Review by scarlet_puppy
"This game is about as fun as being hit by the Expelliarmus spell."
Like quite a few people, I'm a big fan of Harry Potter. The books were, without spoiling anything, brilliant and for me nearly impossible t put down. The films weren't as good, but they were still decent, and better than some books based on movies have been. As can be expected from such a popular set of books and films, a video game has been released based on the film which was based on the fourth book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now, games based on films generally aren't very good. There are some exceptions to this rule, but this game isn't one of them.
If you've read the book or seen the film, then you'll know how the story goes. If you haven't, then I won't spoil the story for you. Overall, it's laid out reasonably well here: there are sections before each level with pictures and text telling you what's going on, and it gets the message across fairly clearly. Normally, I'd prefer actual cut scenes to story book telling, but since this is the DS we're talking about, it doesn't matter all that much.
The gameplay is, at its core, fairly simple. Basically, what you do is that you go through ten levels, and for most of those levels what you do is run around as one of the three main characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione), with the others following, and you have to defeat enemies and solve puzzles in order to get to the next level. Each character has slightly different stats regarding their abilities, but in-game it makes very little difference overall. To start with, the gameplay isn't too bad, however, as you play through several major problems will begin to surface. For a start, the gameplay gets repetitive very quickly. Sure, running around blasting crates is OK the first time, but when you have to do that over and over again it starts to get extremely boring. In addition, you only have two buttons for spells, and since you have a good half a dozen different spells, it can sometimes get very confusing regarding which spell you will use in the situation. Many of the puzzles you face are also fairly straightforward and don't require much thought.
Fortunately, to give us a bit of variety, some of the levels deviate from this bog standard formula and give you something different. For example, there is one level where you have to guide Harry on the Nimbus through an obstacle course which, though easy, is at least mildly entertaining. There's also a dancing level where you press buttons with the right timing as your character dances, which is basically what you've seen in about a hundred other dancing games, but it's still better than doing the same thing fifty times in a row. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of these levels, and the gameplay consists of what I just listed in the previous paragraph.
However, sometimes when you're fighting an enemy, something unique happens: a turn-based battle starts. First of all, you have to use several techniques to attack your enemy. There are three main ways to do this: tracing a picture, joining dots or tapping rapidly to send spells at your enemy. Once you've done that, they can attack you. You must then raise a shield by spinning your pointer on the touch screen. The bigger the shield, the less damage you take, but if you make it too big, it collapses and you take full damage. Now, the first two or three times you do this, these battles are actually somewhat fun. Unfortunately, after the novelty wears off, you can see that the battles are extremely repetitive, and later on the AI gets really cheap and starts evading every attack that you send at it, thus limiting any fun that there was in the adventure.
To be fair, the developers did at least try and increase the replay value and lower the tedium levels of this game. As you play through the game, you can unlock certain minigames, which you can play any time you like afterwards. These games include, among other things, catching chocolate frogs and sorting out sweets into pairs. Although the thought is appreciated, the minigames themselves just aren't that much fun. The most notable game of all is one where you have to care for a Niffler (which looks a bit like a meerkat), and in a sense the game is an extremely simplified clone of Nintendogs. You blow a whistle to call him and after that you can wash, feed or play with him to increase his satisfaction, and after that, you rub him as he wiggles in ecstasy (some sort of innuendo?), and after that you get a shield. Overall, the minigame is half-baked, to put it nicely, and once you've unlocked all the shields there's no reason to play it again.
So the gameplay is pretty duff, overall. But perhaps the graphics are better? Unfortunately, that's not the case. For the most of the game, the world is 2D made to look like 3D, and all of the characters and objects look blocky and undetailed. However, when you do one of the turn-based battles, the graphics turn completely 3D, though there isn't any real improvement. The characters look even blockier, the animations are choppy, and all in all it looks like something from a 1995 Playstation game. The music and sound effects in their game are rather forgettable; they aren't terrible, but you won't find yourself humming any of the tunes. Admittedly, what little voice acting there is sounds pretty decent. Each character only has a few phrases, but they do sound like their movie counterparts, so that's something.
All in all, this game is completely forgettable and uninteresting. This is one of those games where it's too bad to get much enjoyment out of playing it, yet it's not bad enough to enjoy bashing it. I mean, with really atrocious games you can get some entertainment out of relentlessly flaming it, yet with this game it's not even bad enough for that. I have to say; when my game ended up bricking I didn't care at all. This is definitely not a worthwhile purchase, since even diehard Harry Potter fans are unlikely to enjoy this little package. But if you have to own everything related to Harry Potter, then by all means buy it at a budget price. Just don't expect too much from it.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/09
Game Release: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (EU, 11/11/05)
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