Harry Potter For Kinect Hands-On Preview: Harry Potter and the Motion-Controlled Demo

Not to be hindered by such obstacles as, oh, the entire series ending, the Harry Potter video game franchise will continue when Harry Potter For Kinect releases on October 9th. At first glance, this title may seem like just another licensed minigame rush job, with little appeal to anyone other than kids and diehard Potter fans. But much like the results of a fresh mixture of Polyjuice Potion, looks can be deceiving.

Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Developer: Eurocom
Genre: Kinect is Like Magic
Release Date: October 9, 2012
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+

I recently tried the demo for the game, and I must admit that what I played greatly exceeded my expectations. The demo only featured three minigames, which I will break down shortly. The main menu takes place in Professor Dumbledore’s office, where you can make your selection. One feature that I thought was quite clever was the requirement to raise your left hand in order to confirm your selection (Hogwart’s is a school, get it?). Once you select your minigame, you choose the difficulty, and you’re off. The three options available in the demo were taken directly from the films, and do a great job of recreating the experience.

The first game I played was based on the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows scene where Harry, Ron and Hermoine infiltrate Gringott’s Bank to find one of Lord Voldemort’s horcruxes. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember the scene where the trio takes a roller coaster-esque ride on a cart to reach Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. The game takes place during this ride. If you’ve played “Reflex Ridge” in Kinect Adventures you know exactly what to expect, albeit a bit more exciting. You will need to lean to the left and right to avoid gaps in the rails and keep the cart on the track during sharp turns, jump over pits, and duck under debris. Be careful, though; you’re only allowed a certain amount of “hearts” before you have to start over. Forget to duck? Lose a heart. Fall off the edge? Lose a heart. Once you finish, you are graded (Hogwart’s is a school, get it?) on your performance, and can earn up to five stars. This minigame was not my favorite, but the controls were very responsive and it was somewhat immersing.

Keeping with the Deathly Hallows motif, the next mini-game is based on the scene where Neville Longbottom destroys the bridge leading to Hogwart’s while being chased by Death Eaters. Similar to the previous mission, Neville is constantly running, and you need to move around and jump to avoid the bridge as it crashes down around you. At certain points, Death Eaters will catch up to you, and the camera swings around as you have to cast spells to fend them off, while avoiding their attacks. Switch a few times between the two, and that about sums it up. Again, the controls work well here, and I must say the jumping mechanic is very forgiving. There’s a lot of leeway in exactly when you have to jump to clear a fallen beam. At certain points, I’ve jumped early enough to cause Neville to float for a good two seconds until he was well clear of the beam. But this game is meant for kids, so this kind of flexibility is understood and appreciated. I couldn’t get the casting ability down pat and resulted to a bit of flailing, but I was able to repel my enemies after a few tries. Again, this was enjoyable with a few flaws.

The third, and by far my favorite, was the Quidditch level, based on the first book/film in the series. In it, you participate in Harry’s first Quidditch match as a seeker, and try to capture the Golden Snitch. The game is on rails, and you move left to right to avoid the support beams in the audience stand. Here’s the best part: at certain times, the rival seeker will appear next to you, and you have to fend them off by punching and kicking to the left or right. Playing this specific part was absolutely hilarious. Seeing Harry throw a punch and knock his opponent off-screen was extremely satisfying, and brought back memories of playing Road Rash. After you catch up to the snitch, the camera switches to first-person mode, and you have to reach out your hand to grab the snitch. Once captured, the game ends, and again you are graded on performance.

I would have liked to have seen a minigame in the demo that utilizes the Kinect microphone, but what was provided was still fun – I can’t wait to yell, “Expecto Patronum!” at my television. Having put some decent time into the demo, I came away very impressed. A lot of Kinect games are criticized due to their somewhat generic nature and wonky controls, but the folks at Eurocom seem to be getting this one right. The final game promises a deeply immersive experience, with such features as creating a witch or wizard that looks just like you, brewing potions and honing your spell skills, and competitive and co-op multiplayer. With a bit of polishing, I’m sure Harry Potter For Kinect can be quite an enjoyable experience. Look for this title when it apparates to stores this October.

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Mike Ryan is a Staff Writer who has been playing video games ever since the Atari 2600. He loves fighting games, survival horror, and he sure plays a mean pinball.

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