi flying through the air.

He was cheating. It turns out that an emulated version of Shadow of the Colossus runs askew, throwing up strange, sometimes useful glitches like sped up animations that could be used to access previously unreachable parts of the game. Pikol’s work pretty much obliterated any remaining hope in long-nurtured theories. There was nothing behind the door in the 11th colossus’ temple. There was nothing but glitchy, half-finished architecture above the Secret Garden, towards the top of the shrine. But by so thoroughly cleaning out the old ideas Pikol allowed a new kind of secret-seeking to start – more concerned with peering into every forgotten corner of the game than uncovering some transformative mystery at its heart. Pikol’s biggest discovery was an entirely finished, textured dam – cut off from the rest of the map and seemingly cut from the game.

He was cheating. It turns out that an emulated version of Shadow of the Colossus runs askew, throwing up strange, sometimes useful glitches like sped up animations that could be used to access previously unreachable parts of the game. Pikol’s work pretty much obliterated any remaining hope in long-nurtured theories. There was nothing behind the door in the 11th colossus’ temple. There was nothing but glitchy, half-finished architecture above the Secret Garden, towards the top of the shrine. But by so thoroughly cleaning out the old ideas Pikol allowed a new kind of secret-seeking to start – more concerned with peering into every forgotten corner of the game than uncovering some transformative mystery at its heart. Pikol’s biggest discovery was an

Nomad, whose blog showcases his masterful Shadow of the Colossus-hacking abilities and theorising, and whose images accompany this article, was one of the latter generation of secret-seekers: “[Pikol] showed what was possible via hacking – he could go anywhere he liked and it made me want to try,” he recalls. Nomad was already an accomplished Agro-launcher – “I got up behind the towers in the Autumn Forest and could run around up there, people couldn’t believe this had been missed all these years” – but his real passion was using hacks to explore the closed-off mountainous regions at the edge of The Forbidden Lands.

showcases his masterful Shadow of the Colossus-hacking abilities and theorising, and whose images accompany this article, was one of the latter generation of secret-seekers: “[Pikol] showed what was possible via hacking – he could go anywhere he liked and it made me want to try,” he recalls. Nomad was already an accomplished Agro-launcher – “I got up behind the towers in the Autumn Forest and could run around up there, people couldn’t believe this had been missed all these years” – but his real passion was using hacks to explore the closed-off mountainous regions at the edge of The Forbidden Lands.

“Pikol and the others would never have done this,” Nomad recalls. “It just didn’t interest them, but to me it was the most exciting – there was never anything up there, just barren landscapes with trees and bushes, but they were vast and solid – Wander could walk there – which is really strange as in most
games those kind of areas have no collision detection, but here they did.”

“Pikol and the others would never have done this,” Nomad recalls. “It just didn’t interest them, but to me it was the most exciting – there was never anything up there, just barren landscapes with trees and bushes, but they were vast and solid – Wander could walk there – which is really strange as in most

Eventually, the hackers managed to track down official preview code for the game, and started hacking away at it to find secrets that had been cut from the retail game. At this point, the notion of a legitimate secret that players were ‘meant’ to find had been entirely abandoned. “I wanted to explore what was different [in the beta version]” hacker WWWArea explains, “and to find more lost beta stuff”. He did – WWArea’s finds include discarded beta items such as the Eye Of The Colossus, which, when used, would have allowed you to battle colossi with a camera angle fixed to their point of view.

I’m not sure there’s anything left to find in Shadow of the Colossus. Eight years plus countless forum threads, blog posts and Youtube videos mean the secret-seekers have picked the game clean. These days, Nomad’s more interested in finding out what’s been cut from the game than secreted away inside it. His speculations on the nature of eight discarded colossi – what they looked like, how they might have behaved, and where players might have fought them – make for fascinating reading.

I’m not sure there’s anything left to find in Shadow of the Colossus. Eight years plus countless forum threads, blog posts and Youtube videos mean the secret-seekers have picked the game clean. These days, Nomad’s more interested in finding out what’s been cut from the game than secreted away inside it. His speculations on the nature of eight discarded colossi – what they looked like, how they might have behaved, and where players might have fought them – make for

But does it bother the secret-seekers that they never found what they were looking for? Nomad is philosophical about the quest he was once a part of.

“It was the search that was the thing,” he tells me. “I like to say it’s like a Rorschach test, people imprint whatever hopes and beliefs they have onto the vast empty landscapes and see secrets that aren’t there – they just hope they are.”

Ozzymandias, meanwhile, looks back fondly on his cliff-jumping days, and admits that he always knew a big find was unlikely. Though, then again, this is the note we end on:

“You know what’s going to happen when you publish this, Craig?” he tells me. “It’s going to inspire people to search, and one of those people is going to find the Last Big Secret of Shadow Of The Colossus.”