Review by Crestfallen Dreamer

Reviewed: 10/16/06 | Updated: 10/16/08

A slightly forgivable curse

Okay, I really was ready to hate this game. I mean hate this game. It's an Electronic Arts Harry Potter game...what came before...loathing is natural, right? I mean, when I heard that EA got rid of some of the more enjoyable aspects of their mediocre adventures featuring the boy who lived, I thought to myself, what would be left? Utter hatred would surely be fitting. You know what? This game is not as bad, nor as spectacular a failure as I anticipated.

Goblet of Fire ditches the 3-D Zelda-like model that the past Harry Potter games were crafted in, in favor of a more traditional level based game (as in EA's James Bond games). While this is disheartening for those of us who liked being able to experience and wander around a somewhat realized Hogwarts, let's be real – EA never took full advantage of this. In their past efforts, most of Hogwarts was barren with little to do. Rooms were empty loading traps ready to steal your time in favor of finding some useless cards and a few Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and flying around the school became just as boring. I really hoped EA would have tried to improve on bettering the series before discarding such a worthwhile premise, but, of course, they didn't.

From Dumbledore's Pensieve, you select from only eight levels to experience the telling of, in my view, the best Harry Potter story of them all. In cool looking still-frames, with a bit of animation, the story set against the backdrop of the Triwizard Tournament is narrated and given to you in little pieces, rather than in complete form. Don't expect character development, nor the books quality. The final act with the character of Cedric, for instance, is ridiculously rushed and devoid of any authenticity found in the book and film (mostly the book). The game shares some elements from the book (like enemies such as Blast-Ended Skrewts) and film (everything else), once again providing a hybrid of both, and in the process, once again, leaves a lot of the story out with no filler explaining what is happening.

You'll play levels from the film's Hogwarts and view models based it's cast, but these interpretations are hit and miss, really. The character models leave a lot to be desired, as they look rather...plastic and off. It's as if the models were taken from the action figure merchandise and feature some not so picture perfect adaptations of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. Most bizarre of all, the three's attire is very out of place, not wearing what the characters did in the film, nor the book (as evident on the back of the box, where the character models and actors are shown side by side). All three come off looking a bit awry with butt hugging pants and questionable tops (seriously, hoodies? and Ron looks like he's wearing corduroy tights).

Thankfully, the levels you venture in with Harry, Ron, and Hermoine take on some imagination and look fantastic. The introductory level (that you can only play once), for instance, features a chaotic escape from Voldemort's Death Eaters while providing a bit of a tutorial. You can also travel below the Prefects' Bathroom to discover an ancient sewer system contained in a moist cavernous environment. And another level has you venturing into the mist filled Forbidden Forest. The levels that tend to disappoint are from what the game is supposed to be about: The Triwizard Tournament.

I was kind of disappointed with the treatment of most of the Triwizard Tasks. The stealing of the egg from the Hungarian Horntail was cool, as it's basically an on rails type chase on a broom with trying to outrun the dragon, but the other two were a bit boring. The Second Task takes place in the lake, underwater, and is also on rails, but it's mostly just blasting enemies with magic while swimming slowly forward. The Third Task is just boring maneuvering through a hedgemaze and fighting some enemies at the end – not nearly as intense as the book – leading to the final level featuring a rather (yep again) boring fight with You-Know-Who. I was expecting perhaps a good finale, but instead received a flat send off with anti-climatic feelings.

And while there is some nice music accompanying these levels (I believe some music is carried over from previous games – not positive, but sounds as if), it's usually faint, allowing for the annoying repeating of banter from the trio to be remembered more than the music itself.

Venturing into these levels will also provide some more changes than what you may be used to from past games in the series. The camera, for one, is now farther away from the trio, providing a wide viewing of the surroundings. Although the look is more wide, since you cannot control the camera you will be hankering for some use of the C-Stick at various times, but there is none (isn't that why it's there and named the "C-Stick?"). You have to make with what's provided for the camera, which means some sometimes obstructed views. Also, while you are given a more expansive view, you may have to backtrack since one or two of your friends may get left behind, as the camera can't keep up with everyone.

The wielding of spells has also been revamped, changed to a context sensitive system rather than selecting the spells and assigning them to your controller. The A and B buttons serve most of your spell casting. When you approach an enemy, you can consistently fire Jinx spell after Jinx spell, with the A button, landing combos in spectacular fashion without the need to switch spells. The Charm spells are also context sensitive with the B button when forced to find a solution to moving beyond some obstructions, such as lifting boulders with the Windgardium Leviosa spell and pulling on gates to open them with the Carpe Retractum spell. If some much needed force is required, all three characters can pitch in to advance forward through the levels. The Accio spell has it's own button, on Y, allowing for quick retrieval of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans left behind from defeated enemies or strewn throughout levels. And the X button allows for a power up type spell, Magicus Extremos, that makes the trio's attack beef up. The game's not that difficult to begin with, so I hardly think the beef up was needed. While the new spell scheme may be simplistic, it makes battling and moving forward more easier without EA's time wasting setup given in past Harry Potter games.

As for some old elements, The Witches and Wizard Cards have been discarded in favor of collector cards featuring stills from the film, and they are used as sort of equipment. By mastering casting spells, and collecting the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, you can have access to the cards and buy various degrees of customization. Cards are the only things you can buy with the beans now, as Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, and Chocolate Frogs can be found within levels to replenish health and revive characters if they are wounded – there's no more Fred and George, sadly. The Cards you buy can have features like adding more health, powering up spells, and giving off different types of spell blasts (like having a spell hit an enemy, then bounce around wildly). Three cards can then be assigned to each of the characters, leaving the mixing and matching of wanted abilities and stats to your liking.

While I did have some fun with this mostly action based game (more fun than with Prisoner of Azkaban, in fact), and liked some of the improvements to the series, I'm a bit hesitant in recommending this game at all since it still has a feeling of mediocrity to it. While seeing a shelf, or bargain bin, littered with 60 copies of this game at a reduced price may want to sway the Potter fan within, it just wouldn't be worth it. I mean, it's so short, and when you finish the game – you finish the game. There's no reason to go into the levels again once you've found all there is to collect within and you complete your card collection. Also, while you can have access to little challenges and go into levels with two other players, it's really not much fun as multiplayer when you are stuck having to be close together all the time due to the camera (you can't advance unless everyone is together).

Renting would definitely be the best bet, but if you can't find it available anywhere just say "oh well" and move on, as there is nothing really necessary to experience here. Quidditch World Cup is still the best EA had to offer when regarding this great fantasy series, so I would suggest picking that up if you haven't done so already. And I might also recommend the better of the Zelda-like molds, Sorcerer's Stone, as I don't think you can find it for rent anymore, and buying both games used would probably be less than this game's new asking price at the moment.

Hopefully, EA will improve the series on the Wii, offering new and fun ways to play as the now teen wizard (I am a bastard of an optimist, eh? or is that masochist?). Until then, stick with the two games I've recommended for purchase for a good and final Potter fix on the Cube.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (US, 11/08/05)

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