When you think about it, Harry Potter video games were simply born under a bad sign. The stuff that video games can do well when inspired–incredible world-building, the explication of a fantasy construct and its rules–were all done to genius levels in the rich imaginings of J.K. Rowling’s writing. And then, the eight movies that unspooled over the better part of the last decade did the work of taking that writing and making it live in three dimensions. So, Harry Potter video games couldn’t do that either.
Now, I’ve not read the Harry Potter books, but I know enough that Deathly Hallows is the place where the dark underside of the very premise of the Potterverse comes to bloom. In the endgame that is Deathly Hallows, the implicit tension of Harry’s existence becomes the main text: He’s a boy orphaned by the power of magic that can kill, and his journey has been about learning to deal with that kind of power and eventually wielding it.
This—this—was the shining moment that EA could own in a way that the books and movies couldn’t: making Harry and his crew into righteous engines of destructive vengeance and letting fans of the fiction interact their way through its adrenaline-filled conclusion.
That made it all the more sad that, when it came time for tense, meaningful action, the first Deathly Hallows stumbled and face-planted in spectacular fashion. A licensed property game with a built-in audience may have seemed like a good place for a first, experimental foray with Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control technology. The thinking must have been, “Hey, they’re gonna show up anyway so let’s give them something different.” In theory, Kinect with Harry Potter would make you feel like you’re doing magic.
In practice, you got glitchy, hand-wavey folderol. What was supposed to be snippets of a full-on supernatural conflict became a frustrating exercise in trying to play a game. Was video games’ good-bye to Harry Potter going to be this wretched, fumbled mess?
review continues on next page…