The say the third time is the charm, but can Harry make it the fourth time too? by Cole Smith
November 25, 2005 – I hope I don’t have to explain who Harry Potter is. If I do, I won’t. Query it on Google and come back later.
Here we are with the fourth Harry Potter videogame, just in time for the Holidays. Talk about milking a cash cow. Just how much money does this lady need? I’m talking about creator J.K. Rowling, who I confuse with Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien, and Judas Priest guitarist, K.K. Downing.
In the latest movie, and book, the Harry Potter gang is approaching young adulthood. As a result the subject matter has become somewhat darker. (I’m sure you’ve heard everyone say this). It’s probably in retaliation to all those over-zealous religious morons that condemned the series for promoting witchcraft and Satanism. Don’t get me started…don’t even get me started….
I do like the series and although I haven’t read any of the books I’ve seen the movies. I guess I’m just “a fan” and not a ‘freaking freak fan.” In any case I’m also a gamer and that gives me license to work a little magic of my own on the Harry Potter license. Let me begin by informing you that the gameplay is very straightforward and simplified. It falls under the category of an interactive movie. It’s linear and it moves along at a quick pace buffered by cutscenes that keep the storyline central to the gameplay. The game follows the plot of the movie, which is tailor-made for a videogame in my opinion, but manages to elaborate on situations to extend the gameplay without resorting to filler.
Lord Voldemort captures Harry with the aid of the ghostly Death Eaters. He explains that Harry’s mother died trying to save him but cast a spell that backfired on Voldemort. With the aid of a magic elixir he has been able to remain alive and with the aid of the Death Eaters he will attempt to exact revenge. Things look pretty grim for Harry and his gang. I’m sure this movie will scare the bejesus out of a lot of kids.
Harry is also selected to take part as a contestant in the TriWizard Tournament which sees him perform a variety of tasks which require his developing warlock skills. He will have to fight a dragon, ride his broomstick through trying conditions, save his friends from danger and make his way through a giant labyrinth. It all makes for a great movie but if you’ve already seen it, you might be disappointed by how basic these missions are adapted for gameplay.
It’s fun to relive the movie and that’s about all you’re going to get out of this when all is said and done. The linear nature of the gameplay ensures that you will be forced into the various scenes as the director and developer intended. The puzzles and mini-games are fun but they are like eating candy floss; there’s not much nourishment.
You can play as any of the three characters, Harry, Hermione or Ron. When you switch among them the AI will take over. The other characters do tend to get in the way and they’re not particularly brilliant when it comes to doing the right thing. The levels that just feature Harry are the most fun in the single-player mode.
Much of the combat is button mashing. While it feels good to be empowered thusly it takes the challenge out of the game. To make things even more condescending, the spells that you acquire are automatically loaded for you depending on the situation. When you need to levitate something, the levitation spell is automatically chosen for you. You don’t have the ability to make these decisions nor can you combine spells to create more complex hybrids. Unless all you want to do is get through this game as quickly as possible, these features aren’t doing anyone any favors.
It may be interesting to play the three-player co-op mode, as it’s certainly more rewarding than having the AI take over the other characters. It plays out like a dumbed-down version of Gauntlet but if you’ve got two pals over at your house and you’re looking for something to do for a few hours you could certainly find a worse time waster.
The locations look great. You’ll get to visit many of them although you don’t have the total freedom of 3D exploration. The colors are vibrant and the characters are well rendered with fluid animation. You can’t control the camera angles and you’ll be subjected to occasional leaps of faith and offscreen hits from enemies. Particle effects are put to good use during spell castings with great lighting and animated effects. The music is perfect for the game and the voiceacting is decent.
I would recommend renting this game for a weekend. Although there are a lot collectibles to gather you may not care to replay the game just to compulsively collect everything. The rewards are just not worth the effort in my opinion. Otherwise it’s a good revisiting of the movie or novel.
- All the Magic of the Movie – The magical world of Harry Potter comes to life with in-game characters that look like their big-screen counterparts, cinematic environments, captivating gameplay, and a compelling interactive experience.
- Bigger, Better Magic – Explore the game’s all-new spell-casting system, unleashing powerful spells to become a master of magic.
- Co-operative Play – In another first for the franchise, join forces with friends to navigate the world of Harry Potter, combining powers and casting spells co-operatively to create more powerful magic.
- Compelling Rewards System – Increase the power of Harry, Ron, and Hermione with collector’s and Creature Cards.
By Cole Smith
CCC Staff Writer