Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban E3 2004 Preshow Impressions

The latest game in the Potter saga will let you play as Harry and his friends throughout a series of levels based on the upcoming movie.

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We recently got an updated look at the in-development PlayStation 2 version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the game version of the upcoming summer film based on the novel of the same name. Little has changed about the game since the last time we saw it, though the gameplay does seem to be coming along nicely.

For those who haven't read the original novel, Harry's third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will see him attempting to evade the nefarious Sirius Black, a recent escapee from Azkaban, the wizards' prison. Said to have killed Harry's parents, Black will be stalking the school grounds, presumably looking to finish the job by offing Harry himself. Unlike in previous games, this time you'll be able to play not only as Harry, but also as his two best friends, Ron and Hermione. Throughout most of the game, you'll be able to switch between the three at any time, and each character will have different strengths. Harry is an all-around capable player, while Hermione relies on an increased arsenal of spells (which are mapped to the controller's face buttons), and Ron will have a sort of sixth sense that lets him detect secrets in the environment. The game controlled well in our brief time with it, and it seems to have a fairly quick, action-game-style pacing to it.

The biggest new feature that we got to see in our demo was Prisoner of Azkaban's EyeToy support on the PS2, which will come in the form of several Potter-related minigames. One game will have you clapping your hands to squish chocolate frogs (a magical candy popular in the Potter universe) that are moving quickly across the screen. Another ties in to the popular magical sport Quidditch and will have you flailing your hands in an attempt to catch the tiny, flitting golden snitch, which typically ends a Quidditch match. A third minigame has you playing a quick game of wits where you match cards (perhaps the trading cards that are included with chocolate frogs in the stories). Unfortunately, the game's EyeToy support doesn't tie in to the main story mode in any meaningful way--the minigames are accessed from the main menu--but it's nice to see support for the unique peripheral in any form.

From what we've seen so far, Prisoner of Azkaban will likely be the most fully featured Harry Potter game to date. The game isn't far off, either--it's due out in June, just in time for the summer release of the film by the same name, so we'll bring you more on the game as its release approaches.

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