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Sorcery review

by Andrew Yoon, Jun 11, 2012 1:30pm PDT

While PlayStation Move represents some undeniably impressive tech, it's yet to find a true "killer app" that demonstrates its unique motion tracking capabilities. Enter Sorcery, a Move-exclusive adventure game developed by The Workshop. First showcased at E3 2010 as a marquee Move title, the long-in-development title is finally available. Sorcery grants you a virtual wand, letting you cast spells with a flick of the wrist.

Sorcery is a rare example of a game that's made genuinely better by motion controls. With illuminated orb in hand, it's hard not to feel like a wizard as you switch between elements with cleverly designed gestures. Unfortunately, while the game feels great to control, Sorcery launches with many shortcomings.

What should have been a Harry Potter-esque romp through a wizarding world becomes an exercise in frustration because of two of the most annoying main characters I have ever seen in a video game. Dash, the thick-skulled hero, is an annoying brat that actually causes the great misfortune that plagues the game's magical realm. Other heroes must earn their newfound powers by proving themselves through trials. Dash, on the other hand, comes off as an entitled brat, one who continuously stumbles upon new powers by happenstance. Erline, your talking feline companion, isn't any more tolerable--and the constant bickering between the two makes the game feel like a marathon session of a bad season of The Odd Couple. Imagine, if you will, a few hours of two kids saying "are we there yet?" and you'll get a feel for how Sorcery's script is designed.

While Sorcery is certainly not easy on the ears, it is also not a pleasant game to look at. It's easily the least-impressive first-party exclusive from Sony in ages, looking more like a launch game than a title six years into a console's life cycle. Sorcery's drab art style is made worse by awkward moments of missing animations and the occasional pop-in. The overall presentation feels inconsistent and sloppy.

It's unfortunate that so many of the game's dressings underperform, because the core game mechanics are an absolute blast. Firing an energy bolt simply requires a flick of the wrist, but performing the game's more demanding skill shots requires a bit more finesse. Is an enemy hiding behind cover? Curve a shot around the cover, as if you were throwing a Frisbee. Is an enemy shooting from up on high? Simply aim your shot higher. Sure, there are a few hiccups once in a while, but the Move does a great job of reading these different motions.

Bolting enemies does get tiresome after a while, and the game takes a bit too long to open up. However, Sorcery's potential is finally realized once you gain the ability to control multiple elements. For example, you'll be able to freeze a group of enemies in solid ice, then use an earthquake to shatter all of them for instant kills. You can summon a tornado, and then set it on fire to create a flaming vortex. You can shoot bolts into the whirlwind, and scatter balls of fire throughout the level. You can trap enemies with a wall of fire, and then unleash a lighting attack.

What makes these combinations so empowering is how easily you can switch between the elements and cast these spells. If you need to use ice, you simply swing your controller in a counter-clockwise motion. If you need lightning, you swing your controller quickly to the right. By relying on gestures, the game does away with an annoying HUD, and makes performing combos faster and all the more satisfying. As later levels introduce enemies with specific elemental strengths and weaknesses, you'll find yourself constantly switching between the elements, with rarely a hitch in the Move's tracking ability.

Whereas most motion games fall short due to their controls, Sorcery goes against the trend. When the characters keep their mouths shut, Sorcery proves itself as a great showcase for what the Move is capable of. Unfortunately, that solace is rarely found, making Sorcery difficult to recommend.


This Sorcery review is based on a debug PlayStation 3 version of the game, provided by the publisher.





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