Raise a goblet to Harry and J.K. Rowling

The book, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, is brilliant, the movie is almost tied, and the game straggles behind in third place.

harry potter disk 88 (photo credit: )
harry potter disk 88
(photo credit: )
When the software version of J.K. Rowling's fourth Harry Potter book landed in my mailbox, my resident 14-year-old expert on the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft advised me not to install the disk until we saw the movie. He was right. The book, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, is brilliant, the movie is almost tied, and the game straggles behind in third place. While its quality is way behind the book and film, the disk is good, and much improved over the previous software tie-ins of Harry Potter books. Having seen the movie, I found it much easier to find my way through the game. Unlike the previous games in the series, which were first-person adventures with the heroes looking for hidden treasures, this one offers more challenges and is a third-person game - so you can observe the action as an outsider, even though you must choose among Harry, Hermione or Ron to lead. But don't fret over which of the trio to select, as the action comes out the same whoever it is: The computer's artificial intelligence activates the other two in secondary roles. Oddly, you can use only a keyboard or gamepad (the latter is preferable) but not the mouse, and it's impossible to include others via a LAN (local area network) or via the Internet, but two friends can play the other two characters with a gamepad attached to the same computer. Although EA obviously worked closely with Warner Brothers on the game - the three characters look exactly like the movie actors and even sound like them - there are strangely no cut scenes from the film; instead, vignettes between segments of the game are animated approximations of what appeared in the movie. Not everything in the movie is in the game, and there are some things - such as a scorpion-like monster called the blast-ended skreut - that are in the game but not in the film. Mad-Eye Moody, the school's new dark arts teacher, is on hand all three versions to give you lessons. As the story unfolds, Harry is mysteriously chosen (by his name floating out of the Goblet of Fire) as the fourth contestant in the dangerous international Triwizard Tournament (Harry's two friends cannot participate in the tournament). Each contestant must face a fire-breathing dragon, rescue friends from the icy depths of the Black Lake and navigate through a huge, tight maze comprised of tall bushes. At the end, Harry faces Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters in a frightening duel. The trio, armed with their magic wands, survive and knock off their enemies by casting more than a dozen spells that have Latin-sounding names. Saying one will activate a water spell and put out fire; another will open up a flower bud to turn into a lily pad for walking over water; a third will cause huge boulders or monsters to levitate, while the other two characters can put a jinx on them while they're suspended in the air. Spells can also turn attackers into harmless chickens or rabbits, inflate them like a balloon that pops or stick pumpkins on their heads. A special charm called Accio drags collectible items towards you. You must think quickly to choose the suitable spell and protect yourself while taking the offensive. Accio is also useful for collecting Bertie Botts beans scattered everywhere for you to collect and later exchange for new skills, as well as picture cards depicting animated scenes. As you go, collect mini-shields and Triwizard shields. Since there is no limit to the number of spells you can cast, it's worthwhile to use as many as you can to earn some bonuses, cards, beans or points to raise your level. The graphics, which include no blood despite many destroyed monsters, are good, as are the sound effects, although the voice acting is rather repetitive. The game is somewhat short, which may annoy Harry Potter addicts starving for more. All in all, this game is a good enough reason to toast Harry, the endlessly imaginative author and Electronic Arts with a goblet of benign potion. I look forward to the seventh book, the fifth movie and the fifth computer game.