If you’re still just pressing buttons to play video games, now you have another reason to get up off the couch and really get into the action of a video game.
This week, Sony’s PlayStation 3 continues the motion sensor video-gaming trend with its PlayStation Move (us.playstation.com). Move comes in a $100 bundle for people who already own the PlayStation 3, or $400 for the system and the bundle.
Nintendo helped spark this trend in 2006 with its Wii, a video-game console, which is played using remotes with built-in motion sensors. The Wii inspired all sorts of people to play video games—including some who never played one before—because its remotes weren’t intimidating and worked with gestures familiar to people, like swinging a tennis racket or rolling a bowling ball.
Sony’s PlayStation move takes this concept a step further. Its Move motion controller remote has three built-in sensors and a sphere on one end, making it look a bit like a microphone. The sphere’s position can be tracked in 3-D space by a camera called the PlayStation Eye, which plugs into the PlayStation 3 and sits atop your TV. This camera lets the PlayStation know how you’re moving the controller and where you’re holding it. Instead of a camera, the Wii uses a sensor bar that emits infrared signals detected by the Wii remote.
The Sony PlayStation Move bundle comes with a motion controller remote that has three built-in sensors and a sphere on one end, making it look a bit like a microphone.
Sony (SNE) claims these enhancements give PlayStation Move precision and accuracy, and for the most part, I found this to be true. I especially liked when virtual images of the equipment I was “using” appeared on the TV screen, which made it seem like I was actually holding a bat, sword or tennis racket. I was so engaged with the on-screen images, I almost forgot I had a controller in my hand.
My experiences with the Nintendo Wii, which costs $200 less than the PlayStation Move and PlayStation 3 combined, have always been enjoyable. I’ve found many of the Wii’s games to be approachable for almost anyone. Nintendo helped its cause a year ago when it brought out the Wii MotionPlus—a small accessory that plugs into the Wii remote to give its gestures added sensitivity; in my tests, it worked well. The Wii’s action will be enough for some not-so-serious video-game players not willing to pay more for another console.
The PlayStation Move will get some competition in November when Microsoft releases Kinect for the Xbox 360. This video-game console tracks body movements but doesn’t require a remote control. Instead, gestures like hand waves work to control games, making one’s entire body a sort of remote control.
I’m not a serious gamer. As always, this column is written for mainstream consumers and I tested PlayStation Move with those people in mind. I played games like table tennis and disc golf from the Sports Champions game that comes with the PlayStation Move bundle, as well as downloadable titles like a precision block-building game called Tumble.
I also played EyePet, a game that involves taking care of a creature by washing it, dressing it in stylish costumes and playing with it.
In games like Tumble, I found that the PlayStation Move motion-control remote generated precise movements such as the ability to tilt a cube exactly the way I wanted to get it to stand on a stack of five blocks—or in one case, accidentally cause the stack to crash to the ground. Likewise, while I played table tennis, I quickly figured out how a slight flick of my wrist could generate more spin on the ball in a way that felt more realistic than with the Nintendo Wii.
I was impressed by the detailed animation and scenes in the PlayStation Move games that I played. In disc golf, for example, I played against three opponents who each had their own set of unique celebration flips or dances. And the golf courses in the game showed trees and water hazards that looked pretty realistic. A special bird’s eye view followed my disc’s trajectory from the second I flicked the wrist holding my motion controller until it landed.
EyePet is especially fun—and not just for kids. I named my EyePet “Domino” and taught it to jump through a hoop that virtually appeared on-screen at the end of my remote. I gave Domino a “checkup” by turning the motion controller into an X-ray-like device. This told me his brain needed a boost of creativity but his heart was happy.
There are currently 15 games that will work with PlayStation Move and a spokesman for Sony says 15 additional games will be available by the holiday season. The average price for these games is $40, though downloadable games cost less, including the $10 Tumble.
The $100 PlayStation Move bundle has the motion controller, PlayStation Eye camera and a game called Sports Champions, which includes disc golf, gladiator dual, archery, beach volleyball, bocce and table tennis.
The PlayStation Eye camera can track four controllers at once, though some games—like Start the Party—are designed to let people pass their controllers from one person to the next. Other webcams can’t be substituted for the PlayStation Eye to use with the PlayStation 3.
A $20 shooting attachment fits over the controller and makes it look and act like a handgun. This can be used in first-person shooter games like Killzone 3, due out in February, as well as in arcade shooter types of games like The Shoot, available in October. (I didn’t get these games in time to test them.)
If you already own a PlayStation 3, you’ll enjoy the added precision and fun that the $100 PlayStation Move bundle offers. But for casual gamers who don’t want to spend so much, the less expensive Nintendo’s Wii will probably suffice.