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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

Wizards Unite?

“Magic Eight Ball, can I have some fun right now?”

“Doubtful, try again later.”

That, in a nutshell is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the new mobile game from Niantic. It is like Pokemon Go, but different. I had high hopes for the game when rumors about it came out. But actual game play leaves me less satisfied.

What’s the Story?

Some guy did something funky and now random people and objects are getting teleported from space and time into other locations. They call those Foundables. Add to that, crazy magic and people and critters are trying to mess with those Foundables or block you from returning them. They call them Confoundables. Clever right? So you wave your wand in the way the screen tells you, and if luck favors your attempt, the Confoundable is beaten and the Foundable poofs back home.

Basic Gameplay

When you face off against a Confoundable, the game puts a swipe shape on screen, trace it and the spell is cast. That works well enough. But each attempt costs an energy point. I’ve run out too frequently. Leading to times I can’t play the game casually when I have a moment. That’s not fun.

Too much clutter and stickers

I hear five year olds like stickers. It’s been a couple score since I was five. A lot of this game is waiting for your reward screen to finish babbling at you and getting past the Place Image screens. I don’t care. Say I won and close out so I can nail the next Confoundable before it gets away. There’s so much text and fiddly bits, I don’t see five year olds playing Harry Potter.

Lots of Tiny Print

I’m older and using an iPhone 8. I love it when a game has small text that ignores my Accessibility setting for larger fonts. I’m sure the knowledge Harry Potter is trying to tell me is important, but it always pops up when I’m trying to finish my current activity and I’m not in the mood to struggle to read it.

Let Me Have Fun

A big danger in game design is too many moments where the player can’t play. In mobile games, this is critical. A player is most likely in line somewhere, and has a couple minutes to play. If they open the screen and have no energy and no way to get energy (except buy it), they can’t play. Time to switch to a different game. The more times that happens, the less likely a player will return.

Will It Get Better?

I think so. Niantic has a duty to respect Accessibility options, that means cranking up the damn font size like my phone says to do. They can simplify the “You got a new image” interface to show me that it happened and cut out the click-fest to get my ranks for that. Tapping things to step through foregone conclusions is stupid. Bringing up conversations could be improved so they don’t butt into the middle of my race to whack a bunch of Confoundables. In PoGo, they put the face of the Professor in the screen, showing me that somebody wants to talk, rather than injecting themselves into what I am doing. I also suspect that one day, we’ll see a Wand device that pairs with my phone and I’ll get to wave my wand at my enemies. Maybe they’ll hook into my phone’s Fitness API and give me credit for steps like Pogo does. Getting energy every day after I wake up would let me recharge over time and guarantee I can play a little bit, if I don’t have an Inn nearby.

Final Rating: C

PoGgo ran smooth, but had limited game play when it came out. People loved it. WU packed a ton of widgets, and now its overwhelming. The game play is more advanced, which I like, but I can’t play casually half the time I load it up. They can do better and in a few more updates, maybe it will be better.

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