Friday, September 24, 2010

Expect family fun with launch games on Move

When I think about launch games for new consoles or add-ons, I usually have very low expectations. I anticipate a few cool moments, but nothing that will make me want to revisit a game after more games hit. A few, like Call of Duty 2 on the 360 and Super Mario Bros. on the NES, will always have a special place in my heart. With the Move, all I could think about was the crazy colors the ball on the device changed into. After a week with the device, I think the device is one of the best ways to lure gamers - and nongamers - into the Sony PS3 fold.

The games available at launch last week include some new offerings - RUSE, an RTS game from Ubisoft, EyePet, a virtual pet game, Sports Champions, a sports title with archery, table tennis and a few other games, Kung Fu Riders, an interesting racing game, Racquet Sports, another Ubisoft title featuring table tennis at way-cool venues - as well as Move support or a couple of existing titles - Heavy Rain and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.

Sony was kind enough to send a few Move launch titles my way, as well as some previously released titles recently Move enabled.

Here are my reviews on the Move launch titles:

Sports Champions
Developed by Zindagi Games
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on PS3
Rated E10
Price: $39.99 (game only), $99.99 with game, Move device and PS Eye camera

This title offers five different sports - archery, bocce, volleyball, disc golf, gladiator and table tennis. It offers training modes, challenge modes and local co-op play. You can pick avatars that look realistic - unlike the Miis and Xbox avatars - like people you'd bump into on the street. You can adjust the difficulty and make a few other tweaks, but no major customizations. It's straight-forward - it's not barebones but close. That's fine. However, what really makes this game a keeper is how easy it is to learn the controls and feel like you are playing a real game. Take the table tennis game. If you've played real table tennis, you know that if you angle the paddle just right, you can send that ball speeding across the net and past your opponent. With the Move, that is very possible. You can add spin to the ball and the Move picks it up and puts it on-screen.

With the archery game, you can use one or two Moves to fire your arrow. Using two Moves, though, really makes the experience very similar to firing a real bow, sans the tension. However, just as with a real bow and the tension with it, the Move adds the vibration and your arms can barely tell the difference.

With the gladiator game, you can use one Move or two, though the experience with two Moves is the only way to really enjoy this game. You use one Move for your shield, the other Move for your sword. Feedback is outstanding with this game. And your opponents aren't slouches. The AI is impressive, and not able dirty tactics.

Overall, this game offers a barebones experience that's light on the wallet and filled with value. If you want to experience the awesome of the Move, get this game.

Developed by Zindagi Games
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on PS3
Rated E
Price: $39.99 (game only)

Say hello to my lil friend ...

No, I'm not channeling Tony Montana, but I want to tell you about my new little friend, M4dski11z. He's a monkey, I think - he's Tar Heel blue (Go UNC!) and has a cap on his head. He enjoys playing with children and will end sit beside you.

He's not expensive - well, if you dont' have a Move or the PS Eye, he can be, but he doesn't need to be spayed, neutered or house-broken. And you can even give him a shower!

Welcome to the world of virtual pet care. Nintendo started the ball rolling with their popular animal series games (Nintendogs, anyone) and Sony took it a step further. This game allows players to have a virtual pet that requires care - and can train and complete challenges with. Using the Eye, gamers of all ages will enjoy teasing, playing with and taking care of their EyePet.

There are on-screen prompts that encourage gamers to complete task with their EyePets to unlock outfits, rewards and other playthings within the game. You can also take snapshots of your EyePet and upload them online.

The graphics in EyePet look great, though the reproduction of the environment is not as clear or sharp. The Eye was rather pixelated, though my two small gamers didn't seem to mind.

While this is aimed primarily at younger gamers, adults can have fun with this title as well. My major concern is the Eye takes random shots throughout the game. I am not sure it uploads the shots to a server somewhere on the Interweb, but as a parent, even when I supervise my children and are there when they play games, I would not want to see pictures of my children appearing in Sony ads in the future. Plus, when the EyePet took a nap, images from previous sessions are shown. My children were like 'That's you, Daddy! He's dreaming of you!' That was fine until I noticed me, in my sleeveless t-shirt and looking rather Unabomberish in the quick snapshots.

As far as gameplay, you can find yourself spending hours playing with this little guy. It's a feel-good game with a virtual pet that won't leave poop all around the house for a fraction of the cost.

