It probably shouldn’t be funny to watch a guy try to use a digital bow and arrow unsuccessfully for a good five minutes. That’s exactly the scenario we were faced with when taking a peek at Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest, the latest PlayStation Move title from Sports Champions developer Zindagi Games. It would have been a little concerning were it not for the fact that the player clearly hadn’t read the instructions — something proven by a small child getting the game to work moments later.
To be completely fair, initially Medieval Moves is a little overwhelming: diving right in with no previous experience or direction it's be difficult to get your bearings, as this poor fellow clearly found out. Thankfully, that confusion dissipates once you have torn through the tutorial.
Medieval Moves is an on-rails slash ‘em up that boasts pinpoint accuracy and 1:1 motion control; it didn’t quite match up to those claims during this demo (seemingly the same as the build from E3 2011), but it came close enough to be an enjoyable experience.
Set in the Middle Ages as it is, sword play, archery and... ninja stars are the order of the day. Deadmund (nee Prince Edmund — he’s been made a bit undead) trots around, dipping into the armoury on his back at will to save his kingdom from a literal uprising: skeleton hordes clawing from the ground. There are no inventory systems here, however, no flicking through offense options with button presses. Gestures of the Move controller determine which tool is accessed, though the Move button or the T trigger must be held in most instances as well. The camera sticks directly behind Deadmund to give a feeling of a first-person game in a third-person setting, making the movements all the more intuitive.
Swordplay is the most basic action, and if you’ve ever played Sports Champions’ Gladiator game you’ll know exactly what to expect. If you’re lucky enough to use two Move controllers then, just as in Sports Champions, you use one to hoist up your shield to guard, deflecting enemy blows until there’s a big enough opening to give them an almighty crack on the head with your blade, or sweep the legs from beneath them. Lesser enemies can be dispatched with a single strike, but the larger, armoured brutes are capable of putting up a decent fight that require you to stay on your guard and time your blows carefully. Zindagi has taken its Sports Champions experience into account with archery also, transplanting the process across: reach behind you with the trigger pressed and you’ll grasp an arrow, while the second Move controller aims the bow, and the arrow is sent flying when you release the trigger. If the target is a tad far away, you can jab the Move button to zoom in for an easier shot. Over time the accuracy of the bow seemed to lessen, unfortunately, requiring broader aiming movements to the point where we were turning away from the screen, but perhaps this is something that has been fixed in recent months.
Your grappling hook, essential for travelling around castles that have few discernible staircases, is taken into hand by holding the Move button and pointing the controller down by your side. From there, you can point at the screen and release the button when you want to shoot, but this action isn't as natural as others, and it would make more sense to simply point where you want to fire and tap Move. Coolest of all are the throwing stars, though: hold T on either Move controller and flick just as you would to hurl a shuriken — or a tiny frisbee, if you’re not a ninja by trade — and you can launch as many discs of death as you please; you can even start lobbing two at once, one from either hand. They don’t always go exactly where you want them to immediately, but it’s very easy to tell how you need to adjust your aim and gesture strength to get them where they need to go with some trial and error.
Medieval Moves’ gameplay is not the deepest you'll ever encounter, and essentially consists of room after room of motion combat against waves of skeletons. Outside of the offence — and grappling — you have little control of your movements, with most scene transitions handled automatically once you've cleared out the latest bundle of baddies. You are usually given up to ten seconds to look around and destroy any crates and barrels that litter the rooms once you’ve cleared a combat section, however, which can yield rewards — bottles of milk can be glugged down with a hold of the Move button and a drinking motion to stave off calcium deficiency and top up your health bar.
Occasionally you’ll be stopped dead by an obstacle. These are usually circumvented by solving basic puzzles, such as firing an arrow at a target, turning a key in a door, or outstretching both arms to balance across a beam. On occasions the game offers branching paths, inviting you to fire the grappling hook in the direction you wish, which should offer some replay value. There are some attempts to allow players to experiment with alternate solutions to problems, too — at one point a trapdoor could be shot shut if you were quick enough, shutting off entry to the room for a gang of enemies.
Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest doesn't appear to be a hugely deep experience, but it is an interesting and fun transferral of Zindagi's Sports Champions chops to a fantasy action game. There are a few issues with certain gestures that we hope are smoothed out prior to release, but signs are fairly good that Zindagi has delivered with PlayStation Move again.