Sorcery is one of those games where you go, “Hey, this is pretty damn good…it just isn’t knock-me-down great.” There isn’t anything critically wrong with the production and in fact, the combination of a beautiful presentation and inspired motion controls makes it quite appealing. The only downside is that it doesn’t last long enough and despite the excellent mechanical design, it still isn’t quite reliable enough. But for what it’s worth, it’s a great Move option.
I was surprised that the game’s graphics were such a highlight. There’s a tremendous amount of pretty vistas and landscapes, and the design of both the numerous enemies and special effects is impressive. Level design is another plus, although if you look close, you will spot a few visual inconsistencies and blurriness not found in upper echelon titles on the PS3. That being said, considering the intended demographic, I doubt the younger audience will care much about such minor drawbacks. Sorcery really looks good from most angles.
The sound excels in the effects category but I would’ve liked a more vigorous soundtrack (even though the music is quite fitting). At times it just felt a little too mellow but again, this creation isn’t necessarily supposed to damage your surround sound system with booming audio. For what it’s worth, there’s an appreciated mystical aura surrounding the sound, and that sets the correct tone for the adventure. This is a game about a boy wizard that waves a wand; the developers understand that perfectly even if they’re somewhat conservative in their approach.
It’s inevitable that Sorcery will generate Harry Potter flashbacks, but it’s important to note that games in the latter franchise aren’t anything like Sony’s attractive new motion-based quest. And when I say that, I’m referring to the gameplay, as it’s easy to draw parallels between the two universes. Using the Move in this game is mostly a pleasure, as everything is simple: You move with a thumbstick, center the camera with the trigger, and of course, the Move controller is your wand, which handles all spell casting, and this is the game’s backbone.
The story is, in a word, quaint. You are a sorcerer’s apprentice and you have the unfortunate tendency to meddle in things you don’t quite understand, which inevitably leads to tenuous situations. You are accompanied by a cat – at least, he looks like a cat – and as you set out to rid the world of a plethora of evils, you will face multiple combat situations and a few other relatively easy tasks along the way. There are only about five hours of fun to be had but I suppose if you really dig the experience, you might want to go back for another round.
One of the best parts of the game is the aforementioned environment, which is rich and diverse. There are charming little towns surrounded by shadowy forests, castles, and a few other well-placed design pieces that enhance the illusion of being in a cross between a folktale and a ghost story. In general, you’ll spend most of your time aiming at baddies, but there are also a few puzzles and a fair amount of treasure to find, which add some depth and variety to a straightforward adventure. Still, the meat of the production is obvious: Cast spells and earn victory.
The fighting is definitely interesting to observe. And why? Because the developers almost seemed to understand that exact pinpoint precision with the Move is nigh-on impossible to achieve – especially for younger gamers – and given the relatively fast speed of this game, they needed to compromise. Hence, we get a very lenient lock-on system, an easily-erected shield to block incoming attacks, and a series of simply executed dodge maneuvers. The result is a game that flows well, remains accessible throughout, and doesn’t tax the player with frustrating accuracy tests.
The second most important element is the combining of basic spells to create more advanced attacks. In addition to spells that are both ranged and area-specific, you can mix and match and do all sorts of cool stuff. Freezing enemies and then blasting them with arcane bullets is always fun, and then there’s the multitude of entertainment that comes from fiddling with the crowd-pleasing lightning and fire spells. The only drawback is that these experiments don’t always work.
And Move doesn’t always work exactly as you might expect, either. When I alluded to the slight lack of reliability in the introduction, this is what I was talking about. In my estimation, the best part of the game involves generating next-level, bad-ass spells and trashing my foes. But too often the more advanced spell casting doesn’t work, even when I’m fairly convinced I performed the necessary ministrations. Still, I have to admit that the Move is solid overall with this production, as people of all ages should be able to play and complete the game with little trouble.
Oh, and I should mention that mixing your own tonics is a pretty nifty process. The tonics have stat- and ability-boosting effects, and they’re obtained by mixing various powders and liquids until you get the desired concoction. It’s actually a lot of fun and the Move controller works very well in this instance. Strangely enough, it felt very much like I was an enchanter of some kind with a cauldron and everything…odd how it would feel realistic when the entire adventure is rooted in fantasy. But it has to be a thrill for the young’uns.
Sorcery may or may not live up to expectations, depending on how lofty those expectations were. For my part, I’m happy with the result, although not ecstatic. On the one hand, this game really shows how the Move can be extremely entertaining, even if it doesn’t necessarily showcase its technological capability. There’s also the lovely presentation and style, which I adore, and the variety, accessibility, and pacing that really turned out great. On the other hand, it’s too short, the advanced spells don’t always work, and adults may find it a tad underwhelming.
But if you have Move, there’s no doubt that you at least have to try Sorcery.
The Good: Charming, varied visual presentation. Great audio/graphical effects. Accessible, responsive Move control. Combining spells and mixing tonics is always fun. General gameplay mechanics function well.
The Bad: A little on the short side. Can feel repetitive. Advanced spell casting is hit or miss. Adults might not be too intrigued.
The Ugly: “No ugly. Just intermittent frustration.”
5/22/2012 Ben Dutka