So here we are, 'tis the season, etc. This year, PlayStation Move is surely right at the top of the Christmas list of every game-loving child who already has a Wii and a DS and probably a Kinect.
With three months having passed since Sony's magic wagglestick launched, there's now quite a selection of Move titles on the shelves. But how are they shaping up? How does this batch of Move software compare to the second wave of Kinect titles reviewed recently?
Which, lest we forget or can't be bothered to click, was comprised of a sports mini-game compilation, a tedious new instalment in an ancient franchise, a poor-quality rip-off of said instalment, a mediocre "lifestyle" title and a game which made you jerk your arms about like a short-circuiting robot.
So what have we here? Racket Sports, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, The Shoot, TV Superstars and Kung Fu Rider.
Best press on.
Time Crisis: Razing Storm
Not to be confused with Time Crisis: Raisin Storm, where you must face off with waves of enemies in a hail of currants, this game comes to us (but of course) from Namco Bandai. It's actually a compilation, offering three titles for the price of one. It's just a shame that price equates to £13.33 each when none of the games is worth more than £1.87.
First up is the eponymous Razing Storm. Good news, series fans – the Arcade mode features all the Time Crisis fun you know and used to love in 1998. It's an on-rails romp through a series of brown environments, upon which you are accompanied by a group of huge men. With their enormous mech suits and silly cyber-monocles, they all look like the love child of Marcus Fenix and the GamesMaster.
All the usual old nonsense is present and correct – giant robot spiders, satellite laser cannons, market stalls which explode in showers of poorly animated bananas, etc. The Move controller does a good job of standing in for the G-Con, though it's hard to care how precise your aim is when you're machine-gunning down another group of identical baddies without bothering to take your finger off the trigger. It's all right, in a shallow, mindless, old-school sort of a way.
The Story mode is less entertaining. Instead of being on-rails you have the freedom to explore, using the Move to aim and control the camera and a DualShock or nunchuk sorry navigation controller to manoeuvre your character. It's a clunky system which feels sluggish and cumbersome. Expect to be left disoriented, frustrated and wondering why you're not just playing a proper first-person shooter instead.
You could cheer yourself up with a bout of Time Crisis 4, if it wasn't rubbish. Kristan gave the standalone game 4/10 in April 2008 and it's still a 4/10 today. Having said that, back then you had to play it with the giant orange G-Con light gun – the only controller in the world which looks stupider than Sony's magic light-up ping pong stick.
The Move is a lot easier to calibrate than the G-Con and has the added advantage of being wireless. It works just fine as an alternative light gun and benefits significantly from being less orange. But that doesn't make Time Crisis 4 worth revisiting. The only reason to return is if you've forgotten how hilarious main characters Evan Bernard and Giorgio Bruno are, and fancy revisiting their marvellous crocodile shoes and Studio Line hairstyles.
The final offering on the disc is Deadstorm Pirates. Yes, it's Time Crisis, but with less satellite laser cannons and more cutlass-wielding skeletons. Once again the action is on-rails and highly camp. Fans of this sort of thing will while away a happy hour shooting vampire bats and giant enemy crabs in the face, but that's about it. This game is as 6/10 as Kristan previously suggested.
Even throwing in all the other games on the Razing Storm disc you're not looking at more than an afternoon's worth of entertainment here, and that makes it poor value for money.
Shove 50p into an arcade machine to play any of these games and you'd walk away a bit disappointed, but with a shrug of the shoulders. Cough up for this disc and you'll feel properly hard done-by - not least because after a few hours of play your brain will think it's the late nineties, when £39.99 was still enough to buy a house.
This is one of those games where you can visualise the flip chart from the brainstorming meeting after 10 minutes of play. On it are scrawled words like CASUAL, WOMEN, KIDS, CELEBRITY, FASHION, DIY, COOKING MAMA, ANTON DU BEKE.
Unfortunately there's a distinct absence of words like ORIGINAL, FUN, CONTEMPORARY, CONTROLS WHICH WORK PROPERLY AND DON'T MAKE YOU WANT TO RING UP THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM AND TELL THEM WHERE THEY CAN SHOVE THEIR LIGHT-UP PING PONG BALL.
TV Superstars gives you the chance to make your way up from Z-list nobody to A-list celebrity. That's the high concept, anyway – the reality is it gives you the chance to play a series of mini-games, most of which are dull, some of which don't work properly and all of which look horrible.
Your first mission involves using the PlayStation Eye to take pictures of your own face, which are then mapped on to a naff avatar. The end result is some kind of weird Frankenstein's monster who resembles you if you'd been conceived by some inbred inhabitants of the uncanny valley.
