Feature review: PlayStation Move

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to these new-fangled gaming peripherals. It’s not that they aren’t good ideas with some great potential, but few developers seem to want to use them. The first deluge of titles made specifically for the device comes along and then it kind of fades into obscurity. Who can remember the Activator for the Megadrive? The Mega-mouse? Just about every light gun peripheral ever made? How about the Eye Toy?

Although, to be honest, these peripherals were very, very limited in their applications, and when the Wii came along, it showed us that unusual controllers can be implemented in in-depth games. The PS3’s latest and greatest new-fangled device has just been released, the PlayStation Move. At first glance, it looks a blatant rip-off of Nintendos’s Wii controller. You sort of point it at the screen and move it around to control the action. But after a while, it becomes apparent that the PlayStation Move is more than just a Wiimote for the PS3; it’s something new altogether.

After hooking up the PlayStation Eye and synching the Move controller like any other PS3 controller, it would probably be best to go through the disc that contains helpful instructions on how to use the PlayStation Move. There are two main buttons: the big Move button on the top, and the trigger-like T button underneath. The PS3 XMB menus can be easily navigated by holding down the T button and sweeping the controller from side to side and up and down. It takes a bit of getting used to at first. Around the Move button are the standard PS3 face buttons, X, triangle, Circle and Square, and the Start and Select buttons can be found on the side.

The Move Navigation Controller, which is not included in the standard Move package.

Once you’ve got this down, you’ll probably want to get busy swinging the thing around. The PlayStation Move instruction disc comes with a bunch of demos for upcoming products that you can install and play to get an idea of what you’d like. Easily the most impressive of the lot is Tumble, a game centred solely around building towers from blocks made of different materials – or knocking them down. The reason it’s so impressive is because it demonstrates all of the Move’s capabilities at once: The pointer-sensing, the motion-sensing, the tilt-sensing and the depth-sensing. Picture this: you have a bunch of blocks made out of wood, glass, rubber, steel and so on. There’s full physics calculation going on too, so you want to be careful about stacking the heavier blocks at key locations. You pick up blocks by pointing at them with the Move controller and holding down a button to grab them. Once you’re holding a block you can move it up, down, left, right and – and here’s what makes it impressive – forwards and backwards by moving the controller towards and away from the screen. And it’s every accurate too. Doing this, you stack the blocks one on top of the other (carefully) to create tall towers. But just in case you’re not impressed enough, sometimes you have to actually tilt blocks at odd angles to move them through specifically-shaped holes – like, say, a rectangular hole at a diagonal angle. What you need to do is pick up a rectangular block, flip it around until you’re holding it correctly, and then tilt the Move controller as if you were holding the block in your hand to move it through the hole. You can’t understand how impressive it is until you try it yourself.

The second best demo on the disc is Beat Sketcher, a game where players draw on the screen using the Move controller. What makes it so impressive is that it demonstrates how ridiculously accurate the Move controller’s optical sensing is. Now, if you’re a Wii owner of if you’ve ever used the PS3’s Guncon for Time Crisis 4, you know that the pointer sensing in those gadgets is pretty damn accurate, but there’s still a slight little bit of discrepancy there – a discrepancy that is completely absent with the Move, probably because it’s purely optical rather than infra-red or whatever the Wii and Guncon use. The big rubber ball on the end up the Move controller is sensed by the PlayStation Eye, so it can determine its position exactly. With the Wii controller and the Guncon, the sensor is in your hand and is constantly changing its position and orientation, which results in that tiny bit of inaccuracy. With the Move, the sensor is the PlayStation Eye camera, which is completely stationary and the difference in accuracy is noticeable, especially when you play Beat Sketcher. You can make the lines of your brush as thin as you want and still get them to line up perfectly. So give it a try and write those four letter words on the screen – we know you’re going to.

Other demos include all kinds of small games like sports titles, shooting games and other bizarre mini-titles that are little more than demos of the technology. One full game I did receive was Kung Fu Rider, which is clearly the product of a damaged mind. The premise is that you’re playing a Chinese businessman, or his sexy female assistant, trying to escape from the mob by racing through the streets on office chairs, vacuum cleaners, baby strollers, and so on. While riding, you can do tricks and perform Kung Fu moves to dispatch the henchmen. It’s probably one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen, but it’s fiendishly addictive and uses all of the Move controller’s functions at once.

So that’s basically it so far. The Move has arrived with a bunch of entertaining games which prove that the technology is impressive and offers more capabilities than our current options. All that remains to be seen is whether or not game designers at large will pick up the technology and start producing full, in-depth games for it.