Conclusion: i was definitely one of those who didnt notice it and should have when it was first released. i picked it up in a bargain bin a couple years later and a college roommate actually played through it before i got around to it. you are right that the combat blows, but it actually adds to the experience in my opinion since ico is a boy who wasnt raised as a warrior (as far as we know) so if he was an expert swordsman it wouldnt really make sense.
Conclusion: Very good comments, Pat. Good analysis of the theme of the game, concerning the issue of playing on archetypes. I will say, though, that SOTC had enough gameplay to say it wasn’t lacking in that department. It might have not been brimming to the top with features, but the sheer exhilaration while fighting those Colossi was enough for me.
Conclusion: sotc was definitely better than ico in gameplay, but as you say (or imply) it was more about exhilaration and the experience than the gameplay itself. so maybe lacking is the wrong word, but the gameplay was not really the reason to play that.
Conclusion: Well, you bring up a good point. I can sum it up with, "What is the very definition of gameplay?" If it’s pushing buttons and seeing something happen on screen, then you can say that. But it also be considered the experience that you have. You may not even have to push a button. Think of SOTC. Merely riding the horse around the colossus was amazing enough to say I had a good time.
Conclusion: Sometimes I put the industy in a bad light, mostly concerning the intellectual level it tries to attain, but its pretty much true. The number of games that can be considered in the same light as books or movies can be counted on one hand. Eternal Darkness, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Silent Hill are probably the biggest ones. And even Silent Hill falters in some respects. And I agree, we seriously have a long way to go to be considered the greatest medium of all.
Conclusion: There’s a scene at the end of Ico in which the whole game has its "ah hah" moment, when the whole experience comes together and you realize just how far storytelling and emotion in gaming has to go, if such a game can be so potent with saying so very little.