Los Angeles area Harry Potter fans have felt snubbed by the Universal Studios theme parks, despite the fact Los Angeles is home to the original studio/park. Though there are two Universal movie-themed parks, only Universal Studios Orlando contains ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,’ an entire section of the Islands of Adventure filled with wizarding wonder and even a ride set in Hogwarts Castle. There is now some consolation for those Harry Potter fans with no plans of travelling to Florida. Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment has released Harry Potter for Kinect for those of us who hate either travelling or humidity.
Harry Potter for Kinect is an Xbox 360 exclusive, meaning there is no Playstation Move version although the Wonderbook: Book of Spells is coming in November. The closest analogy to Harry Potter for Kinect is the Wii’s Raving Rabbids.
Similar to Raving Rabbids, Harry Potter for Kinect uses a central hub for what is essentially a collection of mini-games. The default delivery is allowing players to play through mini-game events in the books and movies and as a variety of characters. You can also have the Kinect scan your face to create your own wizard, but the result can be fairly jarring. As much as I tried to manipulate lights and angles, I couldn’t create something that didn’t look like it was from Clive Barker’s Midian.
The experience begins with either Harry or your character choosing a wand at Ollivanders and then being sorted as a first-year student at Hogwarts. The wand-choosing exercise works by having the player execute wand flicks to try out a variety of wands until one of them acts appropriately. The sorting shows the hat contemplating your place.
Particularly if you create your own character, you can influence the sorting hat by yelling out your preferred house. If you feel weird about yelling at your TV, this game might not be for you. While some mini-games allow you to skip the voice portions, your score will suffer.
Harry Potter for Kinect will then take you through some of the stories from the books. While there are inclusions that didn’t make the movies, the characters are their movie representations. Unfortunately, the original actors didn’t provide voices for the game. The majority of the exercises consist of casting or brewing.
The casting requires aiming with your hand and flicking the wand while uttering the spell name. The brewing is like a Kinect version of Cooking Mama. It requires combinations of pouring, mixing, grinding and similar motions. Most of these actions do require some precision and will take some practice.
Of course it wouldn’t be Harry Potter without some broom riding and epic battles. Considering the books and movies have already run their course, the ending shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The battles are a pretty much quick-time events that utilize motion sensing. You can throw things, dodge your enemy’s attacks, and cast the appropriate spells. One of the first battles has you jamming your wand up an ogre’s nose. That’s almost as much fun as slamming outhouse doors on rabbids.
Unlike the original Raving Rabbids, Harry Potter for Kinect has multiplayer built in. Once the activities have been unlocked, they are open for two players to compete against each other. A few of the sequences are co-op instead of competitive, but the majority of them allow you to try to out-wizard each other. That actually might be one of the appealing aspects of the game, as long as you have friends who love Harry Potter as much as you do and a large enough space in your gaming room.
Harry Potter for Kinect can be fun despite its shortcomings. There is no question that hardcore Harry Potter fans should at least give this game a shot. The graphics, voicing, and sound are really a mixed bag and the presentation of the game also lacks some continuity for those looking for an adventure. Surprisingly though, the motion and voice recognition work fairly well, certainly better than many other Kinect games. If you love Harry Potter and you’re looking for a game along the lines of Wario World or Rayman: Raving Rabbids this is probably the game for you.
Harry Potter for Kinect is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence.