The PlayStation Move, the Cat, the Witch and the Alchemist’s Wardrobe.
Reviewed on the PlayStation 3 by Mark Dicks
Sony’s answer to the motion control ‘phase’ swished and swashed itself onto the scene back in 2010. Two years later, does fashionably late Sorcery have enough pizzazz to warrant a spring clean from PlayStation Move owners or recruit previous nonbelievers alike? I pocketed my copy as a box set pack-in so it was no skin off my nose either way. Still, the “magical adventure” promised from the instruction manual was enough of a prompt to pursue my curiosity.
In a world with hundred-year-old memories of war between Faeries and Humans a Nightmare Queen is up to no good. Mystical gods only know why creating a twinkly portal to link the two races in first place made it onto the list of clever ideas. But there you have it; a Disneyish disaster drama takes to the stage. You play as cockily eager Finn an apprentice Sorcerer babysat by a sarcastic talking cat Erline (no, she isn’t one of the Team Rocket dropouts). With the master, Dash, gone out for a spot of shopping the duo egg each other on into magical mischievousness – the tutorial in disguise. It’s not long before this harmless fun ramps up the pair into uncovering a plot where heroism is mandatory. Part of the charm of playing is witnessing this relationship develop. It pans out like a watered down version of the Prince/Elika bond in the Prince of Persia 2008 reboot. The narrative is riddled with clichés but at least the leading protagonists steer it to safer waters bouncing off each other with punchy marmite dialogue.
So what we’re looking at here in short is a third-person spell ‘em up compassed by its story (feel free now to skip to the conclusion if you so wish).
Controlling Finn results from equal input from both the ‘wand’ and the PlayStation Move Navigation Controller. Like most of the build of this game I was in two minds whether the control scheme was innovative or counter-productive. For the motion control side, casting spells resulted from mere wrist flicks to even full blown arm swings. Yes, I clouted my lampshade more than once, that freebie safety strap was certainly put through its paces! You can curve the arcane bolts (Finn’s bog standard attack) to snuff those pesky foes hidden behind cover. But I really did feel I was playing a percentage game with whether the PlayStation Eye recognised my more precise movements. A whipping action seemed to work, now and then. My calibration OCD aside luckily it didn’t matter too much due to the loose handy dandy enemy lock-on. Let’s just say you may be aimlessly flapping more than you’d prefer within the chaotic combat.
It’s not all bolt action though, as you quite promptly buff up your character with the expected elemental abilities such as earth, ice, wind, fire and lightening throughout the story’s progression. Non-combat spells also make the catalogue such as what I dubbed the ‘mending swirly’. Although I did find it a shame that powers such as telekinesis featured as only context sensitive castings. Switching this magic mid-battle on the other hand I found to be fluid and satisfying. Whisking up elemental concoctions is an example of Sorcery’s design clicking. Crack out the wind spell; swing straight and horizontal, ta-dah! You’ve made a whirlwind. Next up, stoke it full of fiery blasts topped off with a folly of arcane bolts, the result? A blazing force of destruction that will be pickin’ off Bogeys (as in an enemy type from the game not the nasal debris) in no time! To prevent the combat from staling I can only encourage you to flex your personal creativity with Finn’s repertoire, because trust me there’s a lot of combating to be done in this title.
Talking of concoctions, threaded into the ‘exploration’ quiet spells (get it?) is a faux levelling up system. Putting your collectables to good use you can combine ingredients such a faerie honey and bloodberries to boost stats through potions. All this is crafted during a rather novel mini-game. You will literally ‘pour’ the honey, ‘grind’ the berries and give it all a hearty ‘mix’ for good measure. If I was to coin the Orangina advert here you must also “shake it to wake it!” Just make sure no one catches you drinking your PlayStation Move when you’re sealing the deal! All of this is enjoyable until of course you die and the checkpoint system sends you packing. Having to re-grind bloodberries may just echo your current temperament. The in-game saving shall we say is an interesting one for sure.
Sorcery clocks in around six to eight hours coupled with its predetermined linearity. Throughout my playthrough I couldn’t help but feel a heavy weight of environment ‘sandwiching’. Invisible walls constrict you into an always-onward momentum. No fear about backtracking here, as rocks mysteriously crumble behind you and doors shut on their own accord. These nasty surprises got old fast as I found myself strafing backward from enemy attacks, only to realise the battlefield was somewhat more congested than earlier promised. Okay so I wasn’t expecting an open-world, but the questionable camera work was on my case with every nook and cranny I attempted to plunder!
The cast (get it? – take 2) is full of what you’d expect from a whimsical game of the same kin. Trolls, Ghouls, Alchemists, Forest Sprites etc. all make it onto the bill. However refreshingly the game has opted for a more Celtic flavour. This is apparent from the mandolins and bagpipes morphing into the modernised cinematic orchestration (a terrific score at that), to the etched Celtic knot symbols and Finn’s skirt -ahem- I mean kilt. Although below today’s graphical par the visuals still argue lushness and not to forget the sound design fleshing out the experience with magical zest.
Sorcery is a reveling fluctuation between fun and frustration caught up in a Faerie family feud. Part of me was brewing to dismiss this game as gimmicky I admit, but there’s something about flailing around a make believe wand in my slippers that dare I say it; induces giddy gratification! There are some very garish dated design choices to swallow. It all depends on how adept you are at taking your gaming hiccup medicine. If you are more likely to cause a tantrum upon first glance of the bottle steer clear of this title. However, if you’re brave enough to let the bitter negative spoonfuls slide down, Sorcery could definitely cast the odd brightening spell to an afternoon here and there spent with your PlayStation Move!