Medieval Moves (Review)

It’s been too long since we had a great PlayStation Move game. Sports Champions and Killzone 3 are still the champs standing tall above the minigames collections and hasty last-minute ‘me too’ efforts like Virtua Tennis 4. So it’s with some confidence and hope that I approached Medieval Moves.

Had I not previously played a few unfinished versions of the game I would have been let down by the opening moments that show some terrible illustrated cutscenes. I know we’re in a recession and this game came out at half the price of regular games, but… ew.

Well, good thing we’re not here for CGI bliss, just some fun. The story involves a boy who has been turned into a skeleton by an evil sorcerer. So have the rest of the kingdom’s people, but they all became minions. So it’s up to you to drag your bones through castles, dungeons, vineyards, villages, forests and mines (naturally) to save the day. 

The game plays out ‘on-rails’ in a similar way to arcade gun games like Time Crisis, Virtua Cop and House of the Dead. So, movement is handled automatically, with the only input required being occasionally choosing between two paths. Being on-rails and avoiding the awkward navigation controller was a good choice as it allows you to dual-wield motion controllers, although you can play with just the one if you want. Two offer a much more immersive experience though.

Medieval Moves
Left and right handers are supported with players holding a sword in their strongest hand and a shield in the other. You don’t need to smash the sword about to do damage, moderate waves work just as well; it’s all 1:1 movement too, which is great to see. Where Sports Champions supported putting a lot of effort into it, this works better for not having to as the prolonged experience would just be exhausting compared to the short gladiatorial rounds of Zindagi’s last game. The shield is well used to protect from enemy melee blows or the ever annoying archers. On the plus side, you’re given fair warning of incoming throat-puncturing shots with various icons. Actually, you’re a skeleton, why should you give a crap about arrows?
Ah yes, arrows and shurikens. You get to play with them too. The shurikens work in the disc golf motion of Sports Champions. To be honest, they’re a bit hopeless for hitting anything more than a few feet away, but they have a great advantage over the bow and arrow: speed. You can throw two at the same time too by using both controllers to throw out a flurry of them. You’ll look demented, but it’s fun and handy for cutting down groups swarming towards you, just out of the sword’s reach.
The bow and arrow works by pulling the trigger on one controller and reaching behind your head (for your arrow), while holding your other arm out straight (your bow) and then lining up your arrow hand, drawing back and releasing the trigger. It feels just right and can be one the highlights of the game when you pull off a line of successive shots. Legolas can suck it.
Medieval Moves
When the pace of the game is relatively relaxed for the first half of the game, the controls hold up well. Enemies are reasonably spaced out and you’re not multitasked out of your mind. However, things start to get nuts as you realize all you’ve really done for the last hour is hide under your shield while desperately trying to line up a shot in time to fire back at those sodding archers. From that point on comes the sad realization that the game’s become well… very boring.
The more frantic your motions get as you go from attack to defense the aiming for the arrows struggles to keep up as you’ll end up aiming at your feet more times than your patience can take. Readying a shuriken instead of an arrow is something that happens accidentally a lot too. Also annoying are the invisible barriers that protrude around some objects that enemies use for cover, meaning you have to skim an arrow off their scalps despite them being unsheltered from the waist up.
Medieval Moves
There are other gameplay elements along the way to take the strain off your aching limbs, such as lining up locks, using your arms to balance on beams, using a grappling hook to climb upwards or tip giant cauldrons over enemies. There are some cool last-gasp dodge moments to slide under gates and other adventure movie-inspired moments by following QTE prompts. Some of them are annoyingly unresponsive, but you’ll lose some health rather than have to restart.

Multiplayer has been needlessly included. Seeing as most people won’t have four motion controllers (who has the room after the Wii?) you’ll have to opt for single-controller setups for the split screen options. These survival modes against waves of enemies aren’t worth the effort though as the controls just fall apart.
If you just go for the single player side of the game there are some good hours to be had. As I’ve said, most of the annoying parts of the game only arise in the second half, chances are if you’re buying this for younger family members, they’ll have a lot of fun for a few hours and probably not even reach the nasty bits before getting distracted and adding it to the pile of games they quite enjoyed but never play again.
Presentation: 68% – The visuals will appeal to a younger audience while not alienating adult gamers. Illustrated scenes look awful though.

Gameplay: 66% – Sports Champions players will feel right at home. Swords, shields are shurikens are all great fun to play with. The on-rails nature allows you to just focus on the action too. The bow and arrow controls struggle later on despite a decent start.

Single Player: 62% – Lasts for hours and won’t be finished too quickly as you’ll get tired after a while. There are lots of collectibles to go back for as well as multiple paths to explore. If you finish once that is.

Multiplayer: 40% – Split-screen feels unnecessary and it doesn’t really work.

Performance: 56% – Starts well, but the controls get flustered when the going gets tough. The bow becoming obsessed with your feet, hit detection, accidental shurikens and randomly unresponsive QTEs let the game down.

Overall: 64% – Playing Medieval Moves started off really well, but the controls just don’t stand up under the scrutiny later levels apply. Individually all the fighting skills do work, but they tend to get stuck together much too often. What could have been an essential PS Move title is more of a cautious buy if you see it cheap enough.

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