The E3 2009 demonstration that accompanied the announcement of the PlayStation Move featured plucky Sony boffin, Dr Richard Marks, using the motion controller to attack hordes of skeletons with shurikens, arrows and swords. Fast forward to the device’s launch and the skeletons had been jettisoned and the demo’s mechanics repurposed for Zindagi Game’s Sport Champions – specifically for its archery and gladiator modes. All was not lost however, with E3 2010 bringing the announcement of Medieval Moves: the bony denizens of that tech demo were to be let out of the closet after all.
In all honesty, Medieval Moves doesn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts. Firstly, there’s that title; if it was Sony’s intention to make it sound like yet another mini-game collection, then they’ve succeeded admirably. Then there’s the fact that despite the relatively high Expo-profile that the game and tech demo on which it is based were given, the finished product is foregoing a full-price RRP and launching as a budget title.
To make matters worse (and as if to reinforce suspicions that the game is an afterthought cobbled together from left over bits of code), it features one of the most underwhelming opening sections we’ve experienced for some time; you are unceremoniously dumped in the boots of a skeletal hero and encouraged to mindlessly flail your Move-arm around to destroy hordes of equally-skeletal foes. It’s almost as if Zindagi has purposely distilled everything that’s bad about motion controls – a.k.a. WAGGLE! – into a brief and uninspiring intro as a means of showing you how bad they can be. It’s a huge misstep, and one that will likely validate the criticisms spewed forth by joypad-clutching naysayers – “Motion controls are a gimmick” they will say. Sadly, this opening seems to prove them right.
Fortunately, in order to be able to define something as being a ‘misstep’, you also need to have at least a few confident strides on either side, and we’re happy to report that Medieval Moves ultimately reveals itself to be an assured and technologically confident title with a clear grasp of how to use motion controls in a video game. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as, despite being a little uncharismatic, Sports Champions made convincing use of motion controls and Medieval Moves builds upon this while also adding a little charisma into the mix.
In Medieval Moves, you assume the role of Prince Edmund and it’s not long before his world and his body are torn apart around him. Shortly after an attack by the evil, skeletal Morgrimm, Edmund awakes to find that the magical Gatestone has been stolen and, even worse, that his body has been stripped of all its flesh. Thus, the skeletal Deadmund is born and what follows is a text-book example of The Hero’s Journey. The plot is told mainly through storyboard-esque cutscenes that initially come across as a little amateurish, but that by the game’s conclusion manage to win you over with their energetic and slightly naive charm. The cutscenes and overall aesthetics also fit the younger target audience at whom the game is unquestionably pitched.
Once the first slice of exposition is out the way, you’re finally unleashed on the game world…and we use the term ‘unleashed’ lightly, as Medieval Moves is almost entirely on rails. Whether played with one or two PlayStation Move Motion Controllers, Deadmund trots through the game world along predefined pathways leaving you to manage combat duties. While this is an obvious concession borne out of a lack of an analogue stick, it does allow Zindagi to push the motion controls to the fore without having to bother the player with camera orientation or character movement. The game actually shares much in common with on-rails shooters such as Sin & Punishment, Star Fox and any classic arcade light-gun shooter you can think of; the difference here is that rather than be limited to just pointing and shooting, you are supplied with a whole host of motion control-based skills.
Thankfully, the motion controls that are so central to the whole experience work beautifully. To really get the most out of the game you need two motion controllers (using one can’t help but feel like a further concession!); your left hand controls your shield while your right is clasped around a virtual sword. This will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played on the gladiator section of Sport Champions, as will uncanny accuracy with which you movements are replicated on screen. Swinging your sword and blocking blows with your shield before unleashing a flurry of attacks is giddily enjoyable, with skeletal foes exploding into a cloud of stars in a manner that only adds to the light-hearted feel of the game as a whole.
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