Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Sorcery

If there’s one thing that’s surprised me since Sony’s Move motion controller found its way to the shop shelves, it’s the dearth of wand-wafting games that have been released. I mean, at first sight, it seems tailor made for games featuring magical wands and wizardry. Thankfully, Sony and developer The Workshop have conjured up Sorcery – a much delayed but very welcome addition to the Move catalogue.

Now, it should be noted that firstly, you must have Move to play – it’s your wand, you see. Secondly, you’ll need to make use of a separate pad or Navigation Controller to control your character’s movement.

Sorcery puts you in the shoes of Finn, a sorcerer’s apprentice who’s a bit wet behind the ears but finds himself in possession of his very own wand. Accompanied by his feisty feline sidekick, Erline, the two must master the art of magic and use it to conquer the malevolent plans of the Nightmare Queen, who appears hell bent on taking over the world. It’s up to you to roam the Faerie Kingdoms, hone your wizardry skills and solve a few rudimentary puzzles to defeat the evil Queen. It’s your typical story of good versus evil – but where it differs is its clever use of Move, which marks a new era for the peripheral as the title has been purpose made with it in mind.

This great-looking RPG is steeped in Irish folklore, giving the game a certain look and feel. It strikes me that this is the kind of application of motion control that would have been exactly what Peter Molyneux envisaged when crafting his Fable series on the Xbox 360.

Progression through the fairly short story provides the once naïve lad with a plethora of powerful magic based around wind, fire, ice, earth and lightning.  With a simple movement of the controller, spells are cast or potions brewed and imbibed, puzzles solved and evil minions vanquished. Twisting and turning Move allows you to unlock doors as though turning a key, gulp down a revitalising health potion or rebuild broken bridges. Once you’ve gained the ability to cast spells such as whirlwinds and lightning bolts, you really do feel powerful and wizardlike. Within no time you’ll be conjuring up walls of fire and encasing your enemies in blocks of ice. What’s more, you can combine spells and supplement your powers by finding and mixing new ingredients.

A flick of the wrist sees our budding magician beating banshees and trolls with aplomb. The sheer number of enemies that you’ll face, however, may leave you with a slightly sore arm after shooting lightening bolts and casting spells for long periods. Big foes also stand in your way – some of them quite memorable – although they can take an age to defeat. And it’s at these moments you realise there’s a certain amount of monotony to the gameplay. Move and shoot, move and shoot. Rinse and repeat. The paths and objectives are linear and offer little by way of exploration too. But the landscapes sure are colourful and a joy to look at so the journey isn’t an unpleasant one.

It’s clearly a title aimed at a younger audience, with simple puzzles acting only to break up the near constant combat. The voice acting for the main characters is top notch and there’s a humorous quality to the dialogue, which adds somewhat to its charm.

As is so often the case with this new-fangled technology, getting Move to do exactly what you want it to is occasionally tricky. Directing your magic can be troublesome, especially when you’re trying to shoot magic round corners or at an angle.  The camera can also be frustrating, with your vision inadvertently obscured and often leading to lost health as bad guys home in on you.

Another minor – but fairly obvious – gripe is the likelihood of suffering a few aches and pains the next day after a gaming session. Motion control is a very clever phenomenon but waving your arms about over a sustained period does take its toll – and sadly, there’s no way of playing Sorcery without Move. Maybe that’s the positive side of the game being fairly short lived?

Showcased at E3 2010, Sorcery has been a long time coming. Was it worth the wait? It’s all fairly one dimensional and replayability is questionable after a brief campaign but it’s great to show off the abilities of the Move controller. It’s certainly not a reason to rush out and buy Move but if you’ve already got one in your drawer, it’s well worth picking up a copy – particularly for the younger audience.

Reviewed on PS3
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