When Harry met Hogwarts.
Much of the world’s suffering is based on one thing: books. Take The Bible – people
have been fighting over that thing forever. Or how about that Salman Rushdie situation?
Then there was that book in Baldur’s Gate II that turned Edwin
the prissy sorcerer into a female. Yep, a good book is one of the most powerful
But making a game based on a book is a perilous thing. For a megabucks enterprise
like Harry Potter it equals guaranteed truckloads of Golden Galleons,
but that doesn’t mean there’s not a special place in Azkhaban for stingy publishers
who force children large and small to face a version of their beloved fantasy
realm that’s more craptastic than fantastic.
I approached EA’s Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup for with
great trepidation. Unfortunately, the game is not very good, but it does display
a high level of attention to the subject-matter. Clearly, the developers have
read their Harry Potter and packed lots of great details from the world
(books and movies) into their game. As a result, Quidditch
Cup is a worthy tribute to the official sport of wizards…even if
it is a bit of a button-masher.
You’ll start off picking one of the four Hogwart teams or one of several international
teams like USA, Japan, or Viktor Krum’s native Bulgaria and attempt to guide
it through the Quidditch Cup tournament. Before jumping in, you should definitely
bone up on your broom-handling at Hogwarts (QC‘s version of
a Training Mode), as the lessons are taught quite effectively and are nice and
After that, all that’s left is to enter the tournament or play against a friend
in split-screen mode. Although the modes aren’t nearly as varied as a box of
Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, QC isn’t exactly a game for
the serious gamer. There are some combos to learn and Quidditch cards to find
(which open up more combos and arenas), but there really isn’t enough here to
keep the seasoned gamer entertained for more than a few hours.
There are three parts to the gameplay: Offense, Defense, and Seeker-mode.
On offense you can pass to another teammate or shoot, both of which are chargeable.
You can also dodge and combo-pass, which is a faster version of normal passing
meant to lure the keeper away from his post or quickly maneuver the ball to
one of the three goals the keeper isn’t watching. If you get in the goal-box
and have a special move at your disposal, you can tap a button combo and launch
into a combination attack wherein a brief cinematic will show your team putting
some fancy maneuver on your hapless opponents.
Defense is all about stealing, which is extremely easy in Quidditch
Cup as the steal button provides a boost, knocks your opponent off
their path and strips the ball all in one tap of the button. Unfortunately,
this is the most powerful and easiest move to pull off in the game. Not only
is it basically unavoidable (dodge sucks), but it also works every single time.
Stealing has never been easier.
On top of your standard steal you can also occasionally summon a magical moving
vortex that, when moved into position over your opponent, will freeze them and
allow you to make a nifty cinematic steal. You can also use the bludger to whack
the opponent’s ball-carrier who, upon taking a bludger to the skull, promptly
coughs up the quaffle to one of your team members. The bludger basically functions
like a guided missile; you press the button when one of your beaters calls out
and then guide the bludger to your target. However, this can be tricky since
the bludger changes altitude whereas all the players stay on a 2D playing field.
That’s right – Quidditch Cup takes place on a 2D plane and
acts very much like a hockey game. Players will visibly zoom up and down in
relation to this plane, but there is no controlling your own player’s elevation
or anyone else’s on your team. This simplifies things, but also makes the game
to go stale so quickly.
final mode of play involves being the seeker and chasing the snitch. This mode
occurs when two bars at the top of the screen meet. They advance upon every
score and combo pass, and when they finally touch your seeker plunges after
the elusive golden snitch. Based on how many goals you scored in the previous
portion of the game, you’ll have a longer or shorter boost bar. ‘Boost’ naturally
corresponds to a button and makes you go faster. Also, the golden snitch exudes
a golden trail, and if you stay in this trail then your boost meter refills,
allowing you to maintain a high velocity.
Unfortunately, there are no brooms to buy (what’s the point of a Nimbus
2000 if everyone has one?) nor spells to learn, leaving the gameplay pretty
light. Due to the overpowered steals, you’ll need to keep the ball in your hands
as little as possible, so you combo-pass like mad and the fastest way to do
this is to simply mash the combo pass buttons until your team juggles the ball
down the field. It’s just not very good.
Still, there are some nifty details here for well-read wizards. Most surprising,
and most pleasing for the sentimental Potter fans, is the ability to play as
Cedrick Diggory, the late seeker for Hufflepuff. Although Diggory got blasted
by the business end of the deadly Avada Kadavra spell (I’m purposely spoiling
it for all you suckers who only watch the movies), in QC he
lives on, happily seeking snitches. Equally cool is the ability to play as Cho
Chang or score goals with Angelina Johnson (a Griffindor Chaser), not to mention
the fact that Madamme Hooch tosses up the Quaffle at the beginning of every
Graphically, QC is very well done on all three systems. The
players resemble their movie counterparts, the colors are bright and the animation
is sweet. Almost every moving object in the game has a brightly colored trail
accompanying it, leading to some of the trippiest visuals this side of lysergic
acid-diethylamide. On the down side, the seating towers are poorly textured
and the backgrounds generally aren’t that impressive.
The sounds are decent but not exceptional. While it’s exciting that the announcer announces himself as Lee Jordan, he doesn’t have nearly as much personality as I’ve imagined Lee having in the books. Both the music and his comments get very repetitive.
The multiplayer, sadly, is pretty weak. Since the game is a mash-fest, there
isn’t much to compete over. The snitch race provides some competition, but it’s
so simple that it’s hard to feel good about winning or bad about losing.
In fact, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup as a whole doesn’t
elicit many emotions. It surprises with its cool references and attention to
detail, but loses a lot of luster in attempting to appeal to a wee audience.
Still, if you love the books and just want to toss some quaffles as Draco Malfoy
or Viktor Krum, then Quidditch World Cup will deliver a decent
but brief good time.