The savior of the Kinect hasn’t been found since Harry Potter for Kinect is simply an okay game that will clearly please its target audience of children. Some control issues are present such as certain motions not being picked up or taking too long to register in addition to endless pantomime wand waving becoming old over time. Even with those obvious and ever apparent issues, Harry Potter Kinect manages to provide some consistent entertainment partly because the production values are surprisingly good for a licensed based game, especially a Kinect one. Longtime Harry Potter fans probably won’t be amazed by this new Kinect effort, but it is a valiant effort nonetheless.
+ The essence of Harry Potter is captured from top to bottom in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
+ This may be a licensed game, but the production values are surprisingly high.
+ Playing the game is easy most of the time so it’s a perfect game for younger gamers.
- The "best of" nature of the game presents an odd flow to things since the finer points of the film/book narrative and even certain scenarios are lost in the shuffle.
- Once again we have a Kinect game that isn’t perfect since certain movement commands don’t register properly.
- Occasional difficulty spikes are somewhat odd and annoying.
- Being able to put your face on an original character is cool, but it looks a bit creepy in a zombie/wearing a face mask sort of way.
It may seem like Warner Bros. is beating a dead horse at this point by not letting a franchise bow out gracefully. I’m of course referring to how we’re still receiving Harry Potter video games despite being almost a year removed from the final chapter of the Harry Potter film franchise. For ten long years gamers had to withstand some rather uneven Harry Potter games via Electronic Arts and now Warner Bros. is trying their hand by directly publishing the new wizard based video games. So does that mean things have improved in the quality department or is it merely more of the same old stuff?
There are a lot of things one can still do with the Harry Potter franchise especially when it comes to creating video games. We may have gone through the motions by having a game for each movie, but there’s always the possibility of doing something courageous by creating a spin-off/prequel or perhaps doing a video game that is directly modeled after the books rather than the films. With that said, what we have now from WB Interactive is the rather unlikely and unexpected game that is Harry Potter Kinect; a title which proves that aimlessly waving your hand like a wand isn’t that much fun.
I’m not a die-hard Harry Potter fan by any means since I don’t own a Gryffindor scarf, I only read the first three books, and I haven’t partook into any debates as to my feelings concerning Ron shacking up with Hermione. But I have always enjoyed the film series since it delivered some nice visuals and it was something different amidst all the other action movies we received. I have the same attitude when it came to the Harry Potter games, despite not many of them being truly great, since doing a bit of good old fashioned wizardry can be fun – even if it amounts to adopting the formula of a 3rd person shooter.
With Harry Potter Kinect we have a game that is trying to do various things such as being one final ode to the films while also providing fun for youngsters since the game is incredibly far off from being catered to the core crowd. Instead of going in a new direction with the series, Harry Potter Kinect simply recounts the eight years Harry and company spent at Hogwarts and all the adventures they had, whether it’s coming across a troll in a bathroom or battling an army of Death Eaters in a last stand battle. The premise of Harry Potter Kinect is decent but it doesn’t exactly translate to an incredible gaming experience for quite a few reasons.
The fact we actually have a Kinect based Harry Potter game may seem odd and entirely unnecessary, though it doesn’t seem as forced or silly as seeing the series go the karting route with a super deformed Voldemort sending spells to have Harry’s vehicle spin out of control – in an evil an dastardly fashion mind you. Being a gamer that is rather skeptical of most Kinect games I went into Harry Potter Kinect with an open mind and for that I enjoyed things up to a point.
As I mentioned earlier, the game recounts Harry’s time at Hogwarts in a way that can be described as a Best Of collection. With each school year having three to four games, Harry Potter Kinect isn’t exactly brimming with lots of content despite there being variety in the games, which to be honest amount to nothing more than mini-games since they can completed in five minute tops. Things start off rather easily since I, as Harry or one of his friends such as Hermione, had to do things such as pass portions class or do a brief wizard duel, but then things are ramped up by having to pass the Tri-Wizard Cup and eventually face Lord Voldemort himself. For what the game tries to do, I was impressed with how easy the games were based on their accompanying Kinect motions which ranged from doing a bit of hand waving, kicking, or side stepping to avoid an oncoming obstacle.
