Sunday, December 19, 2010

Playstation Move Heroes Hands-On Update - Nihilistic Aims For The Core

When last we saw Playstation Move Heroes (formerly known as Heroes on the Move) back in October, the demo build was indeed a lot of fun to play but there was obviously more coming in terms of levels, game modes and other features. Last week at Sony's Holiday 2010 event, Nihilistic's peppy Design Director Harley Baldwin White-Wiedow and SCEA's equally peppy Caley Roberts showed of the latest build which was more polished and quite packed to the rafters with many lovely and destructive things to do. Not content to shove out a simple Move-enabled mini-game cash-in for the younger set, Nihilistic is cooking up a solid, hugely fun (and funny) game any fans of Sony's mascot franchises will be proud to add to their collections.

If you're eyeballing that Move and Navigation Controller combo suspiciously each time you walk into your favorite game shop (or worse, talk to your non-Move owning friends who somehow hate the new peripheral without even having picked one up), just go buy them already. Trust me, PMH is one of many first and third party 'second-generation' Move or Move-enabled titles that are going to go a long way in getting even more gamers aboard Sony's version of the motion control bus. The game's difficulty looks to nicely tick all the boxes from beginner to hardcore, offering up over 50 mini-game filled levels spread across multiple themed worlds. White-Wiedow showed off one quick movement in the new demo's whip stage to me before handing over the controllers and letting me have at it as Ratchet. Using the Move wand as a whip and with natural motions that showed of the Move's 1:1 control perfectly, I was able to whip, grab and slam enemy Deathbots into each other in a series of timed missions.

Next up, a shooting mission with Clank in a level I'd played last time, but this one was much harder with AI set on puree. Deft strafing movements with the Navigation Controller were key as well as, making each shot count and grabbing health at the right times. All of these kept me alive a bit longer than I'd expected, but I didn't make it quite as far as I did in the earlier build. Roberts was eager to get me into one of the other weapon levels, and this time, it was Daxter with an awesome Blaster shotgun in a mix of run 'n gun, exploration and a wee bit of platforming. In this stage, rescuing hidden baby aliens and getting them back to to their eager mama before the clock ran out made for some very fun and tricky action. The shotgun was powerful enough to take enemies down with one blast, but the brief reload time between each shot kept the map from being a total cakewalk.

Platforming comes into play in areas where you need to jump up to collect items or do battle on rooftops or hidden areas. these sections are clearly marked with an icon that lets you know the upper reaches area Move button press away.
Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals are rewarded depending on how well you do at dispatching enemies and doing so under the time limit. Then there are the Diamond Medal challenges which will test your skills with much tougher AI and stricter time limits. While there's no online play planned for the game, couch co-op play is planned for the final version (although no details were given on how it'll function). If you STILL want some sort of online element, well there's a leaderboard that tracks scores and updates them over the Playstation Network, something that should keep the best players coming back for more. With Disc, Whip, Bowling, Projectile and Melee events allowing each of the six playable characters to show off his skills, the game should provide quite a chunk of replay value.

After getting some play time with a few sections, I asked White-Wiedow to surprise me with any other levels in the build, whereupon she showed off two more stages, a melee map with Jax and a flying disc map with Daxter. Jax, armed with a big hammer, ran about a small village map pounding Deathbots into scrap and rescuing those cute little aliens. Enemy AI was pretty relentless here, but as expected, the person working on the game is obviously going to be pretty darn good at it. The Daxter disc stage showed the gal's got a good throwing arm as well as she guided a single disc along a nicely sized level taking out breakables and collecting extra time pickups along the way. The goal in each area and mini-game changes, but you basically have to beat down a lot of enemies, collect extra time (where applicable) and collectibles while trying to notch up a medal-winning score.

Speaking of medal-winning, check out the screens in this preview and tell me this isn't shaping up to be a great-looking game. While none of the original studios behind the franchises are tinkering away on the project, it's clear that Nihilistic has nailed the look and feel of those classics while integrating all the art styles into a cohesive whole. Remember, the Sly games were cel-art styled and both the Ratchet and Jax games were set in different universes with similar yet distinct visual themes. What's here mashes up all three into a solid set of maps and given the overall play about worlds made up from all three games after an intentional cosmic smash-up, everything clicks perfectly.

So far so good, but a few tweaks still need to be made. I'd still LOVE to see some sort of onscreen mapping system, or big, happy guide arrows pointing out what to do or where to go. The game is packed so full of visual detail that I can see younger players getting distracted by the excellent color usage, explosions aplenty and tons of background detail. Also, change the name back to Heroes on the Move, as PlayStation Move Heroes sounds way too generic for my tastes (and judging by a few online posts, a lot of others' tastes). Finally, while it's just great to see Ratchet, Clank, Jak, Daxter, Sly Cooper, and Bentley back in action on a home console, the game needs some ladies in it if only to appeal to fans who want the choice of playing as a female character. The Jax, Sly and Ratchet games all have memorable female characters, so I'm hoping we see a few in the game as unlockable Heroes (or perhaps an all Heroines on the Move DLC pack or sequel).

In any event, the game is coming along quite nicely and yup, I predict a hit of the not so sleeper variety as more gameplay footage, screens and (hopefully) some sort of playable demo get out to the fans. Nihilistic is really knocking it out of the park here, so make sure you're there to catch this particularly huge ball of fun when it drops into stores in April 2011. Back with more Playstation Move Heroes updates when news rolls, blasts or whips (ouch!) on in this way - stay tuned...

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