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Medieval Moves preview: Sporty skeleton

Justin McElroy

One of my biggest surprises during PAX Prime 2011 was a game I almost decided not to play.

Time is limited at these events, so when I was presented with a swath of choices at Sony's corner of the show at the nearby Grand Hyatt, I had to be shrewd. Starhawk? Sure! Journey! You bet. Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest? Ehh ...

Boy, am I glad I took a chance on this one, because slashing, guarding and shooting as the diminutive skeleton was some of the most fun I had all weekend.

Gallery: Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest (PS3) | 8 Photos

If you're a longtime Move owner, here is what's going to make Medieval Moves click for you: It's basically Sports Champions. Not only is it made by the same developer (Zindagi Games) but its main mechanics crib from the best modes of the PlayStation Move launch title.

Presented on rails in a sort of hybrid 1st/3rd-person view, players control skeleton prince Deadmund as he attempts to rescue his kingdom. The main tools in his arsenal are his sword and shield, basically in a tweaked version of Sports Champions' already enjoyable gladitorial combat. It was fun before, but cutting through boatloads of enemies instead of just dueling one is a whole lot more engaging. (By the way, the sword and shield can be used with one Move controller, toggling between the two with a button press, but it felt clunky to me and certainly not the way it was designed to be played.)

If you need to take out a distant enemy, you need only reach behind your back with the right Move controller and pluck out an arrow. Then draw it back with that same hand, using the left hand to aim. Again, similar to Sports Champions, but when the targets are throwing explosive barrels back at you, you'll be surprised at how much more exciting it is.

Of course, not every mechanic is lifted from Zindagi's last release. Flicking the Move controllers will let you toss a flurry of throwing stars and by upending the right Move controller above my mouth and miming a chugging motion, I could drink a life-restoring bottle of milk. (What? ... Oh, because the calcium makes for healthy bones, naturally.)

It's tough to say if the fun I had was born from novelty or solid design, but I can't deny I was enjoying myself. From the satisfying feel of dicing up enemies to the fluid on-the-fly weapon selection, it's one of those games that just works.

As we near the fall, there's every chance that Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest will be drowned out by the steady stream of AAA titles pouring on to shelves. But if it manages to stay as consistently enjoyable as the 15 minutes I played at PAX, it may be worth throwing this little guy a bone.

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