Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, and Jak & Daxter; many consider these three titles to be the 'holy trinity' of action-platformers from the PS2. Each had their distinct feel and witty charm, yet all retained the fun loving, easy going platforming we've grown up with since the glory days of Mario and the SNES. Today, they are asked to unite in Nihilistic Software's PlayStation Move Heroes "“ a PlayStation title with heroes that incorporates the Move controller. I hope I didn't spoil anything with that description.
The story in PlayStation Move Heroes is exactly this: three partners from each series (Ratchet/Clank, Jak/Daxter, Sly/Bentley) are sucked through a wormhole into another world by otherworldly beings hosting an "Inter-Universal Hero Games" tournament. The goal is to see which hero comes out on top. And that's about as deep as it goes.
It's really rather disappointing, as all three franchises are known for their relatively strong and structured stories. It would have been nice to see something more than just a cliche device to explain the unanswerable for any plot involving a crossover.
As if the lack of story wasn't already a deal-breaker, we're left with some of the most rudimentary controls and level designs mapped onto the awkward motion of the Move. You are able to play as Jak, Ratchet, Sly, Bentley, Clank, and Daxter, and they all control almost identically. The only difference is that they each have a unique special move, which is activated by pressing the L1 button.
It would be great to be able to spend more time talking about the core gameplay, but that's about it really.
There are five modes altogether, spread out in over fifty challenges. The number of levels sounds impressive on paper, but really it's just doing five things, ten times. It's essentially just a selection of mini-games thrown together with the premise of playing as your favourite characters from the last generation of gaming (save for Ratchet and Clank).
In the first mode, Jailbreak, your fans are caught in cages and it's up to you to set them free. To do this, you will need to position your character, and throw a Frisbee with the Move. There are various things to collect, like time bonuses or score multipliers, but other than that, this level is essentially standing still and throwing a disc, only to reposition your avatar and throw once more. I wouldn't have too much of a problem with this, but the controls of the actual character are clunky and the disc movement is unresponsive at times, especially when you're trying to turn it around. The Move tracking gets lost, and you're left leading your disc into a wall, forcing you to use another, and since there's a limit to how many discs you have per level, frustration rears its ugly head.Next up is Guardian, a mode where you can choose one of your characters to protect X number of zones (containing fans) from enemies. We've now evolved from standing and throwing a disc, to standing and shooting respawning enemies, and I wish I were joking. It's essentially like any zones mode in any competitive multiplayer game, just with very dumb AI rather than human players. Enemies will pop into existence and charge for each zone, and your goal is to defend each of them. There are also jump pads for you to hop across the terrain and shave off walking time to get to your dedicated fans. You earn different medals according to how much damage each zone receives.
Guardian is then followed by Rescue, where you have to collect as many 'Whibblets' as you can and return them to the destination for points. The more you collect, the higher your medal. The game throws more respawning enemies in your way, so this time you need to bludgeon them melee-style as opposed to shooting them. Simple, right? But that in itself is the problem. The game holds your hand the entire way, to the point where you can just waggle the Move controller franticly and capture the Whibblets to earn my Gold medal with next to no effort.
It gets even worse too, as Countdown has a strong resemblance with a bowling game on a console that uses similar controls. In this mode, you aim and bowl the ball, while avoiding and hurdling over obstacles, trying to collect crystals in order to fuel rockets containing fans that you need to get to safety. The Move controls are a little too precise, and require a delicate hand to gently control the ball's path. Scores here depend on how fast you collect your crystals, and how quick you hit the launch pad for the rocket.
Finally, the last mode is Survival. And as if these modes have been blatantly familiar and recycled already, we're given another mode that is essentially the all too familiar horde mode, which is in almost every game now. In Survival, players essentially survive waves of enemies. Your medal corresponds to how far you survive. While each character has different weapons, they all amount to wagging the controller aimlessly until things go away.
On the visual and technical end of the graphical spectrum, Heroes falls short, just like it does in almost every other department. Animations for the characters are stiff, characters themselves lack the detail their previous instalments had (despite the warm welcome of the proper vocal talent for each character), and the levels are bland and uninspired. The environments are subtle nods and references to environments from Ratchet, Jak or Sly, but it's nothing to write home about, and in fact, every time I saw a familiar reference, I simply wanted to play the actual game.
To make matters worse, force fields prevent you from exploring what little each level puts to the table, and because of that, it's a bit baffling how something that clearly lacks considerable polish can be charged full retail. On the plus side, there doesn't seem to be any dip in the framerate, which makes perfect sense as this is one of the least technically demanding exclusives the PS3 has to offer. Menus are easily accessible, and should be due to the Move navigation. Buttons are large and easy to spot, and it fits the style of the older games.
The game furthers its replayability by trying to incorporate unlockables, such as costumes, that you can use for multiple playthroughs. It also lets you play the game offline with a buddy, or compare your scores on the leaderboards. There is multiplayer available, but it doesn't really add anything to the experience.
When compared to their source material, PlayStation Move Heroes is monotonous, derivative and repetitive; three adjectives which would never have been used to describe any Sly, Ratchet or Jak title before this. This seems less like any of those titles, and more like an excuse to slap their brands on a title to push Move sales. The controls aren't that intuitive, the environments and character models are mediocre and simplistic, and each game type is nothing we haven't seen in games like Wii Sports, or in the case of Survival, Gears of War or Uncharted. I'd say pass on this one to anyone, especially fans of each series.
|Jak and Daxter.|
|Ratchet and Clank.|
|Sly Cooper and Bentley.|
|The characters have really stiff animations.|
|There are repetitive and uninspired game types.|
|You can waggle and still do fine.|