When a game's main point is to engane in combat, it has to work perfectly. Both Heavenly Sword and Lair have variety in their combat scenes, but sadly neither is enough to go the full distance. The lesson? Give the player varied enemies and fun ways to kill them. Not chance kills and cookie-cutter clones.
What the critics said:
"Combat mechanic is 1/3 broken" GamingTrend on Heavenly Sword
"A number of the skirmishes are essentially arena battles where you wind up trapped in a room and need to fend off swarm after swarm of enemies. This just makes it feel like you're trudging through that section of the game and that the designers are keeping you put for a while to rack up the overall game time." - IGN on Heavenly Sword
"In theory, you can lock on to other flying enemies and spew flames at them or dive into them from a fair distance. But the targeting system is a tragedy. You can't choose what to lock on to, so all you can do is keep an eye out for the fuzzy white circle to appear on an enemy dragon." - Gamespot on Lair
"There are some who derive a kind of perverse superiority from their mastery of the game's ambiguous mechanics. For my part, I don't give a good Goddamn if someone has trained themselves to eat shit and like it. The game is not challenging, it's difficult to play, and it's taken many years but I'm ready to begin making this distinction." - Penny-Arcade on Lair
The final lesson is simple. If you've got a promising game, be careful what you say about it. There's a lot to be said for releasing a carefully-managed drip-feed of new screens and videos instead of shouting 'AAA TITLE!' from the rooftops. If the games hadn't been hyped up so much in the first place, we wouldn't have been so disappointed. But as it is, everyone's feeling dejected. Especially this guy:
"There have even been positive impressions at several game conferences for this beast and yet the final release is one of the largest steaming piles I’ve ever had to endure. After failing many of the missions an insane amount of times I headed to the bathroom for some relief only to realize that my latest bowel movement was more fun than the 'game' I had been playing." - Gamebrink on Lair.
So what have we learned? Be careful what you say, take your time and make sure gameplay is the primary element of any game. And if you really must incorporate Sixaxis controls...
...make sure there's an option to switch them off.