Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup

Review Played on: GCN
Price: $3.99
Found in GameStop's Used GCN games section
Players: 1-2
Rating: Everyone

It's a generally well-known fact within hardcore gaming circles that video games based off of movie and book franchises suck. I had exactly that impression going into reviewing this game. Looking at the price, I was planning on making this my first “bad game” review. This game both confirmed and rejected my assumptions. Curious? Read on.

Starting off, the opening cinematic is impressive. I laughed at the fact that they included classical music in the game. When you start the game, there's a cinematic in which Harry Potter himself talks to you about what Quidditch is, how it works, and what to expect. It's kinda sad, but his head looks like it's detached from the rest of his body. I couldn't stop laughing about this.

The start of the game is rather simplistic, though very helpful. You choose a house (all from Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin) and meet the team captain. Knowing everyone else is just going to take Gryffindor, I chose Ravenclaw as the first team to play as. Cho Chang greeted me, and got the training underway. You complete challenges that help you get better at the game, while earning Quidditch Cards in the process. Quidditch Cards determine what game modes, special moves, and what-not are unlocked. It's a rather engaging process that has you working to get matches unlocked to work your way up to the house cup. I felt that the training mode was very slow moving, though I can't speak for everyone. Given that this game is marketed at kids and not at adults, I suppose I should be more understanding.

Once you complete the challenges, you can start matches for the Hogwarts House Cup. The early matches are simplified down, and really easy to win. After a period of time with passing and scoring with the quaffle, the chase for the golden snitch starts. The snitch will produce a yellow trail that will increase your boost meter when you fly in it. Your seeker's goal is to boost close enough to the snitch that you can press the “catch” button and end the game. My first three matches against the other Hogwarts houses were utter slaughters. 300+ points to 0, in most cases. I think my match as Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff was 440 to 0.

Once I finished the Hogwarts cup, I moved on to the Quidditch World Cup, which, in my humble opinion, is where this game really shines. Personally, I love the Quidditch World Cup mode. You have three teams available at first: England, USA, and Japan. There are four different difficulty modes to unlock: Comet , Nimbus 2000, Nimbus 2001, and Firebolt. My first league was on the Nimbus 2000 difficulty, which was a welcome challenge compared to the sweeps of the Hogwarts cup. Each of the teams has their own unique feel to them, which was entertaining to watch. The stadiums are nothing short of beautiful in QWC mode. I loved Japan, Spain and the Nordic Team's stadiums. It was nice to see random weather conditions in the stadiums, where applicable. At a few matches in England's stadium, the sun was shining brightly, other matches were rainy with a bleak gray sky.

There is a lot more going on in the QWC mode, to be sure. Bludger attacks can steal the quaffle from your opponent, but you have to work up to them. The special moves have to be charged up to use, which means you have to play them wisely, not just flippantly. I should also note that the combo system is a lot of fun to use, especially when you can link it into a special move. Dodging, steals, and power shots all add to the cinematic experience. All special moves are named in the inventory, as well as how to pull them off. I noticed that several moves were mapped to a particular button press, which simply randomized what special move was completed. Kind of annoying, especially if you wanted to try to pull off a particular special move.

Some of the Team special moves seemed a little too clich├ęd for my taste. For example, the USA's team special move looked way too much like basketball, and Japan's looked like something out of a Kung-Fu movie, which would have been more of a Chinese convention, anyway. Most people aren't going to care, but it irked me for some odd reason.

Every so often, there will be a cinematic after a goal, in which the one who scored the goal does some sort of cheer, high five with a teammate, etc. The animations are all the same, but the character models switch out regularly. I would've liked to see a beater come out and high five a teammate once or twice, but that's nitpicking. A lot of the game-ending animations seem recycled, and by the time you hit the QWC, you're wanting to skip the ending animation because you've seen it so many times already.

The GameCube version of HP:QWC sports a co-operative mode with a second player who has a GBA and HP:QWC for the GBA. Linking the GBA to the GameCube brings in some new options for each player. I do not have a copy of HP:QWC for the GBA, so I've had to miss out on this part. There's also a 2-player competitive mode, in which two people can play against each other in any stadium unlocked. Gaining more Quidditch cards will unlock more teams and stadiums to play in. Players can use Hogwarts teams or QWC teams, but the two cannot overlap. I didn't enjoy the multiplayer as much, it just didn't have a good feel to it. Having a four player mode would've been nice, too.

I really wish there was more unlockable content besides the extra difficulty modes. It would've been cool to see more stadium options, characters, or even secret teams. I can't see hardcore gamers staying at this one much beyond the Firebolt difficulty and completing the league challenges. Some of the steals in this game are blatantly overpowered, and really unbalance the game.

The Verdict:

It's interesting to see a game based off of J.K Rowling's Harry Potter universe that's not closely tied to the story lines of the books. I enjoyed the harder difficulties in QWC mode, though I suppose that younger gamers would enjoy seeing Harry Potter in action, especially winning the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup as the hero. For $3.99, the price is definitely right. If you can handle the slow pace of the training mode, you'll enjoy the later game modes. I wouldn't recommend this title as much to people who didn't enjoy the books. A lot of the game's pizazz comes from reading about the game in the books. Overall, it's not a bad game, but it's not fantastic either.

Parent's notes:

Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup is aimed at a younger audience, and this game has little that most parents should object to. Parents concerned about the use of magic will find little of the sort in this game, if at all. This game focuses on the popular sport in the wizarding world, and any magic involved would be in levitation or bright sparkles. I say that this game is more than appropriate for children, and while parents would probably tire of it faster than the kids, this game gets my thumbs-up as a game that the whole family can enjoy and even play together.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember playing this game when it first came out. It was a lot of fun and it only got tedious during the QWC when you had to defeat 16 teams to win.
You really touched on what makes this game fun, good job ^_^