Exhibiting all the rare and charming qualities of a Disney feature presentation, Sorcery not only captivates you with its delightful cast of characters and thoroughly entertaining story, it completely immerses you in the world of spell casting and alchemy with the best set of motion-input controls of any game to date for the PS Move and PlayStation 3. I can’t even think of a Wii game that comes close to matching the level of one-for-one immersion I was experience during my adventures in Sorcery; a game I have been anxiously awaiting for nearly two years.
Sorcery is the classic “sorcerer’s apprentice” tale with a young boy, Finn, who struggles to be more and do more than his master, Dash, thinks he is ready to handle. Finn is accompanied by the lovely Erline, a strangely attractive talking white cat, who not only provides valuable hints on where to go and what to do, but also adds greatly to the story and overall charm of the game with her witty banter. Much of the story is dispensed in these casual conversations while other more important chapter breaks are conveyed through gorgeous animated storybook parchment pages that spring to life off your screen.
Without giving too much away, Finn oversteps his bounds while trying to prove himself to Erline and unleashes the wrath of the evil Nightmare Queen. He must then travel with Erline through a magical set of interconnecting portals to various realms and environments to ultimately defeat the evil queen and restore peace to the land. So with a great story in place told through fantastic cutscenes and superior voice acting, it all comes down to the gameplay, and this is where Sorcery shines brighter than the seven stars you’ll be returning to the heavens in the later parts of the game.
Sorcery is a PS Move game that actually “requires” the Move; not just one of those games that tacked it on as a hook. In fact, this is one of the few games that makes use of that Navigation controller you may or may not own, and if you don’t I highly recommend you get one, because trying to play with a DualShock in one hand is more than just a little bit awkward. You’ll be moving Finn around with the analog stick of the Nav (or DualShock) and making occasional use of the L2 to pop up a magical shield to deflect attacks or bash enemies or cracked doors, but most of the action comes through the expert and highly accurate tracking of the motion controller - also known as your "magic wand".
Just standing still, you can swing your arm around and watch Finn mimic your exact movements, but the real fun comes when you start slinging spells with the precision and almost casual flair of a seasoned wizard. Spells are derived from various elemental magic that start with your standard Arcane Bolt (magic missile) and Earth attack. Later on you will add ice, wind, fire, and lightning to the pages of your spell book.
Spells can be cast by either flicking your wand toward the target or whipping the wand sideways resulting in two very unique effects per spell. You can flick an Arcane bolt with surprising accuracy at just about any target in a 170-degree forward arc including targets above you, or you can swipe the wand and curve your bolt to reach enemies behind cover or trigger special orbs to open doors. Similarly, you can flick to launch a fireball or swipe to summon a wall of fire, flick to freeze targets or swipe to create an icy wind to freeze a body of water, flick to blast someone with a rush of air or swipe to create a destructive tornado.
Combat not only requires that you know what spells work best on which enemies, but also in cleverly combining these spells. You can create a wall of fire then start casting arcane bolts that will turn into fireballs doing additional damage, or send a tornado through the fiery wall to create a twister of deadly flames. If you are facing a group of enemies you can send a funnel cloud into the middle and start rapid firing arcane bolts to send the shots scattering in all directions or create a lightning trap to suck everyone in and slowly electrocute them. Switching between spells is a slick system of pressing the Move button while swirling or swiping the Move controller around a specific axis, and becomes surprisingly intuitive after minimal practice. In addition to casting spells, the PS Move also comes into play with more casual motions like swirling to open a chest or waving your hand to levitate an obstacle out of your way or pushing open a door.
Enemies start to require more advanced tactics as the game progresses. You might have a guy with a shield that needs to be hit with an Earthstrike so he drops the shield before you can hit him with anything else, or there may be a fire fairy or ice fairy that can only be hit with opposite elemental magic. One of the most deadly attacks is hitting an enemy with three ice blasts followed by an arcane bolt that will explode them into frozen shards. It’s all this variety and freedom to experiment with the spells that really makes each combat encounter in Sorcery truly unique.
To enhance this amazing spell-casting combat system is a surprisingly robust alchemy component that has you finding and mixing various ingredients to create all sorts of potions that will boost Finn’s personal stats as well as the power and effects of his spells. Items like Troll Sweat and Grave Dust are just two of the many items you can mix, up to three at a time, to create recipes for these one-time-use potions that will extend your health bar, increase your mana, or even get you a discount with the travelling merchant. To make the process even more entertaining, you will get to use the Move to mix up the potions, shaking in powders, pouring liquids, grinding herbs, then stirring it all up. To consume a potion you must first shake it up by shaking the Move controller until the glowing ball changes color then tip the controller back like you are drinking from a vial. Sure, it sounds kind of gimmicky, but it actually adds a unique realism to the concept of trying to consume a health potion during combat.
One interesting potion that was sadly not used to its full potential was the Polymorph potion that you will use periodically to change into a rat or a bird. I would have enjoyed more puzzle or gameplay opportunities in these alternate forms, perhaps like chewing through a rope or doing something a bit more rat-like than merely squeezing through a hole. Being a rat was merely an uneventful on-rails trip through short passages, and being a bird was a hands-off cutscene.
Sorcery looks and sounds great with some impressive visuals and audio design. The levels were varied and unique, especially the twisting vertigo passages between portals in the Endless Stairs. There were great textures, lighting, and smooth animation and the spell effects were spectaclar. The non-combat portions of the game have a great auto-camera system, and once in combat the camera locks to the near target allowing you to circle-strafe. This has the potential to create a small problem of not seeing where you want to go, especially if that area is behind you, but you can always tap L1 to break the lock and move freely. As mentioned, the voice acting is topnotch, sound effects bring the levels and spell combat to life, and the music is as magically delicious as the gameplay.
As you might expect of an action-adventure title, Sorcery is loaded with collectibles. There are thousands of urns, jars, stones, orbs, and other shimmering objects that create an endless supply of targets to shoot with your arcane bolt; some rewarding you with gold while others simply turning into a plant, pumpkin, vase, or other inanimate object. There are also treasure chests scattered about the land that contain potion ingredients or random artifacts that you can sell to the traveling merchant to purchase potion ingredients and empty vials to contain your mixtures.
Perfect for the entire family, Sorcery clocks in at around 6-8 hours depending on your age and skill level. There are several difficulty options when you start a game and some truly fiendish Trophies like trying to complete the game without consuming a single health potion – good luck with that. I wish there had been a New Game+ mode, so I could have replayed and found my missing treasures, but alas; you’ll need to find them all on a single pass if you want that Trophy.
If you haven’t taken the PS Move plunge you now have your single best reason for doing so. Sorcery is easily the best PS Move game I have played to date (second only to Medieval Moves), and currently my all-time favorite motion-based game of anything out there on the PS3 or the Wii. The story was highly entertaining, but it was the superior accuracy of the Move motion controls and the unprecedented freedom of casting and combining elemental spells that had me playing this game, not once, but twice during the past week, and I loved every minute.