When you're a spellcaster in training, every monster in the realm wants a chance to knock you down a peg. But as you learn in Sorcery, a lone goblin is no match for a mighty sorcerer, even one who's still a boy. So hundreds of ill-tempered meanies flood the screen as they attempt to overwhelm you with sheer numbers. And this is where Sorcery stumbles. Tactics have little place in these frustrating encounters because you're too busy frantically flinging spells in order to simply survive. Delightful visual design and in-depth alchemy can't overcome the tedium of sinking hours into waggling at an army of evil beings. Poorly balanced fighting scenarios transform Sorcery from an enchanting adventure into a grueling ordeal.
An apprentice without a master has to grow up in a hurry. You play as Finn, an eager boy who has the ability to shoot spells from his handy wand. You team up with a talking cat named Erline in search of your master, who has mysteriously disappeared. Although the story does little to draw you into this world, the whimsical artistic design does a great job of establishing a happy-go-lucky mood. Idyllic forests give way to treacherous underground caverns as you uncover the secret behind your mentor's fate, and though the locales present typical fairy-tale landscapes, there's a feeling of merriment that stays with you no matter how dark the story becomes.
Things start out nicely enough. Using the Move to control your wand and the Navigation Controller to run around, you seamlessly transform sheep to rats with the flick of your wrist. Spells travel in the direction you snap your wand. Although the precision you would get from a point-and-click interface is absent, it's easy enough to aim high or low, left or right, or even send a curving shot flying toward an ice troll's head.
It's when you enter into fights that things take a turn for the worse. Using strategy is mighty difficult when dozens of nasty buggers are rushing toward you. Aggressive goblins and hounding spiders threaten to smother you in a sea of grotesqueries, and you need to shake your arm as quickly as possible to keep these creatures at bay. You might think that inane waggling is only an option, but sadly that's not the case; it's a necessity. Some enemies have regenerating health, so if you hit them once without following up immediately with another strike, they go back to full strength. This baffling design decision, coupled with the unending mass of monsters constantly pursuing you, leads to tiring encounters that go on long after the entertainment has subsided.
A poor camera adds further obstacles to your enjoyment. Tapping a button centers the view behind Finn, but automatic shifts hinder your ability to see your enemies. Wrestling the camera to get a good look at the action accentuates the already problematic battles. Finishing off a foe before it regenerates health is tricky enough without the beast leaving your line of sight. Auto-targeting should alleviate this issue, but it only makes the problem worse. The game isn't smart enough to know which enemy you want to attack, so your spell automatically tracks tiny spiders swarming around a giant troll's feet instead of letting you freeze the huge beast's head, even when you're aiming as high as possible.
Thankfully, the motion controls at least do what they should most of the time. There are some issues, such as clunky switching between spells, but they're not a big hindrance. What is a problem are the traditional controls. There are separate buttons for using a shield and diving out of the way, but there are times when you tap them during key moments only to have nothing happen onscreen. Other times, you get caught in an inescapable string of knockback attacks in which none of your actions can free you from the misery. Most baffling of all is how healing is implemented. You're not blessed with regenerating health like your enemies. Instead, you have to quaff potions. It's a fine idea, but it doesn't work in practice. Shaking the bottle and then bringing it to your lips while hounding enemies surround you is impractical, and having your drinking animation interrupted whenever you're touched is downright maddening.
All of these problems come to a head in tedious boss encounters. These ordeals stretch on for dozens of minutes, and it takes all of your concentration to come out on top. Despite the peaceful aesthetics, this is a difficult, punishing game that doesn't give you an inch. When a troll tosses a boulder, you'd think that diving out of the way would keep you safe. But that happens only a fraction of the time. Poor collision detection ensures you take damage even when you jumped clear well before contact, and it's incredibly easy to be caught on the environment as you run backward to avoid taking further hits. And if you should die during one of these boss battles, you have to start over at the very beginning of the fight.
Despite the myriad issues, Sorcery does have some interesting combat elements. As you become a stronger wizard, you learn new spells, and these add layers of complexity to combat. Conjure an electrical cloud to zap your enemies into oblivion, or send a ripple of earth their way with a shimmering ground strike. Mixing spells even gives you opportunities to dispose of your foes creatively. A twister can gobble up a fairy or two in a pinch, but those prancing fools will scream bloody murder if you set that storm on fire. Or freeze a spider in place and shatter it into a million pieces with a concussive blast. These clever combat mechanics add a dose of excitement to the normally monotonous duels.
Most of Sorcery is composed of tedious combat encounters, but there are side activities that provide some enjoyment. Light puzzle solving introduces new ways to use your powers, and it's certainly empowering to fix a broken bridge or toss a giant pillar aside like a sack of grain. Alchemy is an optional though surprisingly in-depth activity. By combining ingredients you find hidden throughout the world, you can concoct all sorts of potions. Some provide a permanent increase to your health or magical might, while others have a temporary negative effect. Mixing and matching to find all the combinations is a nice distraction from the aggravating combat. In some sections, you transform into a rat to slink through tight passages. Although these are mildly fun, the places you change into a bird are noninteractive cutscenes which is a disappointment.
Sorcery's biggest flaw is that it focuses on the tiresome combat. Considering how strong the other elements are, it's disappointing that you spend the vast majority of the game frantically waggling just to stay alive. It's simply not fun to have your view blocked, your attacks interrupted, and your wrist ache as you try to squash an angry crowd of enemies. Sorcery fumbles its impressive potential by favoring mindless combat over the other enjoyable activities a boy wizard can take part in.