Apart from LEGO Harry Potter, which truly warms the cockles of my childish heart, there's been a surprising dearth of wizard-themed action on consoles recently. Motion control should already have ushered in a new era for this sub-genre. You'd think somebody would have spotted the potential for wand-waving with a Wiimote by now - although Billy the Wizard might have driven any inspired developers to suicide.
Enter Sorcery, one of Sony's first titles for Move. It's a magical action-adventure with wands. As the first actual Move game I've tried, besides the fascinating demos where you get to be a robot with Wolverine claws, it's convincing.
Rather than dramatically redesigning everything for the sake of motion control, developer The Workshop has gently incorporated it into a familiar-feeling template. Sorcery doesn't represent the first unsteady step into a new genre - just a new twist on an old one.
Holding the main controller with the squidgy glowing orb in my right hand and the analogue stick sub-controller in the other, I'm given control of a skinny kid in a cape. This sorcerer's apprentice is in a cartoonish, crumbly old Fantasia castle comprised of huge chunks of stone and sturdy oaken doors. There's more than a touch of Hogwarts about Sorcery's architecture and flighty orchestral music.
You perform a basic spell by casting out in front of you with your wand arm - and you have to do it properly, rather than giving it a bit of the old Wii remote waggle. The game features sticky targeting, so spells seek the nearest destructible object or enemy, but it doesn't aim for you. Instead you must finish the gesture pointing in the direction of the monster, vase or window you want to hit. Velocity matters, too, and more forceful casts result in stronger spells.
Our enemies for the demo are stony little gremlins that bumble around emitting comical little cackles. The default spell stops them in their tracks momentarily, but the fun is in experimenting with the the non-standard magic.
You can select a new spell by holding the central button and moving the cursor around a hexagonal menu. There's a quick-select, too, which switches between the last two spells you've used. Unfortunately the buttons on the Move controller are so insensibly tiny it's not much use.
I go for the Frost Shard spell, hoping that the sorcerer's apprentice is concealing a crowbar somewhere on his person for a BioShock-style freeze'n'smash. Switching between freeze and the standard spell shatters the little goblins on the spot. Then there's a fire spell, which I can either cast out in front of me to send a fireball rolling on its merry way or cast in a line in front of me to create a wall of flames.
There won't be a huge selection of basic spells in Sorcery - only about six to eight, we're told. The meat of the game comes from combining their various effects. There's a whirlwind spell that you cast by swirling the Move controller above your head in a spiral and then pointing at the screen to guide it around. Create a fire wall before casting the whirlwind and you can catch the flames in the vortex before carrying them off.
All the while the PlayStation Eye is watching you like a stalker in the bushes. Crouch down and the sorcerer on-screen crouches too. It's the combination of these two elements - the in-hand device and the camera tracking, of which Microsoft and Nintendo only have one each - which makes Move feel like a natural way of incorporating motion control into traditional games. More natural, in fact, than anything Kinect or Wii seem able to offer at this point.
The truth is that motion control is intuitive when you have something in your hands. Watching the Weasley twins demonstrating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Xbox 360 while their characters moved for them automatically on-screen at EA's gamescom press conference was pretty unconvincing. Unlike Kinect, PlayStation Move isn't limited by the absence of buttons and an analogue stick. The motion control augments the game rather than defining it.
The potions scattered around Sorcery's world are a cute illustration. After experimenting with goblin-killing in a windy corridor I find myself in a musty, book-laden study behind a creaking door. A potion sits upon the neglected, cobweb-ridden desk. After picking it up you have to shake your hand to mix it until the coloured bulb changes colour, then up-end the controller to take a draught from it.
Drinking it transforms me into a rat so I can squeeze through a tight little tunnel and out into a castle courtyard, where a broken bridge needs fixed with a Mending spell. It's exactly this sort of endearing environmental puzzle which makes Sorcery exciting.
Assuming it's not all too obviously telegraphed - and this being a child-friendly game, there's no guarantee - the thought of running around a big, puzzle-filled magic castle with plenty of hidden secrets appeals to the adventurous 11-year-old in me. The same 11-year-old who is still slightly disappointed on birthdays when no owl arrives with an invitation to Hogwarts.
Sorcery is only slightly more than a concept demo at the moment, but it's clearly got the potential to be a more creative and accessible wizardry game than anything the Harry Potter licence has offered up so far. It's also evidence of that Move is squaring up strongly to face the competition.
Sorcery is due out for PS3 in Q2 2011.