Posted by John on November 19, 2011

PS3 Review - ‘Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest’

When the PlayStation Move launched over a year ago, it did so with a few games that showed off the control scheme. One of the games that exceeded expectations was Sports Champions. It may have seemed like a clone of Wii Sports, but archery and dueling made one believe that the controller was capable of so much more. Very few developers have done anything with the controller that didn’t seem like more than Wii games in HD. Zindagi Games, the developer of Sports Champions, decided that the mechanics were good enough for an adventure game, and Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest was born. The game may skew toward a young audience, but players of all ages will find the title to be charming.

The plot is standard fantasy fare: You play the role of Edmund, a prince who is taking the proper training needed to become the king of his kingdom. One day, the evil skeletal emperor Morgrimm the Black steals the kingdom’s Gatestone, a gem full of magical properties. He turns everyone in the kingdom into living skeletons, including Edmund, and shatters the amulet into fragments that are held by his minions. The young prince, now dubbed Deadmund, must retrieve all of the gem pieces and reclaim his kingdom.

Before you get to the tutorial, you discover through a flash-forward sequence that the whole game is on rails. You eventually get to tell Deadmund where to go in the game, but you can’t take control of his steps or have full control of which direction he faces. While the game has you doing more than other titles of this type, the only choice you have is how you want to dispatch your enemies.

When the game begins, you only have access to two weapons that vary greatly in style and range. The sword and shield is your basic melee weapon. You can swing at any limb and at any height, but you can’t stab with it. You also can’t use it to deflect other melee weaponry or projectiles. Consequently, the shield is used primarily for defense and to open up counterattack opportunities. The bow and arrow acts as your basic projectile weapon if you need to tag enemies or objects from a distance. The quiver never empties, and while it is powerful, the slow reload time doesn’t make it good for close enemies or large groups of foes. Later on, you’ll find your third weapon, the throwing star, which is perfect for oncoming groups and object destruction since it can be thrown at a faster speed and without the need to properly aim before release.

Aside from your three primary weapons, you have access to other tools. The grappling hook, something you find very early on, helps you get from one ledge to another or swing over chasms — only when you’re given the opportunity. Dynamite can also be found, and while you can’t exactly throw it very far, it causes far more damage than anything else in your arsenal. You can store up to three bottles of milk that help replenish any lost health during battles.

With the on-rails movement and focus on combat, there isn’t much variety in the single-player game. You can perform Quick Time Events (QTEs) during some boss fights, and you can balance while walking across beams. You’ll also get a chance to encounter several timed shooting minigames during each level, but other than that, you’ll spend most of the game with what amounts to a brawling lightgun shooter. Luckily, the combat is good since it is so varied. With a few exceptions, you can decide which weapon you want to use instead of being forced to rely on one item. Arrows, for example, can take out anyone from any range with one shot while throwing stars, while faster, only do about half the damage. Simply swinging the sword gets you through most fights, but performing better timed swings in concert with shield blocks will ensure you’ll take less damage for your trouble. The core game is quite simple, but the little bit of depth masks that fact for a while.

Outside of the main adventure, Deadmund’s Quest has a few minigames for up to two players. There are two team-based games. In Royal Guard, you and a friend protect a royal statue from being attacked by ever-increasing hordes of enemies. In Invasion, you and a friend try to defeat wave after wave of skeletal enemies. Like other games that feature similar modes, the foes start out simple but you soon face off against some rather difficult enemies. The game also features two competitive modes, including a variation of Invasion and Cauldron Chaos, where you fill up your cauldron with defeated enemies before unleashing them against your opponent. Each mode is fine, especially Cauldron Chaos, which adds welcome complexity to standard minigame fare, so it’s a pity that you can’t move around much or play with more than two players. Surprisingly, these games can be played both online and offline, and while there isn’t really much of an online community at the moment, there was absolutely no lag during the few matches played during the review period.

For the most part, the controls are good enough. The sword movements are responsive but not exactly accurate. Aim low and things read fine, but for strikes to the head, you’ll need to swing higher than normal for it to register. Bow and arrow movements mimic the archery section of Sports Champions perfectly. The throwing stars control exactly like the Frisbee, so throwing it takes much more practice than one would expect. As for every other action, it is pretty hit-and-miss. Milk drinking has an inventive gesture, where you have to hold the controller to your mouth like you’re chugging down a bottle, but the action isn’t read until several seconds after it’s performed. Balancing and turning keys and levels works well, and you won’t mind performing the cool gesture to light dynamite by holding the controller to your chest and covering the glowing bulb with your hand. QTEs respond almost immediately, and the act of pulling down vats is responsive, but you never feel like you’re aiming your shots with the grappling hook. It’s more like you’re slowly guiding the cursor, and it breaks the immersion.

Much like Sports Champions, the game can be played with either one or two Move controllers for each player in each hand. Interestingly, having two controllers in single-player mode only is advantageous when using the sword and shield combo since it makes blocking attacks and performing counterattacks much faster than with one controller. Using a bow and arrow with dual controllers adds a sense of realism to the game, but it doesn’t feel very advantageous since it takes longer to nock the arrows. The use of either hand to dole out throwing stars is nice, but unless you’re ambidextrous, you’ll most likely miss with the nondominant hand, making the action more work than it’s worth.

For what is ultimately a game intended for younger audiences, the graphics in Deadmund’s Quest actually look very good. The human characters look very cartoonish, with rather large eyes and exaggerated features, but they set the stage for what to expect. Skeletal enemies look meaner but remain cartoonish in their facial expressions and thicker-than-usual bone structure. The bones also look like they’re made of clay, complete with dimple markings. Other characters exist in the world — including birds, small dragons and rodents — to help the world seem more populated, and they also look fine. Every character animates nicely, and the game performance doesn’t get bogged down, even if the screen is filled with explosions or enemies. The medieval village and castle environments also adhere to the cartoon aesthetics, and the game utilizes an unexpected color scheme. The castle grounds still have some gray, but you don’t often see purple skies.

Likewise, the sound is well done. The musical score’s rousing tracks fit well with the adventure portions. The voice acting is good, and none of the characters seem miscast. The dialogue is fine during cut scenes and can get quite humorous at times for both younger and older audiences. The only time you’ll complain about the dialogue is during enemy fights. What they say, while sometimes incomprehensible, is fine but the few phrases are repeated so often that you’ll tire of hearing them after the first level.

Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest is a surprisingly good title, especially for those who don’t mind a little on-rails action in their games. The combat is good, though limited because of some missing moves and the general uselessness of the throwing stars. Multiplayer, while not exactly deep, is fun enough, and the addition of online helps give the game some legs. Both the graphics and sound are certainly above par in comparison to most Move games. The controls feature flashes of brilliance, but the basic actions perform well overall. If you’ve been looking for a good Move game that isn’t a first-person shooter or a lightgun shooter, Deadmund’s Quest nicely fits the bill.

Score: 7.5/10

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