Developer: The Workshop/SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3 Only
The PlayStation Move controller has to be one of the most under-used and ignored peripherals in the gaming market today. It’s a bloody shame too, as it is easily the most intuitive and reliable of the motion-sensor peripherals on the scene. Maybe it is because it looks like a high-end sex toy, or maybe game developers are too afraid to do anything more than tag some Move controls onto games as an afterthought rather than develop games specifically for the controller. Look down the list of Move compatible titles, not many exclusives, are there? And while it may be fun to swing a virtual golf club or use the thing as a lightgun, what Move is crying out for is a decent game, a fully formed Move experience, which builds on the accuracy and promise of stuff like Sports Champions and Medieval Moves, whilst offering a meatier gaming experience, not just a selection of half-baked party games. Can Sorcery, which was initially unveiled at E3 2010, be the exclusive title that finally justifies purchasing the oddly shaped add-on?
STORY: Sorcery puts you in the shoes of a loveable young scamp by the name of Finn, who inhabits a fictitious, Celtic-styled world, where he is employed as an apprentice to the sorcerer Dash. We are introduced to the heroes of the piece by an excellent introductory sequence made up of storyboards. Finn has a brilliant, Kiki’s Delivery Service-style feline companion by the name of Erline, and it is with his cynical moggy pal that Finn one day ends up getting himself involved in all manner of arcane doo-doo as they decide to unwisely mess about with Dash’s magic wand whilst he has popped out one day. As you can imagine, things end up getting out of control. We are not talking about Mickey on some Sorcerer’s Apprentice farce either; Finn is up to his neck in it as the evil Nightmare Queen attempts to cover the Faerie Kingdom in eternal darkness, and unleash her dastardly minions upon the land. Finn has to man up, learn how to wield his master’s trusty wand, and embark on a quest to thwart the evil monarch and her bestiary of ne’er do wells.
GRAPHICS: With Unreal 3 clout behind it, this original IP has had a good few years of development time and, as a consequence, it looks really pretty, immersing you in a cracking fairytale world full of well designed and likeable characters. If you can forgive the sometimes slightly dodgy camera angles, this is a lovely looking game with its colourful array of spells and imaginative gallery of beasties.
SOUND: Having a perfectly decent, serviceable soundtrack is great, and Sorcery certainly ticks that box, but what it also has is an excellent voice cast, delivered by the likes of Diagnosis Murder heartthrob Charlie Schlatter (who voices Finn) and combines with a funny, witty script to make for an wonderfully funny romp.
GAMEPLAY: What we have here is a pretty standard third person action romp, with an engaging role-playing-lite flavour, some very nicely done motion control treats, and an old school appeal that draws on stuff like the Fighting Fantasy books you read as a kid, Dungeons and Dragons or, dare I say it, the Legend of Zelda series of games. It has a kind of non-threatening simplicity to it that reminded me of the recent LEGO games, and is instantly likeable from the moment you first slip the Blu-Ray in and begin your adventure.
First things first, this is a game that is built for, and controlled entirely using, the Move controller. You will also need to use a navigation controller too, and whilst you can substitute this for a standard PS3 pad, I would heartily recommend that you invest in one of the official navigation controllers to avoid having to hold the Sixaxis controller in one hand, when you only need to use the left hand side of the pad; it becomes cumbersome pretty quickly.
Your left hand will control Finn’s movement, with your right being used to wield the magic wand around which the entire game is based. There is an excellently drip-fed tutorial style to proceedings, that doesn’t bombard you with information, but lets you learn new techniques as you progress further into the game. What you do notice pretty early on, even when you are limited to zapping inanimate crates at home, is that the Move controls are brilliantly accurate, and the use of the wand is both intuitive and superbly implemented.
Finn can access five different types of spell, which follow pretty standard RPG elemental rules – Fire, Ice, Earth, Wind and Fire. There is also the basic attack, the arcane bolt, which you can use from the very beginning. You constantly level up over the course of the game, and the further you get, the more powerful you become and the more spells you can cast. Each of the spell types has three different varieties of attack, a standard strike which is carried out by simply waving or snapping the wand towards an enemy, a ranged attack that can hit more than one target, as well and fending off foes in a protective measure, and a close range effort which is achieved by swishing the wand in a left to right motion. You can learn to bend spells around cover, something which comes in handy when faced with foes who hide behind objects, flinging things at you. You are also encouraged to use the correct spell to deal with each type of enemy, for example, using the ice spells to take down flame-based enemies.
You have a shield function and a dodge manoeuvre, both of which you will find yourself employing on a regular basis, particularly during some of the boss encounters, many of which are extremely impressive and will require some brainpower to work out how to dispatch. The shield does not last forever, and you will need to use it wisely to avoid having your ass handed to you.
Move is used in some other excellent ways. You can swoosh the globe-topped beauty around to open doors, treasure chests, clear obstacles and smash breakable scenery. Best of all though is the option to carry out “alchemy” and brew up your own concoctions once you have found the correct ingredients and have enough dough. So what? You get to knock up magic potions. Pretty much standard in this type of game, yeah? But here, you actually grip the Move controller as if it were the potion, shake it up in your hand to combine the ingredients, and then raise it to your maw in a lovely drinking motion. Best of all, the ball on the end of your controller will actually glow the same colour as whichever spell you are mixing on screen. What an age we live in.
It isn’t all sweetness and light though. Sometimes, the game is hindered by a dodgy camera, which is fixed in place and can sometimes see you get stuck against a wall or cornered with no means of escape, with your character seemingly disappearing from the fray. The targeting system can also be a problem at times, particularly during boss battles where smaller enemies often spawn alongside the boss, you sometimes find that Finn ends up attacking any smaller critters first; this is especially frustrating when all you want to do is reduce the massive energy bar of the big bugger.
LONGEVITY: This isn’t a huge game, but then the price tag isn’t exactly a rip off for what you do get, and long after the main quest has finished there are still items you will not have found first time around, potions to brew, and of course Trophies to mop up.
VERDICT: Sorcery was built for Move from the ground up, and it shows. It is proof that you can have a satisfying adventure gaming experience using the peripheral, which has never had a problem with accuracy or ergonomics to begin with. It isn’t rocket science, the controls are kept simple, the gameplay enjoyable, compulsive and progressive, and the premise of waving a wand about actually out-Harry Potters any of the movie or book tie-in video games based around J.K Rowling’s bespectacled creation.
Sure, the combat and the many different permutations of weapons and attacks are not going to challenge the likes of Dragon’s Dogma. The game also lacks the wonder and sprinkling of magical dust that went into another recent motion-controlled highlight, Skyward Sword, but Sorcery is excellent, fun to control and begs to be loved. It would be the perfect game to occupy a bored youngster over the summer holidays, with fans of anything fantasy-themed likely to lap this up too. It is now time for some of the other big names to see what they can do with the Move controller. The possibilities are almost limitless.