Once that's done you can begin your bid for stardom. Unlike in real life the best way to do this isn't by eating reptilian genitals or singing Coldplay songs in between having little cries about your kids / your dead gran / Liverpool. No, you must "star in" a series of "TV shows", i.e. "play those crap mini-games".
First up is Frockstar, presented by utterly unhilarious camp stereotype Randy Darling. As with all the rest of the characters, his face is animated by static images of different expressions which switch in at out seemingly at random. It's like interacting with a living Crimewatch photofit.
Your tasks involve things like taking off and putting on clothes (fiddly), striking poses (tricky, due due to inconsistent movement recognition) and applying make-up (impossible to do without making your avatar look like Heath Ledger's Joker). It's all far too frustrating and boring to be worth persisting with for long.
Big Beat Kitchen tries to disguise the fact it's a Cooking Mama rip-off by replacing the tiny ginger white woman with a big fat black man. As the gameplay still involves mixing pancake batter, frying onions and so on, this isn't a very effective disguise.
At various points the man starts rapping, presumably because he's black. You're supposed to copy him by waving the remote about. At this point the game basically becomes Cooking PaRappa the Rapper, a game which is much less fun than it sounds due to yet another shonky control system.
There's a dull D.I.Y. game which sees you trying to chop wood, paint walls and so on, or more accurately trying to work out what the game wants you to do without falling asleep. Meanwhile, Let's Get Physical is a family gameshow in the style of Bring On the Wall. If your idea of fun is shaking a remote about and occasionally pressing a button, you'll love it.
If you're a normal person, however, you'll be driven mad by the sound of the chirpy American host shouting "Whoah!" and "Awesome!" and doing endless puns on words like "wheel". In fact, you'll wish this was a family gameshow in the style of The Running Man just so it would be over quicker.
You can also appear in some terrible adverts which make the ones the Apprentice candidates produce look like vintage Fellini. They're neither funny nor fun.
None of the mini-games are any more enjoyable in multiplayer and none of them are worth playing more than once. Plus, it's hard to see who they're aimed at – generally speaking, the games are too hard for younger kids and too desperately uncool for older ones.
The mini-games do work, and if your idea of a good time is indeed struggling to put on clown make-up on or saw a virtual plank in half you might enjoy them. But I have no idea who you are.
Or, as it might as well be titled, My First Shooter. This is an on-rails effort with a family-friendly twist, featuring no blood, guts or death. The idea is you're on a film set, blasting away at wooden props and cut-out characters. Your mission is not so much to kill but to destroy enough fake baddies to please the director, who offers a running commentary on your performance.
There are various movies comprised of a handful of levels to play through, and they have Western, sci-fi, mafia, underwater and haunted house themes. The stylised visuals aren't particularly pretty but they do the job.
As you'd expect, gameplay mainly involves pointing and shooting. Score multipliers can be racked up by hitting enemies consecutively without missing, while points are lost for hitting the good guys. Do well and you can earn power-ups like Showtime, which slows down time and is activated by spinning round or whirling the Move controller like a remote. Or there's Shockwave – fire into the ground to make everyone on-screen explode at once.
The power-ups are good fun but the game could have done without the other Move-related nonsense. Sometimes enemies lob projectiles which you're expected to dodge by swinging the remote left or right. The game is desperately inconsistent when it comes to recognising these moves, and having to sway about when you're trying to maintain a x11 combo ruins the flow of the action.
When enemies get up close you have the option to swing the Move forward to perform a punch. But as good old Indy demonstrated, why swing a fist when you can shoot a bullet?
These tacked-on elements aren't the biggest problem with The Shoot, however. The real issue is that it's a casual game with a hardcore structure. It demands too much of those who just want to point and shoot rather than worry about combos and power-ups.
Only one movie (the Western) is unlocked to begin with, and it's only accessible in single-player. The others aren't unlocked simply by completing the levels – you must attain a minimum high score, too. This is easy enough as far as the first few films are concerned, but past the half-way mark the game starts demanding serious numbers of points which can only be attained through judiciously strategic play.
Which is all fine if you like that sort of thing. But if so, you're probably playing a hardcore shooter, not one which involves firing blanks at MDF cowboys.
It doesn't help that you must also unlock all the movies before you can access the two-player game. This seems bonkers – even Time Crisis: Razing Storm features a drop-in, drop-out co-op mode right from the start. There is a handful of Challenge levels for two players but these still require some unlocking and aren't very interesting.
Even if you do put the effort in, the multiplayer mode has its own issues. Shooting the same target as your partner will break your combo, which feels frustrating and unfair.
