Somebody deserves a raise
- A very interesting premise that would guarantee a success.
- All the arenas have interesting designs that reflect the country's culture.
- Controls are very easy to understand, even though it looks like something that would be very complicated.
- everything is very fast, but not as fast the books describe it which means it will feel like football, but just a little faster.
- The multi-player makes up for a lot of flaws
- Lots of challenges to win new Quidditch cards.
- Playing against the AI will not prove challenging in the slightest.
- A lot of missing teams and only a handful of broomsticks to choose from.
- Lack of polish, meaning that dialogue lines are poorly edited and facial animations are very uncanny.
- Cut-scenes interrupt gameplay more often that one would like.
- Catching the snitch is very random.
- World Cup is eighteen matches long and gets very repetitive after a while.
The Bottom Line
"EA Games. Challenge everything!"
That is the line that introduces this game and it was very common on the GameCube. EA was by far one of my favorite developers during that generation and it has released some of the most memorable games ever. Today I am reviewing one of those games, namely "Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup".
For those who aren't familiar with Quidditch: It's a lot like football on broomsticks. There are three balls; the Quaffle (the football), the Bludger (a ball that tries to hurt the players and the Snitch (a small golden ball that flies around). There are also seven players; three chasers (they score with the Quaffle by throwing them through one of the opponents rings), the Keeper (who protects the rings), the Seeker (who catches the Snitch which ends the game and gains the team a 150 points) and two others (who protect the team against Bludgers). It is played on flying broomsticks and is the most popular sport in the Harry Potter universe.
For those who are familiar with the game and thought it was very interesting to read about in the books or see in the movies, you may stop reading here and go to the store. Honestly, don't bother reading the rest, you will love this game no matter what I say.
For those who are still there: the game starts out on Hogwarts, the magic school from the books, where the player must choose between one of the four groups that represent the students of the school. After that you are forced to undergo several training sessions that teach you the basics, these are sometimes interrupted when the player unlocks a new match, allowing the player to do that match before doing the rest of the training missions. There is only one problem here and that is the dialogue you get when the members of the group introduce themselves, they have pauses that last roughly four seconds and everybody in this game sounds like an American doing a very forced accent (mostly British).
The matches are the best part of the game because of course and it does quite a few things amazingly well, but also a lot terrible wrong. The good is that the matches are all very fast, but also controllable, it looks just as lively as the movies depicted it. However the biggest flaw (and the reason why I decided to use that quote at the start of the review) is that this game is just way too easy. If you keep mashing A and flying in the right direction you will always get the Quaffle before the other team can score and even if they get close you will have quite a few special moves to take the ball from them anyway. Once you got the ball you just have to combo it around a few times before scoring and once the snitch arrive you will likely have a score off 110 vs. 0 and the opponents won't have any booster during the last part.
That part is also very annoying because the idea is that by making combos you slowly work towards assembling the two pieces of the Snitch that start out next to the names of the teams. Once the two parts touch each other the Snitch section starts and the more your team worked towards assembling the ball, the more boost you will have, but by using the tactic mentioned above you will leave the team with no boost at all. Also problematic is the catching it will take either two seconds or five minutes depending on how things go at the start. You will either boost right up to it or you will spend five minutes with a malfunctioning boost.
This gives me all the more reason to believe that this game was intended as a multi-player title and that they just didn't have enough money or time to also make the single-player worth your time. Playing against a friend is guaranteed fun and it is much more likely that both teams will score and that both team will have an equally fair go at catching the Snitch. While playing this it also became more obvious that the developers really had football in mind while designing this because it felt a lot like playing Fifa 2005 after drinking too many bottles of Vodka.
After finishing the Hogwarts part of the game and receiving the school cup you may move on to the World cup. Here one amazing new feature is introduced as well as a small problem. The good news is that you get to explore the arenas belonging to all the different countries. There is a lot of detail to be seen here and every map feels special in a way, I especially love the Norwegian map where you got the polar light in the background. The bad news doesn't seem bad at first glance, you get to choose your team and you see all these groups, you think you get to play as any country you want just like in the football games, only to be hit on the head with limitation. This game definitely ran out of something because a lot of countries are missing and we are not talking nitpicking here. Ireland is missing which was a pretty important group in the fourth book (they were in the finale), none of the Benelux countries are represented (even though Luxembourg was mentioned in the books), there are no African countries, Japan is representing Asia on it's own and there is no Russia. I also thought it was odd that the Norwegian team was called "The Nordic Team" whereas all the other teams are just named after their country.
By the time you start with the World cup you are probably a lot better at the game and you will use the special moves and combos a lot more. This is where things get a tiny bit obnoxious during the matches because you will see a lot of cut-scenes. I never really understood why they wanted to have cut-scenes in this game because Quidditch already looks impressive on it's own, it doesn't need the controls to be taken out of our hands to make us go "wow, that looks cool", so there is no reason as to why every goal, special move and opening has to be a cut-scene.
After playing through eighteen more matches you will finally be awarded with a cut-scene showing the closing ceremony. Like every other sports game it is interesting enough to replay, but before you do that there are also the Quidditch cards. In the inventory menu there is a list with all the Quidditch cards that the played can unlock by completing the challenge associated with the card. These challenges are interesting enough to be worth doing even without reward, but getting enough cards will unlock new moves and broomsticks. There are only a few broomsticks which again shows the lack of polish (go to the Harry Potter wikia and you will get a list of all the broomsticks in the universe), but I don't mind because it's a fun extra.
It's a bit sad that this game was not a big enough success for EA to consider a sequel, the normal Harry Potter games brought in enough money and the license couldn't really be milked enough, so we never saw a Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup 2011. This is very tragic because there is some clear potential here and EA is known for it's sports games, so with a bigger team and a bigger budget they could easily pull off a Quidditch game that feels as complete and polished as the Fifa series. Sadly we have to settle with this game that feels a little sloppy, but still pretty good like a rare Pokémon guard that fell into a puddle of water.
This game is only meant for fans of sports games who are willing to try their hands at something new and exciting and the Harry Potter fans of course. While it isn't perfect and there are some gigantic flaws, the premise alone and the great arenas and multi-player make it worth a shot anyway. Plus, if this game sells very well on the internet, EA might just try to revive the idea.