Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Impressions

We get a closer look at cute nifflers and nefarious Deatheaters in this preview of the newest Harry Potter game.

Electronic Arts recently paid us a visit with the latest build of the Nintendo DS version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The DS and the GBA versions actually share a lot of similarities, although the DS has some additional features to take advantage of the touch screen, including 10 unique minigames. These minigames include one with chocolate frogs, wherein you'll try to catch frogs jumping across the touch screen, as well as a bean-sorting game where you have a limited amount of time to toss colored beans into the appropriate container. The core adventure between the two versions, however, is very much the same, as you'll be using the D pad and buttons to direct the action.

You can choose to play as Harry, Hermione, or Ron.

Like previous games in the series, Goblet of Fire is a third-person action adventure. You'll control one of the primary protagonists in the story: Harry, Hermione Granger, or Ron Weasley, each of whom is rated for attack power, speed, and defense. The other two that you aren't controlling will follow you around and assist you as needed. You can improve your stats in the game by collecting beans, which also serve as currency, at the Weasley brothers' shop, Weasley's Wares. You'll also be searching for cards, which will unlock spells, as well as Tri-Wizard shields, which you'll need to complete the game. All these items are scattered throughout the levels, and they can be replayed to allow you to explore them more fully for cards and shields.

Our demonstration started off with some lightly animated cutscenes, the artwork of which is based on actual art used for the making of the motion picture. We then got a look at one of the first levels in the game, set at the Quidditch World Cup Camps that have just been overrun by Deatheaters loyal to Voldemort. With an overhead viewpoint, you'll work your way around a maze of tents, trying to avoid attacks from Deatheaters and hostile wandering creatures. From time to time, you'll find your path blocked by crates or other obstacles, and you can clear these out of the way by using your "wingardium leviosa" charm. Larger objects will require all three of the child wizards to use the levitation spell at once, but the game's artificial intelligence will be smart enough to know when you need assistance. The charm also comes in handy for immobilizing hostile enemies. This makes it easier for you to dispatch them with hexes, which are offensive spells that are mapped to a different button.

In the DS version of the game you'll occasionally run into special creature encounters. Here the game will take a first-person perspective, and you'll engage in a spell duel. In the Camps level, we ran across a hostile bowtruckle. By tracing patterns that appear on the touch screen, we were able to launch hexes at the monster. During the bowtruckle's attack phase, tracing circles around the screen let us fend off incoming hexes. These types of encounters can be played in a minigame as well, called "dueling club." Here you'll practice dueling against Ron or Hermione.

As in the book, the Tri-Wizard Tournament will be part of the adventure, so you can expect to participate in the same challenges that Harry faces in the book. One challenge involves a side-scrolling chase level where you dodge rocks and other obstacles on your broomstick while trying to avoid the large dragon on your tail. We also got a peek at the underwater lake level, where you'll navigate your way through a maze of underwater caverns to rescue your friends imprisoned below the surface.

On the DS you'll care for magical creatures using the touch screen.

Some minigames will be available on both the GBA and DS versions. One interesting one was the Yule Ball, which is a DDR-like minigame set to music. You'll see Harry, Hermione, or Ron dancing in their formal robes as you press the D pad and buttons in rhythm with the music to get their shwerve on. Though the primary portion of the game on GBA and DS is single-player only, minigames such as the Yule Ball can be played competitively with a friend. Perhaps the most interesting minigame is the Care of Magical Creatures, which is a Nintendogs-like game where you care for creatures such as a niffler or a fire crab. You'll use the touch screen to feed, water, groom, and pet your creatures. You can also use the microphone to call them out of their houses and interact with them.

Between the core adventure and all the minigames available, Harry Potter fans have a lot to look forward to with the GBA and DS versions of Goblet of Fire. The games are currently slated to ship this November on both platforms, so keep an eye on GameSpot for more information as it becomes available.

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