Sorcery, from The Workshop and Sony Santa Monica, is a PlayStation Move exclusive that offers a truly one-of-a-kind gameplay experience. The game is not big on features and content (having no online modes and little replay value) but it offers something that few motion based games have: unique, fast-paced, and responsive gameplay. Among the slew of sequels and cookie-cutter headshot fests, Sorcery feels like a wonderful blast of fresh air.
Players control an impulsive sorcerer’s apprentice named Finn who, along with a talking cat named Erline, accidentally puts in motion a chain of events that lead to a battle to stop the Nightmare Queen from taking over the world. The plot is reminiscent of clichéd Disney movies but the solid voice acting helps keep the story entertaining. Besides, the story is not the game’s selling point—magic is what makes Sorcery great.
Most current games that allow players to dabble in magic (Skyrim, Diablo 3, etc.) rely on flashy graphics, big hit points, and booming sounds to make the player “feel” the magic. Sorcery uses flashy animations and booming sounds just as well as anybody else, but they’re not simply cheap gimmicks to give players the impression of power. The game’s greatest strength is making the player actually feel powerful—as if the spells and flashy special effects are emanating from the player’s arm—from the centre of the player’s body. The game actually gives the player magic to play with.
Flicking the move controller either towards the screen or side to side creates the magic itself. Each spell has two versions: a quick attack (flicking the controller towards the screen) and an AOE attack (flicking the controller to either side). For example, the wind spell can send a quick blast of air at an enemy, knocking them back, or create a tornado that lasts for much longer and sucks enemies up. The player uses the analogue stick on the Move’s Navigational Controller to move Finn through the environment. As well, the trigger on the Navigation Controller creates a shield to block incoming attacks and pressing X makes Finn roll, which is helpful to avoid enemy spells.
While creating walls of flame, tornadoes, lightning storms and so on looks and feels great, on their own they can be somewhat boring. Thankfully, Sorcery manages to spice up spell casting through an ingenious combo system. By casting different spells in quick succession we were able to create some immensely satisfying and devastating spells.
Conjuring a traditional tornado? Boring. Combining fire and wind to create a flaming tornado? Cool. Shooting the Arcane Bolt spell into the flaming tornado to scatter fireballs throughout the environment like a manic—and twisting—mortar all while enemies are sucked up into the flaming tornado? Awesome.
We found that combining spells truly gave us a sense of wielding powerful magic. Creating spell combos is also easy; all you need are quick and basic gestures (more like flicks of the wrist) to switch between spells. The focus on wrist flicking, as opposed to arm flailing, makes the gameplay in Sorcery surprisingly fast-paced for a motion based game.
Beyond spell casting, the player can create potions through a basic mini-game that uses the Move to mix different ingredients together in a pot. It can sometimes feel like a grind, but at the very least the potions you end up creating earn their value by providing permanent buffs such as increased health or more fire damage. There are also a number of basic puzzles throughout the game but none of these puzzles offer any real challenge.
Sorcery also differs from most games when it comes to using these potions. In other games, the player usually presses a button and the character onscreen “drinks.” In Sorcery the player must first shake the potion up and then tilt the move controller as if he/she were actually drinking the potion. The shake-and-drink mechanic is a little gimmicky, but it adds a certain amount of interactivity that shows a thoughtfulness of design.
All this intriguing motion gameplay and spell mingling would fall flat if players don’t find themselves in situations that demand the use of all these options. Thankfully, Sorcery offers some very fun battles that require careful management and use of your multiple spells as you fight against several different enemies at once. For example, in one battle we fought club wielding Bogeys (Sorcery’s version of orcs), Bogey spell casters firing Arcane Bolt, Bogeys carrying bombs that explode if they get too close, and Bogey fire shamans. We sweated during these large-scale battles, frantically switching between spells, testing new spell combos, and drinking health potions.
The intense boss encounters also require the use of multiple spells. One particularly memorable boss fight against an Elf Assassin (who attacks with a sword, ranged spells, and has the ability to conjure multiple copies of himself) had us blocking incoming attacks with the shield, rolling away from AOE spells, using the wind spell to create a tornado to suck up multiple enemies and projectiles, and casting the fire spell and Arcane Bolt to deal damage. Unfortunately, with every spell at our disposal, we found the final boss battle a little too easy. Overall though, boss fights are satisfyingly fun and frantic.
Sorcery is one of only a few motion games that can boast gameplay comparable to what a traditional controller offers. In many ways it plays like a traditional third-person-shooter, but if the game had used a traditional controller it would most likely be forgettable. In short, the PlayStation Move makes the game. In particular, if you are a parent looking for a game your child will enjoy, Sorcery is definitely a great option. However, gamers of all ages can enjoy Sorcery’s precise gameplay and fast-paced action.