The irony is not lost in knowing J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, easily one of the greatest creative phenomenons of recent years, is left in the hands of Electronic Arts, a company constant criticized for their lack of originality. Fans of the boy-who-lived have ridiculously high and picky expectations, making it no small feat EA has consistently managed to develop surprisingly entertaining video-game adaptations of Rowling’s universe of magic and muggles. The production values have been brought up another notch on each successive sequel, and you’d be hard pressed not to see where it’s all going when you’re playing the Goblet of Fire, the next of Potter’s adventure at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
This year, Hogwarts is playing host to the legendary Triwzard Tournament, where one student from Hogwarts and two visiting schools are chosen to participate in three dangerous tasks testing the limits of their wizarding skills. Somehow, though, Harry Potter’s name is picked — despite the fact that someone from Hogwarts is already participating! Unfortunately, the Goblet of Fire constitutes a magically binding contract, which means Harry has no choice but to try and survive the tasks.
The Goblet of Fire is a massive, 700+ novel that’s experienced some trimming in surviving the transition to film, and EA’s video game follows the path Warner Bros. has paved. Even though the video-game medium provides the perfect opportunity to explore the subplots removed from the movie version, the reliance on the film’s assets means EA has unsurprisingly kept close to their vision of the Goblet of Fire. Interestingly, though, because the film doesn’t provide enough creatures for the developers to fill the levels with, they’ve actually pulled enemies that weren’t in the Goblet of Fire, but were developed by Rowling herself. A nice touch for fans.
This game is a straightforward action adventure, but there’s the right combination of basic puzzle solving sewn into the action and the stages are just long enough to avoid tedium. The Goblet of Fire places a fantastic emphasis on teamwork; the books and movies are actively playing up friendship dynamics between Harry, Hermoine and Ron, and now the video games are following suit. In order to move heavy objects, all three characters will need to cast spells simultaneously, and different characters attacking enemies together will produce spells that wouldn’t happen with another combination. Combat progress is definitely best achieved this time around by teaming up, too; one character can lift an enemy up, while the others wail on it with jinxes.
Aiming itself, however, has its own problems; controlling which direction your character is pointed in is incredibly touchy and difficult. It wouldn’t have made sense for a lock-on with the overhead perspective, but seeing as how half the time you’re struggling over aiming, something’s screwy. By the time you’re actually on target the enemy’s probably moved to a new position, starting the whole frustrating process over again.