Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One
In Sorcery you play as Finn, a sorcerer’s apprentice who decides to have some fun when his boss Dash is away for a few hours. You find the key to Dash’s cupboard and his wand inside. You use a quick potion and all of a sudden you feel paired to the wand and find you can cast a couple of spells (Arcane and Earth) by swishing the motion controller towards the screen. Naturally you head outside and zap everything in sight (including transforming sheep into rats and pigs) you accidentally destroy one of Dash’s potions and so, accompanied by his scary white talking cat Erline, you set off to the island of Lochbarrow to find some grave dust (a vital ingredient for the potion). The story is told with cut-scenes in a stylish—if graphically and technically undemanding—static storybook page style.
You soon discover how to open treasure chests by simply doing a stirring motion with the wand, pick up a key by pressing ‘X' and then placing it in a lock and turning it with a twist of the wrist, and that repairing broken objects is easy too—perhaps a bit too easy if anything. Huge hieroglyphic magic padstones that are broken into fragments are repaired by simply swizzling the motion controller in a clockwise direction—I'd have hoped that you might have to manipulate the puzzle pieces in some way to do this, and like much of the rest of the game this seems a bit simplistic and easy. You move Finn around with the left or right stick, and basically control his right arm (the one that holds the wand) with the Move controller. The camera follows Finn quite loosely and most of the time it can be returned back to a position directly behind him with a press of ‘L1’ or ‘R1’ on the joypad (‘R2’ on the Move Nav controller). Finn also has a handy dodge move (simply hold ‘X' while moving).
You'll find health potions (red bottles) along the way and you have to shake them up (with the Move controller naturally) and then tip the controller back in a sort of swigging action in order to replenish your health.
Pressing 'select' brings up a map (either transparently overlaid on the screen or a mini map in the top right-hand corner) and if you look like you're lost some glowing insect type things called Wisps will show you where you're supposed to go. Early in your adventures you find a magical shield, use this by holding 'L2' and it will block any incoming attacks like archers’ arrows. Also by holding 'L2' and pressing ‘X' you will perform a shield bash, which will smash weakened walls and severely damage most normal enemies. Another nice idea (possibly inspired by the Wanted game and movie) is the ability to curve spells simply by doing an arced action with your arm when you cast a spell. This means that, with a bit of practice, enemies that take cover behind trees or other objects are rarely safe from your magic.
Sadly you’ll soon realise that despite looking quite nice and having some nice panoramic views Finn's world is very, very linear and the large expanses are just an illusion—you're on a virtually direct path from the start of a level to the end, with just a couple of offshoots to collect treasure chests or other items along the way. There are lots of invisible walls to hem you in and most passages have doors that slam behind you, meaning sometimes you'll be locked off from exploring an offshoot area just because you took the correct path first time. You can, of course, avoid this by checking the map regularly, but it's still disappointing that the levels aren't more explorable and open. There are a few tunnels that are too small for Finn to enter, but fortunately you can use a polymorph potion to transform into a rat so you can scuttle along the tight passageways. Some areas require the power of flight to reach them, but these sections are disappointing as you don't actually control the bird you transform into and the flight sequence is just a cut-scene.
The camera view you get of Finn and the action also feels rather mechanical and the “auto aim” annoyingly intrusive, it literally forces you to look at the next set of enemies like you’re some kind of bumbling idiot who wouldn’t have noticed them otherwise. This forceful automatic camera pointing also makes the lack of actual aim assist almost amusing-sometimes it looks like the game is making your spells miss on purpose as they whizz by, just missing an enemy or object you’re trying to hit! I also find it disappointing in this type of game you don't have a ‘look' button, so although you can manoeuvre the camera by holding the ‘L1' button and moving the motion controller around, it isn't as easy to look where you want or to admire the scenery as it could've been.
As you might expect as a trainee sorcerer, you can make potions with ingredients you find along the way all by from a travelling dwarf (who seems to be stalking you). Potion making involves some basic experimentation, mixing ingredients together in various combinations to find out what effect is produced. Then it's off to a potion mixing screen (that could have come straight out of the Harry Potter games) allows you to create various potions to enhance abilities and give you more powerful spells and enhanced permanent abilities (enhanced spells, bigger health bar, more mana etc). Once you've learned the Arcane, Earth, Fire, Ice, Wind and Lightning spells you can have some fun combining two spells at a time; you can lay down a wall of fire and then fire Arcane bolts through it to do more damage; you can freeze enemies then zap them with your Arcane bolts to shatter them; and the Wind spell (which forms a Tornado in its secondary form) can be combined with Fire or Lightning to create more powerful and spectacular storms. The ice spell can also be used freeze water to create new paths and bridges. The different spells are all selected by holding the Move button and then sweeping the motion controller in certain way, and this works quite well although I did sometimes find myself selecting the wrong spell in the heat of battle.
With a reasonable mix of zapping easy spell fodder-type enemies, a bit of exploration (but not much) and a few easy boss battles Sorcery gets the mix about right, with good use of the Move controller. The lifespan is about 8 hours and because the levels are so linear the gameplay rather is rather repetitive and mostly undemanding, but it still manages to be fun. The script may be derivative and do (it steals ideas from all over the place) but it’s well written enough to raise a smile or two. It’s difficult to pigeonhole a game like this but if you’re hoping for something like a ‘Wii Zelda equivalent’ then you’ll thrilled with the magic and the Move controls but disappointed with its less the epic nature.