Ever since the Kinect was announced, I had imagined a game like Harry Potter, where I could cast spells, levitate objects, duel wizards, fly a broomstick, and then some. It seemed the Kinect would be the perfect platform to engage our imaginations and set them free in a wizarding world. Would Harry Potter for Kinect - the latest experience in the Harry Potter franchise - live up to my expectations? Sadly it didn’t, and it fell short in many ways.
The game follows the movies almost to a T. But, if you are expecting a fleshed-out story mode, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Each year at Hogwarts is broken down into around five levels – or what I prefer to call “mini-games,” due to their length. Each is made up of a variety of classes at Hogwarts: learning spells, brewing potions, duelling in key battles, and the occasional bout of Quidditch. I found it difficult to understand how the developers chose the experiences you get to partake in, given that - from a narrative perspective - it doesn’t flow as it should, particularly for someone who might not be familiar with the story.
Each mini-game starts with a set of instructions on the motions you need to master. Playing on Advanced difficulty, I would keep failing, requiring me to try again and again. This was often down to the very hit and miss motion controls. Casting required little more than a lift of my
hand, and spells would fire off in every which direction. Quidditch, which was about the only game mode that was fun, involved steering a broomstick around a Quidditch pitch by leaning your body. The goal was - of course - to follow the glowing snitch, while beating other seekers with left and right punches.
The developers have also thrown in multiplayer for some of the mini-games, and Harry Potter for Kinect is actually mildly interesting in that context. Unfortunately, with the difficulty set to Casual the game is a breeze, while set to Advanced it’s overly complex.
Given that the game plays through the entirety of Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts, you would assume that the level of content would be considerable. However, given each mini-game rarely lasts more than a few minutes, there isn’t actually a lot to explore. You are scored on each level, with the idea that players will return to beat their own score, but given the motion control issues I felt once was quite enough. Each activity was rarely very different to the next, and the motions quickly became monotonous.
One area which really did result in some entertainment was the bit where you could use the Kinect to transpose your face onto the in-game characters. Given that the resulting character had only one eye and closely resembled Quasimodo, the desired effect may not have been achieved, but it was entertaining.
In terms of experiencing the Harry Potter universe from a first person perspective, and harnessing the Kinect, the developers have created a pleasant environment which does capture some of the magic of the Harry Potter series. Repotting mandrakes, or the impending Dementors, are recreated well and each looks the part. Graphically the game deserves some commendation, however when the gameplay behind it is so lacking it would be difficult to suggest that visuals alone would justify the purchase.
Harry Potter for Kinect really failed to pull me into the Harry Potter world. Right from the start, the game and presentation is lacklustre. The story, which I already know quite well, is not reinvigorated on the new platform, and it plods along with little more than readable text filling in the sections between each mini-game. Harry Potter for Kinect is, quite simply, one of the most disappointing Kinect titles I have experienced.
I imagine that even children would quickly find the below average motion controls, and the frustrating visual cues on screen (which often result in you having to restart a game), are more than a shambles. And, even worse, Harry Potter for Kinect failed to rouse any kind of atmosphere in my living room - as other Kinect titles have done - and even spectators are soon put to sleep.
My suggestion is that, if you are still tempted to give it a whirl, you make sure to adjust your expectations accordingly.