My DVD player stopped reading MP3 DVDs. Since I rarely use it, I decided to break out the 360 in its stead. Its been sitting in my closet for nearly 6 months now. I took a look at recent Demos and the first to download was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After a few minutes, I’m feeling all loathsome about having bought a 360 instead of a Wii.
“Right lads, this is one of the hottest franchises going right now. We’ll throw a bunch of money at using the film’s art assets to make the thing pretty. Then we don’t have to give a monkey’s about game design. If it really sucks, we’ll time limit the demo so that they get chance to see the eye candy without getting too much chance to see its not worth buying.”
The opening cut-scenes either run at 10-12 fps or the camera moves at that. Either way, the result is a continually stepped sequence. Why? If the 360 doesn’t have quite that much CPU, pre-render the damn thing. Yeesh.
Instructions: White text on a light grey background with no drop shadow. I guess this is my punishment for not having a HDTV.
Control system: Your first instruction is to press Y to get your wand out. Actually, moving also seems to get your wand out. Having drawn your wand, they begin showing you the magic system. Basically, you use the right thumbstick to waggle your wand. “Wingardium Leviosa” is apparently done by pushing the thumbstick forward and then waggling it left and right.
Well, my first and most basic issue with the 360 is that the right thumbstick is strategically placed so as to be hard to push in pure cardinal directions if you’re not used to it, and the actual direction that moving your thumb produces entirely depends on how you are holding the controller. But the wings of the controller preclude you holding it with your thumb actually producing a natural ordinal movement.
Ok, fair enough. It’s going to take me a little while to train my hand to compensate for the fact my hand isn’t at right angles to the controller, and my thumb is going to rotate slightly when I reach for the shift buttons at the back, etc. The on-screen guide indicates I should push the right stick forward.
So I push the stick forward and let go, Harry raises his wand and drops it. Ok, I see, I’m going to make wand gestures this looks cool.
The on-screen guide alludes that I need to push the stick forward and then wave it left to right to execute this spell. On-screen, a bench has been highlighted, which I figure is telling me its the target. Ok – this seems pretty simple. So:
Forward, left, right. Wait, why did my character turn? Oh. The right thumb stick doubles as target selection! I must have gotten the timing wrong. I watch the guide again, and then attempt to replicate its timing. Up goes the wand, then it starts to go left and … Harry turns, selecting another bench to the left and suddenly WHAM. Apparently, if you point at an object and waggle left right, it executes another spell. I try to replicate that. Unfortunately, it seems that the target selection messes with the timing.
After some really hard work, I finally pull off a Winguardiam Leviosa. Yay! New white text on the light, grey cobblestone appears. I squint.
“This demo will time out in 1 minute”.
Ok, well, I haven’t used the controller in 6 months, I’ll give it another pop. It almost as pretty as a PC game, after all.
I manage to pull off a couple more Wingardiam Leviosas – although I was actually trying to pull off the other spell when I did. This confuses me since the directions on screen suggest that a forward-push on the stick is needed.
Before my time runs out, I try to discover wtf else I am supposed to do. Harry is standing in a little portico/yard, with other kids around. When I walk near them, they blink, so I mash keys and discover I can talk to them. There are two kids playing marbles, so I walk over to them, and try to walk.
GOBBLESTONES. This is apparently a kind of billiards played with marbles. A group of them sit in the middle of a circle and you get to flick a red marble in and try to knock the green stones out.
After you take your shot, you have to sit and wait while all affected marbles come to a halt. Presumably the lack of friction which makes this such a long process is because magic is somehow involved? After my first shot, I knew I didn’t want to play this mini-game ever again in my life. I pressed every key on my controller, but apparently they want you to have the full experience – once you start gobblestones, you play gobblestones. So I walked away from the console to let it timeout the demo.
Ok. Last try. I restart, I walk to the bench that has no other nearby targets to screw me over and start the process. Forward, left, right, left, right. Nothing. The wand doesn’t grow brighter to indicate I’m getting any of the queues right, it just moves around. Forward, left, right, left, right, left right. Nothing. I follow the queue on screen exactly, I try my own pace. Nothing. Forward, left, DEPOSA! What? Now what I wanted to do. Forward, left, right, le… DEPOSA!
I stop to think about this. I try a bunch more times, but now nothing is happening again. I move the stick right to turn around and DEPOSA! Huh? Lets see if I can do another deposa. Forward, right WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!
WTF? Is it just randomly remembering X many movements?
Demo times out in 1 minute.
Realizing I’m about to be beat by a lousy Potter game, knowing I should really have chosen something else for my first 360 game of the year… I angrily spin the right thumbstick.
I repeat – just spin the right thumbstick 360.
One thing I do remember about the 360 is how to turn it off.