Review / Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest (PS3)

The thrill of motion control lies within the breaking of barriers; recapturing the childhood/Star Wars kid thrill of waving a katana (read: stick) around on a Sunday afternoon at the park, turning trees into armour-clad soldiers and puddles of water into that of blood, spilled from the towering foes. Indeed, when the Wii was revealed, sword play was the first thing that crept into many gamer’s own imaginations. Nintendo’s console is arguably a physical manifestation of the countless battles we waged in our minds, growing up on a healthy diet of Zelda and Ninja Gaiden.

And, while a certain Skyward adventure is likely soon to correct this fact, the system never really made good on that potential. But Sony came out literally swinging on an E3 2009 stage with early demos of the company’s own motion controller that could do as much thanks to 1:1 accuracy.

The origins of Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest undoubtedly lie within that demonstration. One particular part saw the player take what has come to be called the Move controller in hand and use is as a sword to fight skeletons from a third person perspective. While this on-rails action game hasn’t retained the realistic art-style seen in that footage, the third-person camera and enemies types remain. In many ways then, this is the game that should finally bring our childhood imagination to the screen.

And for a while, just a little while, swinging the controller around and bashing enemies away does evoke those emotions that gradually left me over the years. Skeleton soldiers fall victim to a variety of stylised kills, like swinging the controller above my head then bringing it crashing down on their own, or swiping the feet then thrusting the sword forward. It captures a sense of playfulness rarely seen in gaming. I’m broken from the constraints of the button press, and as acowering foe stands before me I find myself thinking “Right, what should I do to this one?”

Hold the controller backwards and go for the neck? Sure.

But the imagination is an impatient place. Those days in the park don’t necessarily translate into a 6+ hour campaign experience so thrillingly as they did in the one-off battles seen in Sports Champions. And the fact is, for an on-rails experience, levels here are very long, often asking upwards of half an hour of seemingly aimless wondering to a section, stopping, fighting, aimlessly wondering on.

The running time doesn’t demand simple sword swinging for its entire duration though. Bow and arrow play that’s also reminiscent on last year’s sports-fest is included from the off. Reaching for an arrow with the controller then quickly lining up a successful shot proves to be incredibly satisfying. I even found myself taking a break for the melee and sticking to arrows themselves for large sections of levels.

Other gadgets and gizmos like throwing stars also take a page from the book of Sports Champions to varying degrees of success. While said stars make for another good showcase of move technology, having to aim the controller down, hold a button and then aim it back up makes the grapple hook a chore to use. But these items are here mainly to refresh each level as they come about, and they’ll do their job most of the time.

There’s never really much of a challenge put up front either, making it disappointingly tempting to stick to the waggle routine despite the improved technology.

Ironically, the promise of the freedom of hyper-accurate sword play isn’t worth the sacrifice of the freedom of movement, which we’ve obviously had for years. Given that the child-friendly story offers little in the way of engaging material that could have added cause to all of the arm swinging, you’ll have seen it all after the first level.

Deadmund’s Quest will undoubtedly be yet another Move title to keep the little ones quiet (and save you a trip to the park), but it’s one of the few titles that really had the promise to speak to older gamers too. The realisation that just having 1:1 control isn’t enough should hopefully start setting these Move developer’s sights on more ambitious projects.