This isn’t quite how I envisioned my affair with the Playstation Move. The fantasies of me charging into some medieval-fantasy battlefield armed with a motion-controlled sword-and-shield combo now feel like hazy delusions. What a fool I was to speculate that maybe, just maybe, great games like Skyrim would’ve utilised the plucky motion controller.
Now, it only reinforces my sense of foolishness that, far from motion-controlling a Dragonborn, I’m some Americanised Harry Potter wannabe flicking his wrist around to cast elemental spells in Sorcery. Though while I do admittedly feel like a bit self-conscious doing it, the reviewer in me (as opposed to the embittered Move owner) has to admit that it really is an enjoyable game that is reasonably creativity in its use of the neglected controller.
Co-developed by The Workshop and Santa Monica Studios, Sorcery is an action-adventure game which sees you take control of an arrogant young wizard’s apprentice Finn. Together who with his faerie-disguised-as-a-cat companion Erline, he must travel through the faerie kingdom to defeat the Nightmare Queen, who has ill intentions for the mock-Celtic fantasy land you inhabit.
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that Sorcery is essentially a game aimed at children. The game may have been given a PEGI-12 rating, but ignore those bureaucratic farts and listen to me, for I’m at least semi-clued up to what’s going on in society. Sorcery’s world draws its influences from Disney – from the humour right down to the Nightmare Queen who is a less attractive version of the evil witch from Snow White – and. Yes, the game revolves mainly around fighting, but it’s colourful cartoon combat, and realistically won’t satisfy the blood-thirst of anyone above the age of 15.
Sorcery’s selling point is, of course, the Move-based gameplay. In this sense, the game comes good. Spinning the controller in circles to mend things, shaking it then tipping it towards your mouth to drink potions, pouring ingredients into a cauldron and stirring them; all these functions utilise the Move in a satisfying, intuitive way and may even trigger occasional moments of non-regret that you own the damn thing.
The combat in Sorcery – and there is a lot of it – doesn’t feel quite as imaginative as it could. Aside from the occasional special move and twirling your wand to select which spell you want to use, the combat pretty much just involves you flicking your controller in the general direction of enemies as if you were a hyperactive maraca player. You can technically curl your spells, but it’s more a trivial party trick than an effective combat manoeuvre.
In fairness, the non-Move aspects of the combat are well thought out. You can combine different elemental attacks to take enemies out quicker – such as freezing them then blowing them up with your celestial bolt – or use environmental factors such as wind and fire to your advantage. With the vast quantity of enemies you’ll often be fighting at once, it makes for some pretty chaotic encounters as you harness the power of your wand to unleash hell.
In a game where the combat is fast-paced and fairly repetitive, you’d hope for some puzzle elements to break up the gameplay. Indeed, the tutorial suggests that this may happen, as you magically pick up an axe and chop a tree stump in half with it. Sadly, while this shows potential for the game to feature inventive Move/physics-based puzzle solving, it never really follows up on it. Most of your non-combat actions will involve spinning your wand in circles when instructed to ‘mend’ things and using your spells to play with the corresponding elements. A missed opportunity to innovate the gameplay.
Sorcery is a pretty game, while never being so ambitious as to be jaw-dropping. The backgrounds and the spell effects make for a couple of soul-warming ‘ahhh’ moments, and the character models are decent enough. The problem the game suffers from is a lack of visual diversity. Most of your encounters take place in large round arenas of varying texture, and within the few basic enemy types – undead, bogeys, evil faeries – they all more or less look the same.
The game’s presentation and characters are very much borrowed from Disney, with everyone you meet throughout the game having their own personality quirks that make them stand out. The best of these is the Alchemist, who comes out with gravelly, Latino-tinted catchphrases that linger in the mind. The dynamic between Finn and Erline is amusing, though maybe the quips are a bit lightweight for older folks’ tastes. Also, Finn’s raspy, ‘whatever-dude’ attitude can get grating, though the fact that the game’s a lightly-veiled analogy for the journey through puberty means that he mans up as the storyline progresses.
Sorcery is a single-playthrough affair, and considering that the precious playthrough will take you no more than 6 hours, this is a serious blemish on the game’s lasting appeal. Of course, there are Trophies to win that will waste weeks of your life, but relying on these to extend a £20+ game’s lifespan is pitiful. How I long for that rare breed of game which, through getting completed, opens you up to a plethora of fun features rather than taking your money slamming the door in your face.
Sorcery has been a long-time coming, and it certainly delivers on the youthful charm front, with the storyline and visual style pleasingly combining Disney with Celtic mythology. The game’s USP – the Move support – is implemented well enough, but even though it makes the best use of the motion controller in any game to date, it still doesn’t fully harness the power in your hands; if I had to awkwardly crowbar in an analogy, I’d say that this game is still a sorceror’s apprentice when it comes to Move support, with there yet to be an arcane master-game to really show us what the controller’s capable of.
Sorcery is available to buy now for PS3.