Watching the first couple of Harry Potter films, something I do on a regular basis on account of my niece and nephew, is a strange experience. Everyone looks so young. Odd to think that Daniel Radcliffe, now 18, has gone on to star in West End play Equus completely naked. For some reason I can't look at Harry Potter in the same way again. And, disturbingly enough, when I flew along to EA's Casual brand event in London this week to get some hands-on time with the recently announced Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince game, set to tie in with the release of the sixth movie, I experienced slightly confusing thoughts too.
I was also completely knackered. And that's because the development of this Harry Potter game is being lead on the Nintendo Wii (it will be coming out simultaneously on something like 500 platforms, including the Mac and mobile). As Emily Newton-Dunn, former Burnout producer, Bits (remember that readers?) presenter and current Harry Potter producer explains, the overriding philosophy is to get players off their bums and waving the Wii Remote and Nunchuck about like a maniac. I did this. And it's knackering.
Available for hands-on time were two modes: potion making and duelling. Potion-making, which will play an intricate part of the overall story, involves using the Wii Remote to pour and mix together ingredients as fast as possible until the desired colour is achieved. You do this by following on-screen prompts which tell you the next step in the potion making process. You might start with a vial filled with a green liquid. Here, you need to point the Wii Remote at the vial, placed somewhere on screen, press A to lock on, pick it up by doing a lifting motion, then, if required, shake it until it starts to boil and finally pour it in the pot by twisting the Wii Remote. When you feel the pad rumble you need to quickly move the vial away and poof! On to the next step.
This might involve mixing the potion until it turns an appropriate colour, done by twirling the Wii Remote in a clockwise direction as fast as possible. As before, when you feel the rumble, that's your queue to pull away. In between all of this you'll also have to move the Wii Remote and the Nunchuck up and down in unison as quickly as possible to get the right mixture. Get it wrong, over mix or over pour, and the potion explodes in a cloud of smoke. When this happens, you'll need to wave the Nunchuck about as if clearing the air. It's simple and frantic, but will definitely hit the spot for would be wizards.
The potion making isn't anywhere near as good as the duelling, though. Here, Harry and Draco Malfoy face off in a Western-style magic wand shoot out. Both Harry and Draco stand at opposite ends of a narrow platform, complete with destructible cover(!), and trade magic spell blows by waving the Wii Remote about and dodging with the thumb stick on the Nunchuck. Harry has a bog standard spell attack, performed by holding the Wii Remote above your head and flicking it down. Harry will charge up a more powerful attack if you hold the Wii Remote up for a bit. You've also got a spell reflecting shield, performed by crossing the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in front of you. If both players time it right it can result in some amusing Pong-style spell-reflecting shenanigans. And lastly you've got a super, especially powerful spell attack, triggered by flicking both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuck to your left side at the same time. As Emily described it, think Bucks Fizz in the Eurovision song contest. That helped, actually.
More spells are to be added in the final game, but the reassuring thing is that even at this early stage the duelling is fun, and will only get better as more polish is added.
I couldn't leave Harry Potter behind without asking Emily if you'll be able to get it on with the girls of Hogwarts. Love is in the game, she said. Bless. It remains to be seen, however, if you'll be able to control Harry's tongue with the Wii Remote in a kissing mini-game. We can only hope.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is scheduled for release in time for the movie launch this fall for the Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo DS, Windows PC, Macintosh and mobile devices.