Fans of Harry Potter all issued a collective sob when the last book was over. That was it – no more adventures of their favorite young wizard. Fans of the movies probably had similar thoughts when that series finished, although I imagine the pain was much less because the books were about 100 times better. But it’s not over. The stories may be done, but now we can enter the wizarding world ourselves, thanks to the magic of video games.
The newest entry into the interactive Potter experience is the imaginatively-named Harry Potter for Kinect, due out next month. You’ll be joining Hogwarts, choosing your wand, going to class, casting spells, playing quidditch, and even scanning in your face for that ultra-realistic “I’m in the game” feel. I’ve had a brief go at some of the mini-games, based on events from the movies, and here’s what I thought:
Okay, so the first game is straight from book 1 (sorry, movie 1), and places you in the role of Gryffindor’s new seeker on their house quidditch team. The best way I could describe it is “Road Rash on a broomstick”. As you fly through the air along a pre-determined path, you must lean left and right to stay on course and avoid obstacles. Along the way, players on the other team fly close and you, in a very un-Harry-Potter-like manner, throw your arms out to punch them in the face. Yeah, that’s right, innocent young Harry throws his little fists into the jaws of his fellow sportsmen.
The game itself isn’t too bad – it’s mainly just leaning and punching, but you eventually encounter the fabled Golden Snitch and must reach out to grab it (thus winning the game). This part isn’t quite so great, as it involves accuracy (not the Kinect’s strong point), but once you catch it you can land victorious. My only real worry about this game is the distinct possibility that you’ll actually punch the person sitting next to you (something I almost did more than once). It may also ruin your impression that Harry Potter practices good sportsmanship.
The second game I played takes us forward by many years (All the way to book 7), and involves travelling through the mines of Gringotts bank. Again, you’ll be leaning left and right, this time to avoid flying off at corners, but you’ll also be jumping and ducking to avoid obstacles. It seems that the tracks are in need of some serious maintenance, as they are littered with debris and contain many missing sections.
This game was probably the best of the three – nothing we haven’t seen before, but still gives you a bit of a workout as you jump, duck, and lean back and forth to stay on course. Of course, you have to deal with the fact that jumping must be done half a second before you expect, but once you get used to that, it’s fairly simple to traverse the winding path.
The third game continues the 7th book, and sees you running across the burning bridge at Hogwarts as you escape from Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Once again, you’ll be leaning left and right (to avoid fiery pits) and jumping/ducking to dodge falling beams. This part is fine, but before long the camera sweeps behind you to show the Death Eater hot on your trail. You must now lift your wand and finally cast some magic.
This is where everything breaks down. The idea is to aim at your foe, then flick your arm up and down (no spell shouting, unfortunately) to cast a feeble Stupefy charm. Trying to aim while also flicking your arm just doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, but I imagine this is more a fault of the Kinect than the game. Even if you get the hang of battling one Death Eater, you soon have to deal with two at the same time, and attempting to aim back and forth between the two as they barrage you with much more powerful spells is a surefire ticket to frustrationville.
It’s a shame, really, as the Harry Potter story seems like an ideal fit for the Kinect – arm flailing, spell shouting, and things like that – but Harry Potter for Kinect just highlights the flaws inherent in the hardware: As long as you’re doing big gestures and motions, everything’s fine, but as soon as you need accuracy it all goes pear-shaped. Of course, this is meant to be a game for kids, and they’re a little less discerning, so It’ll probably sell plenty over the holiday season. I just hope it comes with a tiny pair of padded gloves, or I see many black eyes and split lips in the future….
Harry Potter For Kinect is Due out October 9th 2012. A demo is available now from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
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