Harry Potter isn't a fad, it's an infestation. Children with British accents took over our bookstores, then our movie theaters. Now they've invaded video games. Yes, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are back in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, the fourth title in Electronic Arts' Harry Potter series. All three characters are playable in this Gauntlet-style game, where hack-and-slash is often the best policy. Casting spells—a simple feat prompted by the AI at opportune moments—also comes in handy, whether there's a fire in your path, a giant salamander you need to levitate, or health-restoring beans that lie just out of reach. The free-roam feature from earlier Harry Potter titles has been passed up this time around for a more level-oriented approach. Though Harry does eventually get separated from his friends, they mostly work together, which means opportunities for multi-player fun.
While the game is visually appealing, it pays the price in load times. In general, it goes heavy on the cinematics and light on actual gameplay, and when you do get to play, objectives are sometimes confusing, or just easy. The total lack of camera control makes precision a challenge, and the AI ranges from tolerable to stupid. How come Harry and Hermione are ready to cross the drawbridge when Ron is still muttering Britishisms on the wrong side of the screen? In spite of the darker content of the Goblet Of Fire novel and its film adaptation, this game's setup implies it was made with younger fans in mind.
Beyond the game: Like its predecessors, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire sticks close to the simplified movie version of Rowling's tale. For anyone who's unfamiliar with Harry's adventures, though, the game's cryptic cutscenes make it nearly impossible to follow the plot.
Worth playing for: The onslaught of faux-Latin phrases. Spew water from your wand while shouting "Aqua Eructo!" Pull a tree from your path by screaming "Carpe Retractum!" Sure, the spells are in the books, but it's hard to appreciate how ridiculous they are until you've heard them for the 50th time.
Frustration sets in when: You're standing where you're supposed to stand, pressing the button you're supposed to press, and the game refuses to cast your spell. Why? Who knows.
Final judgment: Read the books? Seen the movies? Still looking for that fix only Harry Potter can provide? It can't hurt to check out this game. Non-addicts, on the other hand, should probably stick to some of Britain's more engaging exports, like teatime, clotted cream, or plaid.