Harry enters the Chamber of Secrets
The problem which quickly arises with Harry Potter Kinect is that there just isn’t a whole lot to the game. Many of the mini-games really don’t push things in the difficulty department since everything is straightforward. Most of the time I either had to clear an obstacle, wave my hand crazily to shoot some spells, etc. The linearity of the games may be expected since it’s a Kinect title, but things never really became thrilling since everything is so simplistic and the actual length of the games are so short that no real momentum is ever gained. This problem leads the game to having a rather brisk pace since I was already in Harry’s 3rd year at Hogwarts in less than half an hour, a feat that I did without any wizard based trickery.
Developer Eurocom did devise some nice mini-games within Harry Potter Kinect as most of them captured the essence of the series and didn’t feel too forced when adapting a particular scene into an interactive experience. There’s a certain familiarity within a few of the games such as the potions class and wizard duels, but besides that everything else is standout in what’s being given aside from the mechanics being familiar as I often found myself doing lots of sidestepping and hand flailing to cast spells. The way the mechanics are handled ultimately provides one of the better Kinect experiences, but as to be expected my motions weren’t perfectly captured in a 1:1 fashion. The core movement of spell casting is fine, as long as you don’t want to land accurate shots consistently, but certain abilities such as jumping, and tilting my upper body to turn my character around resulted in either a slow response time or not being picked up at all in the case of jumping.
It’s kind of a shame that things weren’t fleshed out more within Harry Potter Kinect since what’s presented isn’t that half bad when compared to things such as the last two Harry Potter games Electronic Arts gave us. The production values for the game are consistent across the board as it seemed like Eurocom didn’t simply tune it in to deliver a half-assed licensed product. Harry and the key characters from the movies are modeled accurately and the world as a whole looks detailed in all the right places instead of being barren or obviously low-poly.
A simple potions class
The scope of each location/level in the game may be limited since it’s simply one locale for the particular mission. But even then I was impressed with the fidelity of everything and how it was accurately modeled after what was represented in the film instead of having that slightly off look found in some movie based video games. I would’ve preferred some better acting from the stand-in actors, this time out none of the cast returned to reprise their roles, but thankfully nothing is too excruciating to listen to seeing as how the cutscenes are extremely brief and are oddly enough light on dialog.
Besides the mini-games feeling similar to one another thanks to the same body motions being involved, some nice creative choices are made as far as conveying thematic tones since one mission had me suddenly playing as Snape in his brief duel with Harry at the end of The Half Blood Prince. Aside from keeping things as loyal as possible when it came to the missions, nice touches are present such as the how flashbacks, the various mini-games, are accessed via Dumbledore’s Pensive as well as the office of the former Hogwarts headmaster serving as the main menu with various callbacks to the series being present.
Some nice supplementary content is featured in the game as certain mini-games such as portions class, tending to baby mandrakes, or doing duels are available to play in separate modes. Not a lot of mileage will be gained through those bonus modes, but one interesting feature is that I was able to create a “custom” Harry Potter adventure. Instead of following the events of the film, I was able to take the role of Harry and using the power of the Kinect I took of a picture of my face which was then digitized within the game. It’s a nice feature that will probably make kids flip out since they can be “in” the world of Hogwarts, but the face texture looks a bit off – almost in a way similar to looking at a wax figure from Madame Tussauds; you’ll recognize who it is but there’s simply something off putting about it.
Me transformed as a young wizard, with a slightly creepy look.
As good as the production values may be and as strong as the game holds up even with some Kinect oddities present, things feel uneven since it’s basically a best of collection. I was totally fine with the premise of the game and I’m sure most Harry Potter fans will be as well, though things feel a bit abrupt and uneven since key events come and go with next to little story development.
Obviously going into Harry Potter Kinect most people playing the game will know what happens within the narrative, but glossing things over such as the death of Sirius Black and only reference it slightly via a narrated loading screen just seemed odd to me and it ultimately creates an experience that feels slightly jumbled. Perhaps going a different route with the game may have resulted in a better experience, especially if some thought was put into how to pad the length of each school year/movie while offering up a few more missions and in turn focusing on more narrative strands that are just left unseen or not even mentioned.
Being a game that’s clearly meant to appeal to young gamers as opposed to older gamers, I think Harry Potter Kinect succeeds as far presenting a decent experience that’s easy to get into and looks good in the process. With Kinect sensing problems present through some wonky wand and movement control, Harry Potter Kinect isn’t a perfect experience especially when one takes into account how short the mini-games are and how disconnected they seem at times. I doubt hardcore Harry Potter fans will find themselves once again captivated by the action presented in the game, but the faithful depiction of everything results in an admirable efforts that simply has a few obvious blemishes.