Racquet Sports
Developed by Asobo Studio
Published by Ubisoft
Available for the PS Move
Rated E
Price: $29.99

When you first see Racquet Sports in action, the Mii-like avatars, you'll think, for a minute, that you are playing tennis on WiiSports. Get that thought out of your mind. While the looks are similar, with awesome backgrounds, colorful and engaging environments and venues to boot, the gameplay is so-so lacking. Control is what dooms this experience for me. There are five different sports you can play - as well as multiplayer, a big plus - but it doesn't matter if you can barely hit or control the ball/badmitton/etc. I am not a table tennis pro, but I have skillz, right? With this game, I was having a rough time just returning serves or hitting the area the game wanted me to hit during the training mode.

Ubisoft faults with this launch title. I could see the direction they were heading it and the variety of offerings is cool, but horrible controls doom this game to go the way of the Virtual Gameboy. Mark my words on this one.

Kung Fu Rider
Developed by SCE Studios Japan
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
Available for the PS Move
Rated E10
Price: $39.99

KFR was the most interesting of the Move launch titles. The premise is - you are on the run through the congested streets of Hong Kong, dodging Yakuza who all seem to look like Agent 47 on L.S.D. You have to speed through obstacles, jump over other ones and even bend-over backward to reach your goal, a TV-station van that looks like a cross between the Mystery Mobile on Scooby Doo and your local ice cream man. Players use the Move to do all of your on-screen avatar moves. You can even use custom tracks on your PS3 during the downhill courses. Gamers will use a host of devices to reach their goal. You can choose between an office chair, vacuum cleaner, and even a baby walker, hop on and use the Move to shift left, right, back, up and over, even through various obstacles. The graphics look good - the carnage is legendary, as you are not penalized for hitting random civilians at top speed.

There are two problems that will hit you over the head. The first is - the repetitive nature of the game. You are constantly dodging Yakuza. That's fun, but the courses tend to repeat over, and over, and over and over again. About four courses into the game, you'll look at your receipt and grimace. It would be a cool title on PSN, but for retail? The jury is out on that one.

The other concern I have is - the avatar movement. You can play as Toby, an office worker, or Karin, the secretary. Toby is dressed like he was selling insurance all day, but Karin, like the sultry Katy Perry, would be banned for life off Sesame Street. Her halter top, and get-it-girl short shorts are cute, but younger children - and parents as well may not think so. She is an attractive avatar - that's not my concern. My concern is when she's riding the chair/walker/vacumm cleaner, and she pushes her *chair* through the streets, the motion immediately reminds me of another motion which I won't delve into on this blog post. I didn't believe my eyes - and laughed hard for several minutes.

The concept is fun - and the gameplay is solid - you just have to keep the control scheme in mind when you speed through the mean streets of Hong Kong.

If you don't mind some very questionable avatar movements and a lack of depth in this game, it's a fun ride.

Start the Party
Developed by Supermassive Games
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
Available for the PS Move
Rated E10
Price: $39.99

Start the Party is the one title with sooo much potential. It's a party game and works best with multiple players. It's easy enough to pick up and play. Even grandma can pick up the Move and give a haircut.

The collection of minigames offers fun for the masses. However, if you are doing this solo, not so much. This title states to 'Start the Party.' And it works best when you have additional participants. There are about 20 games to choose from. The cooler games are a whack-a-mole type game where you have a pick and bash the devil out of coal-mining moles. Another game has the player using the Move to give shady characters haircuts in about 30 seconds. Another game has players swatting virtual bugs with the Move that magically transforms into a flyswatter. The game I enjoyed the most was one where you target advancing robots and overload their circuits. A few of the games, like using the Move as a flashlight to reveal and destroy ghosts, and another one to fan baby chicks from being eaten by sea creatures, are fun but could scare younger gamers.

The price, $39.99, breaks down to about $2 per game, which is a very good deal. The other plus? The Eye takes a picture of every gamer taking part and creates a snapshot to use during the games. This feature will have young gamers tickled to watch their digital likeness, displayed on a television screen, do all sorts of fun, crazy and zany tasks.

Overall, the launch games for the Move arent' stellar, but offer a glimpse of promise. Will it win over the millions who bought the Wii? Not sure, but it's a step in the right direction for Sony - and is most definitely keeping my old 20gb PS3 running around the clock.

So, have you taken the Move for a spin? What are your thoughts on it? Fire away and please, no flaming.

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