16 Jan, 2006

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Review

PSP Review | Does the fire still burn?
When Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released in the cinemas late last year it was a completely different movie to its three predecessors. Harry and his friends (Hermoine and Ron) had to do a lot of growing up, and the movie was a lot darker. Like the movie, the game has done a lot of growing up, and rather than focus on basic tasks like exploring and collecting, the Goblet of Fire game features a lot more action and defence. The Harry Potter games have been improving ever since EA first took over the license, but is The Goblet of Fire any good or are EA simply fooling us muggles?

As you would expect, the game follows everything that happens during the movie. The book (which had over 600 pages) has had to be cut down to fit into movie format; which has resulted in some omissions from the storyline. Unfortunately this means the game has also been cut down as well, which is a little disappointing for Potter fans as it would have been good to experience some moments that were omitted from the movies. In the movie, Hogwarts plays host to the Triwizard tournament, where one student from Hogwarts and two visiting schools are elected to participate in three tasks. The three wizards are chosen by the Goblet of Fire, which is a magically binding contract and even though three wizards have been chosen; Harry Potter's name rises out of the goblet at the last minute, leading many to suspect he had somehow put his own name into the goblet.

A broomstick is so much cheaper than a car

A broomstick is so much cheaper than a car
The PSP version is virtually identical to the console counterparts. The PSP version is missing the prefects bathroom, but the rest of the game is identical. The PSP version does feature three mini games, that utilise the gameshare feature. This means that if only one person owns the game, the other players can still play multiplayer. There are three mini games, which include a time attack and a basic snap game. Although the mini games aren't extremely fun; we're always pleased when a game utilises gameshare. We would have liked to have seen some co-op includes though, so all players could play through a level if they all owned a copy of the game.

As you progress through the game, players collect Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. The beans are dropped by enemies or given to you when you defeat creatures. The beans are used to buy cards and the cards power-up each player. This helps to add a small element of depth to the game. The cards have a lot of variety as well, some cards increase the power of your jinxes, whereas others give you more power for your spells. Each character is only allowed to use three cards per mission though, which does encourage you to switch between characters. The primary gameplay element in the game though is to collect triwizard shields. The shields are collected in numerous ways; ranging from defeating a boss to just finding the hidden one in each level. As you collect a shield later levels are unlocked for you to play, there are other items in the game to collect as well, but the main focus always remains on collecting the triwizard shields.

Even though the gameplay is a lot darker, it is still a little too basic for our liking. The buttons are context sensitive, which means that you'll often solve a problem just by pressing the one button. It's also not possible to to choose which spells to cast at specific times. The spells are automatically selected by the game which means that a lot of the work is done by the game. There is a lot of variety in the missions though, the game includes boss battles, action sequences and puzzle solving areas. The variety in the gameplay is some of the best we've seen in a Harry Potter title yet.

Die spiders

Die spiders
There are also some issues with the gameplay that may irritate some people though. The two characters that you don't play as are controlled by the computer, and the AI is mediocre at best. At times the players will get stuck behind objects, or run into danger. The game does centre a lot around combined spell casting and at times the computer can take a lot longer than you'd hope to combine with your player to cast a spell, which is extremely frustrating. The camera can also be a bit of an issue at times as well. The camera is fixed and sometimes it will get in the way of the action. There is no way to manually override the camera so at times you just have to run around and hope the camera will switch to a viewpoint that is a bit more helpful.

Graphically the game is impressive for a handheld title. There are some good effects, although we did experience some slowdown during certain parts of the game when the action intensified. The spell effects are a highlight, and when the characters are performing a combined cast it is very impressive. The cut-scenes are remarkably disappointing though; it seems like EA haven't learnt how to render the characters properly, and as such they look extremely blocky when the camera zooms in. It's really disappointing that no movie footage has been used in the game though. The lack of movie footage also means that the storyline would be hard to follow if you haven't seen the movie or read the book.

The sound is nothing special, but it doesn't become repetitive, it just plays in the background and becomes intense when things heat up a little. The spells and creature effects are relatively standard though. It appears a lot more work was put into the music for the cutscenes and for the menus; as this music sounds a bit better.

The single player adventure should take about seven to ten hours to go through, although there is a lot of back tracking at times; which may annoy some people. The multiplayer games are supposed to extend the lifespan of the game; but the games aren't really that exciting so they aren't likely to hold your attention for more than ten minutes. Once you've played through the game once there is no reason to return to the game either.

Combined spell casting is essential to solving puzzles

Combined spell casting is essential to solving puzzles
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a kids game, as such it is relatively basic, although the experience is a lot darker than in previous games. There is a lot more variety in the gameplay than in previous titles, but the game often does a lot of the work for you. The card collecting aspect of the game certainly does add to the experience though. Hardcore fans of the Harry Potter series are likely to enjoy the game, it just isn't as deep as we'd hoped; however, it is a step in the right direction for the series.
The Score
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire isn't as deep as we'd hoped and there are a few issues like the camera and basic gameplay elements. Hardcore fans of the series are likely to enjoy the game; but other gamers may want to play a deeper action game.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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