Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest hands-on preview

It's been a year since the launch of the PlayStation Move, and we can still count the number of essential Move-requiring experiences on… what, a finger or two? And aside from PixelJunk 4am (preview), the horizon isn't exactly teeming with tempting Move options (apologies to Everybody Dance and Carnival Island). But one game that might surprise a few folks this holiday season is Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest, an on-rails action game that looks like a cartoonish, kid-focused affair, but has a very strong foundation thanks to borrowed tech and design elements from Move launch favorite, Sports Champions.

Zindagi Games and Sony's San Diego Studio have transitioned from bocce to fantasy with this latest effort, but if you got a kick out of the polished motion-based mechanics of last year's mini-game set, it may be incredibly easy to jump into Medieval Moves. For example, the archery segments in Sports Champions directly influenced the bow and arrow combat in Medieval Moves, while the disc golf throwing motions are now used to fling throwing stars, and the Gladiator Duel combat has been retooled for sword and shield action here. Call it a cut-and-paste job, but considering how well most of the Move controls worked the first time around, we can't argue with repurposing those actions for something that's so stylistically different.

All of those attacks are folded into the campaign experience, in which you'll take the role of young Edmund, one of many inhabitants of a kingdom burdened with a curse that turned them all into skeletons. Luckily, an amulet passed down by his family keeps him of sound mind during the debacle (despite his skeleton body), allowing him to rechristen himself Deadmund and fight to free his friends from their bony new physiques.

Despite the automated movement in the game, Medieval Moves aims to offer players a fair bit of choice along the way, whether it's choosing alternate paths, selecting different points with the grappling hook, or even just picking how you want to attack enemies. And the motion controls are designed to be seamless and freely available at any time, meaning you can reach back for an arrow to launch, toss a throwing star, or pull out your sword and start hacking away. In practice, utilizing the various functions was a bit awkward in the span of a short playable demo, but we imagine it's not tough to get a hang of in time.

And like Sports Champions before it, Medieval Moves can be played with either one or two Move controllers, giving you the option for increased accuracy and more advanced movements with a second remote in tow. That applies to the local two-player split-screen modes, as well, so both players can wield a pair of Move controllers (four in total), or you can tackle those co-op and competitive modes online with a second player.

We didn't have an opportunity to try out the three multiplayer Battle modes, but we did find out a bit about each. Invasion is a survival mode that's available in both co-op and competitive offerings, while co-op mode Royal Guard puts two players in charge of protecting a large statue from invaders. But competitive mode Cauldron Chaos seems the most complex (and perhaps most rewarding) of the bunch, as you'll slay enemies to fill large cauldrons with their lingering essence, and then use the grappling hook to pull the cauldrons into the battlefield, thus unleashing those revived minions on your foe. It certainly sounds like more than a mere throwaway offering, and we're looking forward to learning more about it.

Will Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest be the next great hope for Move owners seeking a meaty, motion-based adventure? Possibly, though putting the game's release date (now November 15) a stone's throw from Uncharted 3 and Assassin's Creed: Revelations doesn't strike us as the brightest decision. Still, what we played seemed like a very solid option for younger gamers and folks who want a little whimsy alongside their non-graphic violence, not to mention anyone who wants to give their Move controllers a much-needed workout.

Oct 4, 2011