Review: PlayStation Move Heroes

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Whenever a major franchise gets outsourced or transferred to a different developer than the original creators, the results are rarely good. Spyro plummeted once he left Insomniac’s care, Crash Bandicoot fell off when Naughty Dog moved on to new things, Treyarch’s Call of Duty games always feel inferior to Infinity Ward’s, Guitar Hero was never the same once Harmonix left to start up Rock Band, Far Cry 2 surely would have been even better with Crytek at the helm, and well, the list goes on and on for days.

In these instances, the added pressure of having to live up to the lofty expectations that come with working on established franchises must be a terrible burden for any developer. And in the specific case of PlayStation Move Heroes, I can only imagine how much pressure developer Nihilistic Software felt having to care for not one but three of Sony’s most treasured franchises, each originally created by three of the industry’s most highly regarded studios.

Unfortunately, I think the pressure may have been too much for Nihilistic, because PlayStation Move Heroes is NOT the ultimate mascot crossover it was supposed to be. Actually, it’s a total stinker of a game.

Designed as a showcase for the PlayStation Move motion controller, PlayStation Move Heroes brings together the heroes from Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series, Naughty Dog’s Jak & Daxter series, and Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper series, and pits them against each other in a friendly competition to prove who the galaxy’s greatest hero is. Sadly, in this game they all come out looking like old has-beens.

The first hurdle to leap over when playing PlayStation Move Heroes is that it is NOT a full platform adventure like the individual franchises it pulls together. In fact, even though the game is played from a traditional third-person perspective, you can’t manually jump whatsoever! Instead, PlayStation Move Heroes is a barebones collection of mini-games loosely tied together by a passable attempt at a storyline.

Once you wrap your head around playing a Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and Sly Cooper game without the ability to jump, the idea of a mascot mini-game romp sounds appealing enough. But sadly PlayStation Move Heroes drops the ball completely, simultaneously failing in its attempts to properly showcase the Move technology and deliver enjoyable gameplay.

PlayStation Move Heroes features only five main challenge types, and each mini-game comes in five variations based on different weapons at your disposal. To play the game, you wield the Move as your weapon and move your chosen hero through the 3D environments using a Navigation controller.

In each event, the goal is to rescue/protect cute creatures known as Whibbles before time runs out, whether it’s by freeing them from cages, finding and returning babies to their mama, gathering crystals to fuel escape rockets, fending off swarms of enemies in survival challenges, or defending Whibble pods against waves of invading enemies. Along the way, you smash objects, collect secret items, use power-ups, and build your point multiplier to amass a high score to be proud of.

To get the job done, you are given one of five different weapons at the start of each event — either a Frisbee disc, a gun, an energy whip, a bowling ball, or a standard melee weapon (Sly’s cane, Ratchet’s wrench, etc.) – and depending on the assigned instrument, the means to achieve the objective at hand changes.

The whole point of these different weapons is to showcase the many capabilities of the PlayStation Move controller. However, the disappointingly sloppy implementation only provides a high profile example of motion controls gone terribly, terribly wrong.

The shooting games are by far the most entertaining, as the Move once again proves that it works well for simple point-and-shoot blast-a-thons, and the bowling and disc challenges are moderately entertaining as you tilt and twist the Move to guide your ball/Frisbee towards its target. But the gesture recognition is horrendous across the board, and overall the controls lack the smooth finesse that is so important for motion control gaming. Even the character movement feels stiff and sluggish, which is a slap in the face to three platformer franchises that are known for their fluid controls and animations.

The melee challenges are the worst offenders. To attack, you swipe the Move wand in varying angles to strike vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. But this simple control scheme is ruined by a noticeable delay between when you swing the Move and the input registering in the game. Because of this lag, you don’t feel attached to the characters in any way, and through the entire game I felt like the DualShock 3 with Sixaxis would have performed much better than the Move — and such an optional control scheme would have made this a game worth playing.

Beyond the control woes, PlayStation Move Heroes suffers from being way too easy and way too shallow. The game’s 43 story levels took me around four to five hours to complete, which, although short, is plenty long for a game built around the idea of replaying levels over and over again to beat high scores. However, the problem is that in that short amount of time, I had already achieved Gold ratings for each stage (only having to replay two or three stages to upgrade from Silver), and even after unlocking the bonus Diamond challenges (which are supposed to be harder…but really aren’t) I never became motivated to go back and top high scores or search for any leftover Gold Bolts, Coins and Precursor Orbs needed to unlock bonus character costumes.

The lack of variety sure doesn’t help matters either. As mentioned, there are only five different mini-game types, and there are only four environment themes, too – Metropolis from Ratchet & Clank, Haven City from Jak & Daxter, Paris from Sly Cooper, and a new Gleebertopia level. Although the graphics are detailed and packed with the personality expected from the sources of inspiration, the events and levels all sort of blur together, and before long you’ll be snoring your way through the game waiting for something new to wake up your senses.

Through all of its flaws, of which there are many, PlayStation Move Heroes does show flashes of potential and fun. But unfortunately that potential and that fun is buried under shallow, forgettable gameplay and messy motion controls that make launch-day Move games look like fully optimized second and third year releases. Ironically, this is exactly the type of gimmicky ‘waggle’ game Sony constantly mocks in its PlayStation Move promotions, and that’s just sad.

So in the end, PlayStation Move Heroes alienates the existing fan bases of the three sourced franchises without offering a competent enough gameplay experience to at least appeal to gamers who wouldn’t know Ratchet, Jak, and Sly from a hole in the wall. Yep, I’d say that’s one colossal failure!

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Pros:
+ Sharp, detailed graphics
+ Familiar environments, voices, characters, and sounds give the game personality

Cons:
– Awful controls
– Shallow gameplay with little in the way of challenge or variety
– Short game with poor replay value

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 (requires PlayStation Move)
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Release Date: 3/22/2011
Genre: Action/Mini-games
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2 (local only)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!