I was as interested as the next guy when we got the Move controllers in the office. Ooh, neat plastic balls that squish when you touch ’em, like some stress-relieving office knick-knack. Having some experience with the Wii, and not being one of the console’s haters, I was happy to play around and see what was different with Sony’s entrance into the motion control landscape.
The setup and calibration were not difficult at all. The PlayStation Eye can go above or below the TV, and you point it at where you’ll be playing. Its cord, though, is terribly stiff and the Eye itself is pretty light, so it is a little annoying trying to get it to sit flat and point the right way.
Calibrating it is a snap. Depending on the game, you point the controller at the camera and hold the Move button, which is analogous to the Wii’s A button. Some games ask you to hold the Move up to your shoulder, then at your side, then on your belt buckle in order to calibrate it.
Playing in the dark or low light wasn’t too bad. The ball on the Move lights up, so the Eye can always track it, but pictures or video features of the games become pretty useless when you can’t see. As with the Wii and Kinect, playing while sitting down was tough, except for the simpler minigames and Kung Fu Rider.
The games themselves were better than what shipped with the Wii. Sports Champions is the flagship title, with six sport activities to play. There’s Table Tennis, Volleyball, Archery, Disc Golf, Bocce and Gladiator Duel. You choose from a stable of 10 characters with names like Boomer, Dallas and Rin. Their animations are a bit dull, and I wish you could customize them beyond changing outfits, but I have to say that Dallas’ mic drop of his gladiator weapons makes me laugh every time.
I’m glad that Sony didn’t try to recreate a Bowling game and instead included Bocce, a game that my friends and I play whenever we’re hanging outdoors. After playing a few matches in a standard court in Sports Champions, I was really happy that the creators allowed play in a park full of obstacles like benches, garbage cans and grills. I love playing in such hazardous spaces in real life, and I was doubly excited that throwing the pallino and the bocces felt authentic, including the necessity of using backspin.
The Archery game was just as much a test of stamina as the real activity. With the path of the arrow highlighted, it’s easy enough to shoot the various targets, but drawing so many arrows by reaching behind your back and holding the Move out in front of you tires out your arm really quickly. Time to hit the gym …
Racquet Sports is a simple game from Ubisoft that, as its title suggests, offers a collection of sports that can be played with a racquet. Maybe it’s because this was the only completely third-party title in the mix, but the Move just wasn’t as responsive as the other titles. I would swing my racquet at the ball, or shuttlecock, but it sometimes just didn’t hit it.
The single player career mode in Racquet Sports was surprisingly in-depth, allowing you to play through a season with your athlete, get invited to tournaments, and increase your ranking.
You can tell just by looking at the box that Eyepet is for babies, or at least children. This is starkly pointed out when the intro instructs you to point the PlayStation Eye all the way down at the floor. The whole presentation is that of a kid’s show, with the “scientist” narrating how you should treat your Eyepet’s egg to get it to hatch. The full-motion video of the actor playing the scientist was pretty annoying, but I don’t think I’m the target audience. I could see how it could be engaging for a child, but I just felt silly stroking the little monkey guy that came out of the egg.
Kung Fu Rider sucked. It was cheesily-scripted and its caricatures don’t translate well. The gameplay is sub-par; you race down tracks on an office chair, avoiding obstacles and collecting money. It’s biggest failing is that the game doesn’t make very good use of the Move technology. Steering and controlling the guy riding the chair could have been accomplished much better with a traditional controller.
I played Start the Party! solo, but that title doesn’t shine unless you have a group of people who are into friendly competitive gaming. Luckily, The Escapist office is full of such people and had a blast taking pictures of ourselves and playing the minigame competition. Most of the games show a video of the whole room in the background, so everyone is involved even if only one player attempts each game at a time. Some minigames were better than others. I liked the mind-bending robot game where you had to match the position of the Move with a screen displayed on robots coming after you. Start the Party! did exactly what its title implies. We had so much fun playing at 11am on a Wednesday; I can only imagine the amount of hilarity that would ensue in a true party setting.
PlayStation Move has a lot going for it. It was impressive playing such active games with HD quality video and I can’t say that I miss the cartoony feel of that other system. Sports Champions is a really well-made game, and Start the Party! and Eyepet are good games, in the right context. Here’s hoping Sony follows these launch titles with something that really uses Move to, ahem, move the industry forward.