I am going to be perfectly honest; I am not what you would consider a huge fan of the Harry Potter franchise, but my 8-year-old son is. I enjoyed the first movie, but for some reason I totally lost interest. Of course we all know it went on to become one of the biggest movie series of all time, which in turn turned the franchise into a big time moneymaker. The name Harry Potter now graces everything from books to movies to video games, and all kinds of things in between. This of course leads me to Harry Potter for the Kinect. Is this game a hit or miss?
I have found that so far Kinect games to date have not really lived up to the billing. I am finding the games are plagued with unresponsive controls and pretty basic visuals. Unfortunately Harry Potter also suffers from some of these problems. I do admit that there are a few cool spots, but overall I had yet another tough time with a Kinect game.
Harry Potter for the Kinect is essentially a collection of key points contained throughout the storyline. There are many different control factors that you must employ in order to progress, which sounds easier than it really is. The game covers the books in the Harry Potter franchise and has you completing many that are related to each one.You will be asked to complete different Harry Potter-esque tasks related, from a wizard mixing potion to playing that famed “on a broom game” Quidditch.
On of the biggest issue, and not particularly gameplay related, is that those with little to no knowledge of the Harry Potter universe will not have much of an enjoyable time when they set out to play the various tasks at hand. With each section playing differently from the last, those new to the series will have no idea what the game is trying to reproduce. The game does a terrible job of story telling as it takes for granted that you know where what you are doing in relation to the Harry Potter books. I have only seen the first movie and bits and pieces of the rest with my son; however, my knowledge was not nearly enough to know what was happening on screen while playing. I found that the plot and gameplay hops around from task to task, story to story, pushing you along as if you know what know what and why you are doing what you are doing. I never felt connected to the game and I constantly asked my son what was next or why things were happening. On the flipside, he actually loved the game because of his vast knowledge of everything Harry Potter. He had zero trouble recognizing where and what he should be doing and he had no problem just playing and knowing what everything was all about.
The game lets you control multiple characters, Harry, Hermione and Dumbledore are just a few of those you get to control. You can even create your own self-made wizard using the Kinect’s face scan technology. The face scan technology leaves a bit to be desired though. In fact, while the characters of the game look very much like they should, they all have a plastic glazed look about them. This is a fact not lost on my son as he actually asked why everyone looked familiar but strange. Some of the older characters like Olliveander look ghastly almost ghost like. Given the state of the game’s visuals I was surprised with the graphics engine as the Xbox 360 is a capable console and these characters have been around forever. Overall, the graphical stylings could have been better, much better.
As I played I found issues with the motion control. While not as bad as some Kinect games there were noticeable hiccups along the way. The actions and motions are not particularly tough to execute, but sometimes tough to register. You will find yourself playing Kinect enabled quick time events or mixing potions to more action oriented gameplay such as combat and Quidditch which are much more involving. I also had to do a fair amount moving around which had me almost working up a sweat. Of course repeating some moves until they registered added to the equation making me work a little harder then I would have liked. Mixing potions was kind of cool at first, it reminded me of some of the cooking shows on television; as you add a dash of this and a little of that.
Casting spells is probably the coolest and most enjoyable part of the game. Not only does it involve arm movements, you also have to shout out the spells in unison. You may feel a bit funny yelling weird phrases and sayings at your television, but you will soon overcome them and settle into a nice rhythm. This is of course if your Kinect picks up everything you throw at it. There were times when I would say what I was supposed to and the Kinect would not pick up my voice. I must admit though it casting spells is fun if you have no issues. To the game’s credit, this is part of the game that works the best. When the Kinect is working its magic (editors note: pun intended) the game becomes quite immersive and the potential for the peripheral is almost realized.
Harry Potter for Kinect is really not very difficult. Fans of the game will probably breeze through in a few hours during a rainy afternoon. If you choose to have a friend join you via the games splitscreen cooperative then you will most likely get yourself through it even quicker. Granted, some of the boss areas are tough and frustrating, but once you get the sequences down you should be good to go. The replay value is not very high, although playing through in single player is different than playing through in co-op for obvious reasons.
The game’s soundtrack is quite well done and somewhat reminiscent of the movies. The voice work is also commendable. As for the game’s sound effects, the best way to describe them are that they are a bit weak, sounding tinny and puny at times, but overall they are effective and that is what counts.
After playing Harry Potter for the Kinect I came away with a couple of musings. First is my view of the Kinect experience as a whole, while the second is game specific. In regards to the Kinect, I still think that the whole motion control thing is overrated and underealized. I have now played enough Kinect games and all seem to have the same problems with recognition and execution such as not picking up voice or movement, which sadly hurts gameplay.
In regards to Harry Potter for Kinect specifically, the game is designed for Potter fans through and through. I had to enlist my son to help with characters, their strengths and weaknesses, and the general plot lines associated with each section of the game. While this okay on the surface I had a devil of a time really concentrating on the gameplay. Overall I found that the game has some Kinect related issues that can take away from the fun, but many fans will forgive the shortcomings these present, whereas casual fans will not. With this in mind, the game is really for those who love everything about Harry Potter and the final score reflects that.