I have to admit, I really didn’t like Pokémon growing up. I just didn’t get the bug. But when the Pokémon Go phenomenon took up the last measly remains of my phone storage in 2017 I was intrigued. I learnt the names (ish), I battled other players in the arenas and I walked the miles to find anything other than bloomin’ Pidgios and Rattatas. Frankly, in hindsight, I think I ended up being Pokéworld’s (I told you I wasn’t a fan…) resident pest control.
I can’t say the same of Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite - the new augmented reality game from the same company behind Pokémon Go, Niantic. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter. I made the room on my phone, made my way through the Trivial Pursuit Special Edition pack as a reminder of JK Rowling’s brilliant creations and oddities, and waited impatiently for Friday 21st June to arrive.
As soon as the mini-wizard appeared on the rendering of London’s streets disappointment of how Pokémon Go lost its appeal crept into my mind. However, I soon realised the sheer expanse of what this little game has to offer. It’s an absolute treat. Well, get past the cutesy profile building - photo, name, house, wand etc - and then the richness of activities on this game are instantly accessible. Visit inns to gather spells, collect flora, fungi and slimy slugs for potion making (or grow them in greenhouses dotted around the city), get a position within the ministry, expand your magical abilities through your choice of profession, seek out portkeys for transportation to other parts of the wizarding world.
I’ve not even got to the actual gameplay part. Fight Death Eaters, trolls, werewolves and vampires. Free students and professors of Hogwarts from mystical traps. Collect and return rare artefacts to their rightful homes. Yeah, ok, the wand-wielding is as cack as chucking those Pokéballs (weirdly, I think I got that one right…). But whereas Niantics last outing was all about beating your opponent into submission - one of many strange individuals loitering around your arena - this new concoction is about sharing with each other abilities and potions at fortresses to kick that pesky Death Eater’s ass. Wizarding and witching players work together to clean up the streets after a major magical event tears the thin yet essential vail between this magical world and the muggle one.
Applying a mildly entertaining plot over the parallel worlds works to make the augmented reality less gimmicky but ultimately I’m far happier playing the game sat on my sofa tucked up inside. Remarkably, the small triangular patch of grass across from my flat counts as a landmark ‘Inn’ in the game, meaning I get non stop wand waving (again, steady!) from the comfort of my own home. A little tip for those that agree, head to the settings on the map screen and turn on battery saver. That’ll turn off much of the AR superfluousness save your juice when out and about.
This game certainly doesn’t break gaming ground with its augmented reality, nor do I think it will be the phenomenon like others before it. However, it’s a Harry Potter fans delight. The wealth of colours, creatures and combination of activities make it a pleasantly nostalgic way to pass the time.