Boy wizard Harry Potter returns to video gaming with his broomstick in tow in Quidditch World Cup, an international version of the sport played at Hogwarts and abroad. Inspired by the Quidditch segment in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, World Cup features a choice of four Hogwarts Houses (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff), each fielding a team of seven players. Rules follow those outlined in J.K. Rowling's books, with players flying on brooms and representing four positions: the Keeper (goalie), Beaters (defensemen), Chasers (offense), and the Seeker. Four balls are in play at all times, including one Quaffle, two Bludgers, and the Golden Snitch.
The Quaffle is the ball used to score points, with Chasers passing it to each other by throwing it and attempting to score by getting it past the Keeper. The two Bludgers, black balls batted around by the opposing team's Beaters, must be avoided at all costs, as their only purpose is to knock team members off their brooms. The Golden Snitch, a tiny sphere with wings, is sought by each team's Seeker and immediately ends the game when caught. Catching the Golden Snitch is worth 150 points, with each Chaser goal worth ten points apiece. The team ahead once the Snitch is caught wins the game. Players must first compete in the Hogwarts Cup before they have an opportunity to challenge for the World Cup.
The World Cup is an international tournament played by professional teams hailing from the United States, Bulgaria, Norway, England, Japan, France, Germany, and Australia. Each team features distinct uniforms and home stadiums, as well as its own form of tactics and strategy when competing. Players must win each game in the tournament for the chance to win the coveted Quidditch World Cup. The game offers single-player action against computer opponents or multiplayer fun with two teams competing head to head. Various options are also available to help customize gameplay.
Cricket, polo, snooker ... golf -- Britain has been known for centuries as the birthplace of bizarre and inexplicable sports. The latest is Quidditch, the flying-broom sport Harry Potter and his classmates play in J.K. Rowling's humongously successful series of fantasy novels.
Fans of the books -- or the blockbuster movies -- know how Quidditch works. For those who don't ... here goes nothing: It's a little like soccer. A bit like basketball. It's played on flying broomsticks. And pretty much anything goes -- even magic. The basic idea is to grab the ball-like Quaffle and toss it through a big ring to score ten points. The three players who do that are called chasers, and there's a goalie called the keeper. Simple enough. But then there are the bludgers: two magical iron balls that fly randomly around the field and try to knock the stuffing out of any player who comes within range. That's where the beaters come in -- players armed with bats to knock the bludgers away from their team and toward the opposing team.
Oh, and there's one more ball: the Golden Snitch is a tiny, incredibly fast ball with wings and a mind of its own. Each team has a seeker, a player whose sole responsibility is to try and spot the Snitch and grab it before the other team's seeker can. That's the only way to end the game, and the team whose seeker grabs the Snitch first gets a bonus of 150 points.
Yeah. It's almost as strange and confusing as cricket. It was EA's job to turn Quidditch into a workable, entertaining computer game -- and they've done surprisingly well. Quidditch World Cup takes some license in the interest of gameplay: If you could grab the Snitch any time at all, it would make for some very short matches. So the Snitch doesn't show up until both ends of the "Snitch Bar" meet at the top of the screen. You accomplish that by stringing together passes and goals to fill up your end of the Snitch Bar. When the two ends of the Snitch Bar meet, regular gameplay stops, the Snitch appears, and you find yourself controlling your team's seeker in a twisting, diving chase that does a good job of capturing the feel of the movies' big Quidditch scenes. Grab the Snitch, and the game is over, and you win -- unless, of course, you were more than 150 points behind, which might just be possible in some of the harder matches.
The game's early matches are easy enough. A challenge mode helps you learn the game by dividing it into relatively simple goals -- passing, shooting, controlling the bludger, etc. Complete the first few challenges, and you can enter the first match in the Hogwarts School Quidditch Cup. Win that, and it's back to challenge mode to unlock the next match.
Along the way, you earn Quidditch cards by reaching certain goals -- beating a specific team, winning a match by a set number of points, etc. -- and those cards unlock new special moves you can use in matches.
The ultimate goal is to win the Hogwarts Cup and unlock the Quidditch World Cup mode, which lets you vie for the professional title as one of nine international teams. That's when the game gets truly challenging; you'll need to unlock and master a strong set of special moves before you can hope to take your team all the way.
The game's visuals are fast and detailed, with a crisp, cartoonish look perfectly suited to the world of Harry Potter. Special moves are depicted in brief animations that blend fluidly with gameplay. Team special moves are the most elaborate, like the one in which the older Weasley brothers bat a bludger back and forth between them, clearing the way for a chaser following behind them -- then use the bludger to take out the opposing keeper for an easy score.
The game's multiplayer support is the one major disappointment: on the PC, it's limited to exhibition matches between two players on the same computer. It's a true shame, because Quidditch could be a fast-paced blast for 14 players online, each one taking the role of his team's chaser, beater, keeper, or seeker.
That letdown aside, Quidditch World Cup packs a surprising amount of appeal. Familiar touches abound during the Hogwarts matches. The team members are the kids from the books; Madam Hooch is the referee, Lee Jordan provides play-by-play, and Ron and Hermione cheer Harry from the stands. Fans of the novels and movies are likely to love the game -- the surprise is that the average gamer will find a lot to like as well.
People who downloaded Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup have also downloaded:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (a.k.a. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Age of Mythology, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
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