At their 2012 E3 conference, Sony showed off a new Move game set within the world of Harry Potter. The Wii remote has been likened to a wand ever since the console was revealed, so it’s not surprising to see Sony’s cheeky device being used to similar effect, but it’s worth noting that Sorcery has beaten J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world to the punch.
Sorcery, played with the Move and a navigation controller, casts you - pun not intended - as an amateur sorcerer, armed with a wand and a few simple spells (although you pick up quite a few more as you go along). First impressions are extremely promising. Your offensive wand attacks generally shoot off in the direction you’re flicking the Move, and rolling your wrist properly even allows you to bend your shots around corners.
The opening section is akin to a free spirited tech demo of what the Move can do, and on that level it’s pretty convincing. Alongside a wise-talking cat that could have been pulled straight out of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, you wander around the land surrounding a huge castle turret, zapping objects and animals (which causes them to turn into other things – turning sheep into giant rats is more satisfying than it should be), hurling giant stones around with simple motions, opening chests by drawing circles and generally dicking around with the control set. It’s childlike fun for sure, the sort of play experience you used to enjoy if you ever imagined that maybe magic was real, and that someday you’d be able to manipulate the world to your whim.
So, what did the developers do with all this magic? Craft a series of fun, intricate puzzles? Throw you into a wizarding world and let you develop your skills? Nup. How frustrating it is to see a developer come up with such a promising set of mechanics, and then decide that the absolute best way of using them is to let the player blast a bunch of enemies.
There’s plenty of talk out there at the moment about videogames being, on the whole, too combat focused, and we can’t help but think that Sorcery is the ultimate example of a developer taking the easy way out. There are so many interesting mechanics here that blasting away at the numerous incredibly dull enemies (ghost skeletons anyone?) seems like a terrible waste, especially since the combat isn’t actually very good.
Those curved shots we mentioned earlier? Good luck using them during actual combat. Sorcery demands precision, but also doesn’t involve any sort of pointer interface. Your shots are meant to be an approximation of the hand motions you’re making, so a shot, say, flicked high and left should go in that direction. Naturally, it doesn’t always work, and you’ll find yourself getting through many fights by strafing around and waggling furiously.
It doesn’t help that there’s no second analogue stick to adjust the camera with either. Boss fights are especially bad; they’re drawn out, repetitive, unsatisfying and occasionally glitchy affairs, generally boiling down to recognising patterns and then performing your own patterns to counter them over and over and over again.
Sorcery does get better…eventually. More spells open up, and the ability to combine different elements together to create new attacks is fun. Elements you’ve collected can be combined in alchemy minigames to create new potions, which make for a surprisingly deep system, and the game’s various attempts at charm aren’t all unsuccessful. But it’s just not worth getting that far, frankly.
If you’re absolutely desperate for a Move game you could do worse, but Sorcery is really nothing more than a relatively irritating, disappointing curio.