STAFF REVIEW of Harry Potter for Kinect (Xbox 360)

Monday, December 10, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Harry Potter for Kinect Box art Eurocom seems to have been busy these past few years. Most known for their last to Bond game offerings: Goldeneye 007: Reloaded and 007 Legends, they’ve now switched to a completely different franchise and bring us Harry Potter for Kinect. Harry Potter for Kinect attempts to condense eight full length Harry Potter films into a collection of roughly thirty minigame sequences.

As you’ll be reenacting most of the pivotal scenes in the Harry Potter lore, you’ll do everything from brewing potions, flying on your broomstick in a Quidditch match, fight against Dementors, battle the great Bassilisk, shove your want up a trolls nose, and even have a showdown against he who must not be named. Each minigame plays different from one another, which means you’ll have to learn new controls for most of the games. With no overall control scheme encompassing the whole package, some of the younger people trying to play may become confused early on as each minigame only lasts two or three minutes tops.

As the game generally follows the main plotlines of the movies, you’ll begin with having to choose a wand (well, actually the wand chooses you) as you get ready for your first year at Hogwarts. You’ll participate in all they key moments from the films, but if you’re like me and haven’t seen the movie in quite a few years and have forgotten much of the story, you’ll still feel lost while playing Harry Potter for Kinect. A big problem with the game is that it assumes you know everything there already is to know about the Harry Potter universe as it doesn’t do a good job at telling the story in any way and simply hops from sequence to sequence. Sure the game attempts to tell a story between games during loading, but a still picture from the movie and a brief sentence about what’s going on doesn’t really do the story justice at all. It really felt like you were being rushed through the books as quickly as possible assuming you already knew all the details that fit between the story gaps. For the huge Harry Potter fans this won’t be much of an issue, but for someone that’s not privy to all the Harry Potter knowledge, there’s little to no explanation of the storyline.

As you progress through each year of Hogwarts, you’ll control multiple characters from the films throughout such as Harry (obviously), Ron, Hermione, Snape, Dumbledore, among others. Surprisingly, they look very true to their movie counterparts and were instantly recognizable, even for the casual fan of the movies like myself. If you want to pretend to be your own wizard though, that is now an option with Kinect’s face scanning technology. You can scan your face (or any object you hold up to the camera really) and then play with that avatar throughout the game. Be warned though, while the game says it’ll put your face in the game, you’ll end up looking more disturbing than Voldemort himself. The face scan technology may ‘work’ but it’s far from being accurate and you’ll end up looking as much as a troll as the ones in the game.

While some of the minigames aren’t terribly exciting, such as mixing potions or in a pottery class dealing with wailing Mandrakes, the best part of the controller-free experience though has to be casting spells. Not only do you need to wave your hand as if you’re swiping your wand but you also can shout out the spell names just as the wizards of Hogwarts do. At first it seems silly having to shout out spell names at the TV, but once you get the hang of it and the arm motions it becomes second nature. Once you get over the hurdle of looking and sounding silly it can be quite entertaining. The younger players should love this feature. For some of the other games you’ll be jumping, ducking, dodging, and much more to make you work up a sweat. Oddly, in the parts where you have to jump over obstacles, your character will almost ‘float’, making it look very odd.

The overall difficulty of the game is quite low, though there were two or three sequences I had to play a few times as there were huge spikes in difficulty randomly throughout. Oddly enough, the “bosses” weren’t even the difficult sections which was more frustrating, knowing that the ‘easy’ sections were the ones I was having troubles with. It wasn’t due to poor Kinect controls either, each minigame gives you a set amount of times you can get hit before failing, and while the default number is usually more than enough, only being able to get hit five times on the section near the end when you have to cross the burning bridge was nowhere near enough.

You’ll want to play Harry Potter for Kinect in very short spurts when you simply want to kill ten or twenty minutes between other games. The reason for this is that there is very little replay value (even more so if you don’t have a friend to play co-op with) once you complete your first playthrough. I actually finished the game’s main mode in one standing, and granted, you do unlock variations of levels (like new potions to brew and wizards to duel against) as you progress, it is more of the same and will only entertain you for a short period. The game feels more like an interactive story rather than a fully-fledged title and even I noticed that the original voice cast wasn’t included, so things will sound quite off to the true Harry Potter fans. While most of the voice acting is passable, some of the characters gave truly terrible performances and many lines are constantly repeated during the sequences.

Normally licensed games like this either have poor controls (especially for a Kinect game) or are rushed to make it out on time; I can’t really see why this was released. The movies have been out for quite a while and while I will give it kudos for including split screen multiplayer, multiple difficulties, and a bunch of unlockables, it won’t mean a thing unless you are on top of your Harry Potter movie knowledge. The game tries to get you involved in the Harry Potter lore and relive what you’ve seen in the movies, but if you’re not a huge Harry Potter fan you won’t have a clue what is going on or why with its poor storytelling and pacing.

Some might find the constantly changing controls per minigame refreshing but I can imagine how frustrating it will be for the younger audience who starts to grasp the controls and does well only to have the next minigame play completely different than the last. The spell casting is fun though since every minigame doesn’t use those controls; it’s sporadic when you get to pretend to be a powerful wizard rather than flailing your arms about. I’m very glad to say that the game doesn’t suffer from broken and frustrating controls like many other Kinect titles, quite the opposite in fact; the problem Harry Potter for Kinect suffers from the most though is that it becomes tiresome very quickly and simply put, isn’t really all that fun outside of a handful of minigames. Huge Harry Potter fans will overlook its shortcomings but the rest of us Muggles should stay far away and hope we can cast the Protego spell.

Overall: 4.3 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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