This is all a bit of a shame because at its core, The Shoot is a fun, accessible on-rails shooter. The levels are good and varied, with plenty of destructible objects and dynamic action to keep you on your toes. But to access all of them and to play the game with a friend requires a lot of time, effort and concentration. That may be asking too much of younger players and those who just want to enjoy a bit of mindless blasting.
What's more, £29.99 is a lot to ask for a game that only offers a few hours of entertainment, and even less if you're too lazy or rubbish to unlock everything.
"Only on PlayStation", declares the Racket Sports box. It's a claim trading standards might want to look into, seeing as this game bears remarkable similarity to Wii title Racket Sports Party – also published by Ubisoft, and featuring the same five racket-based sports games.
("For the first time ever, Ubisoft offers the possibility to play Tennis, Table Tennis, Squash, Badminton and Beach Tennis, all in one game," reads the Racket Sports Party press release. Yes, as if this is the game we have dreamt of our whole lives. What next, Ball Sports Party? No, stop, the prospect is too unbearably delicious.)
The big difference is that Racket Sports is played with the Move controller. The idea is this offers the player more control and accuracy over their shots. The reality is it doesn't feel much different. The game is so forgiving it's easy to coast through matches regardless of how much effort you put in. Plus you have to press a button to perform special shots, which seems to defeat the object of having a motion-controlled virtual racket instead of a regular control pad.
The Tennis game is all right unless you've already played Wii Sports tennis to death, which you have. Badminton is Tennis except you can do an overhead smash. Squash is Tennis except the ball bounces around more. Beach Tennis is Tennis except the ball doesn't bounce at all.
Table Tennis is the worst of the bunch. It's the only game to feature noticeable lag between your moves and those of your on-screen avatar, and there's very little in the way of precision control on offer. It's got nowhere near the depth, polish or entertainment value of the table tennis game in Sports Champions.
The environments you play in are cartoony, garish and dated-looking. There's the usual collection of supremely ugly and utterly interchangeable avatars to choose from. Play well and you can win items with which to customise them, which is great if you're the type of person who gets excited by on-screen messages like "You have unlocked Javier's Urban Heat Outfit".
There are Exhibition, Career, Party Play and Online modes to choose from, plus two control systems. Basic is designed for more casual players (you can't perform trick shots) while Advanced is for those who want more of a challenge (you can). It is impossible to care about any of this.
Racket Sports is a cheap attempt to rush out a Wii Sports rip-off for the PS3 by people who couldn't even be bothered to include a boxing game. Different-sized rackets have been cut-and-pasted into the same lacklustre offering five times over, and that's about it.
If you really, really want to play tennis with your Move controller, Racket Sports works well enough to fulfil that function. But think carefully about whether that experience is worth £25 (it isn't).
Kung Fu Rider
On paper, this game sounds brilliant. It stars a hapless private detective and his hot assistant, a Chun-Li lookalike with independently animated buttocks. They're on the run from some shady gangsters. Rather than a fast car, speeding train or plane to Mexico, their chosen means of escape is a wheely office chair which they ride up and down the hilly streets of Hong Kong.
There's an extensive move-set. You're able to duck and jump, speed up, side-step and swerve, perform roundhouse kicks and pull off kung fu chops. These are all useful for avoiding obstacles such as traffic cones, piles of crates and stick-wielding gangsters. There are all sorts of bonuses to look out for, from wads of cash to turbo boosts to shortcuts.
In practice, the control system just doesn't hold up. The game fails to recognise your attempts to do jumps and dashes consistently enough. The steering feels sluggish and is also a hit-and-miss affair. The side-steps and kung fu moves are fiddly as they involve pressing the tiny shape buttons, often while trying to steer / jump / duck etc. The kung fu is redundant anyway as it's much easier to roundhouse by pressing the big old Move button.
Once the novelty of the game concept has worn off, which doesn't take long, the frustration caused by the controls really kicks in. Odd extras, such as a daft two-player mode that lets the other player interact with environmental objects, aren't enough to make up for it.
You might struggle on for a bit, consoling yourself with the fact that at least the tracks are quite dynamic and there are new vehicles to unlock, such as a pram and vacuum cleaner. And while the controls are fiddly, they don't render the game unplayable.
However, you'll probably be too blinded with rage at the fact you spent £30 on this game to even see the television. While it might have gotten away with being a novelty download title costing only a couple of quid, Kung Fu Rider feels like a rip-off at that price. It's short, shallow and fundamentally wonky, and no amount of wheely office chairs and wobbling buttocks can make up for that.