Wednesday, March 10, 2004

PoA-another game preview
IGN has given out their preview of the upcoming Prisoners of Azkaban game to be coming out in May.
The Prisoner of Azkaban follows Harry's third year at Hogwarts and strange happenings are afoot. The game opens as the character and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, venture toward the school on the Hogwarts Express train. Suddenly and without warning the lights dim outside, lightning strikes in the distance and Harry passes out. A detailed in-game cut-scene illustrates this plot development and then you're in control of the action. Except, you won't manipulate Potter -- at least, not from the start. Instead, you assume the role of Ron and must drag Harry away from approaching dangers.
The threat immediately makes itself known: a group of grim-reaper-like Dementors, guards of Azkaban Prison, have somehow materialized inside the train and they mean to suck Harry's soul away from him. If you read the books, you'll know that these dark creatures play a major part in the story. If Ron does not pull his best friend away quickly enough the creatures will gain on them and you'll actually be able to see Harry's soul being vacuumed from his body. (You can rip Harry's soul free of their grasp by rapidly wiggling the control stick back and forth.) By now you've realized that you can control Ron and Hermione in addition to Harry. You can switch between them at any time and usually all three are drawn on the screen at once, unless of course the story predicament calls for a change. This isn't a gameplay gimmick, but a set up that actually figures into puzzle solving and combat scenarios.
Each character features unique strengths and weaknesses. All of them share two or three spells in common as well as one or two unique bits of magic. Harry can exclusively use the Patronus charm, which conjures a stag that can fend off Dementors. This is true to the book. He's good at leaping across chasms, which makes him the prime candidate for serious platforming challenges. Meanwhile, he's a fantastic Quidditch player. Ron, always the bumbler, is less magically inclined than his friends and cannot leap, but because he comes from a wizard family he's able to sense things. Place him next to secret areas and he'll be able to spot them -- the walls thin and shimmer when he nears -- when the other characters cannot. Ron can also cast the Lumos spell, which illuminates dark rooms and hallways. Meanwhile, Hermione, who is shorter than the other two, can crawl through small spaces. She can also magic to repair items, to freeze enemies and objects, to transfigure books into mice and statues into dragons.
As in the book, the game really begins shortly after Harry retrieves Marauders Map, a magic scroll that shows all of the locations at Hogwarts and simultaneously displays where all of the teachers are situated. Using this tool, the trio can sneak around the school in search of clues that might explain why the Dementors are suddenly after Harry. In addition, Harry quickly learns that the infamous Sirius Black, rumored murderer and longtime prisoner of Azkaban Prison, has escaped from the facility and that he's been spotted near Hogwarts.
According to EA UK, the title features 30 or so major locations and puzzles all connected by one enormous school whose interior and exterior can be fully explored on foot or in the sky. You can fly atop dragons, on Buckbeak the Hippogriff's back or as Hedwig the owl. You'll need to use Hedwig on several occasions to reach spots that Harry and his friends normally can't.
EA UK has worked hard to "age Harry up." As a result, the character both looks older than he did in previous games and also comes equipped with more powerful spells and more advanced moves.
Prisoner of Azkaban features five mini-games, two of which are two-person multiplayer compatible. There is wizard dueling, which is more or less a third-person 3D game of Pong between wizards whose spells bounce back and forth at each other. There's magic fishing. There's a game that revolves around catching bats. Owl racing. And a game whereby you must fly a broomstick around an environment and try to catch menacing dragons. Two of the mini-games will be unlockable from the very beginning of the adventure and the rest will be opened up as you progress. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is set for release on all three platforms in late May.

Go here for the latest screencaps
Screencaps of PoA game"_blank">PoA screencaps

No comments: