It’s a sad day when you find out that your video card isn’t good enough to run the Harry Potter game. After polishing off Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone last week, I became interested in how it was going to translate to video games. I think the original cash-in title Harry Potter Racing (think broomsticks) was cancelled, so now we’re left with four different games called Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone, one on the Game Boy Advance, one on the Game Boy Color, one on the PlayStation and one on the PC. I don’t own a GBA, so I tried the GBC version – it’s actually a pretty decent little RPG. I don’t think it will put Final Fantasy to shame, but the high-color routines on it are nice eye candy. I’m told that the GBA game is more of an adventure game in the vein of King’s Quest and it doesn’t work as well. I’m not sure what kind of game the PSX one is but this morning I fired up the PC game.

When it starts installing I see it installs maps as “.unr” files – meaning that it’s Unreal engine based. This gets me excited – the Unreal games, while never my favorite, kick ass. Once it’s done installing I fire it up and it prompts me to select my rendering preference. Huh? Software and Direct3D only? Wither OpenGL or Glide? I mean, these are APIs already built into Unreal, why would you strip them out? Better question – why is Software Rendering selected by default, when it says it was detecting my preferences? I pick “Direct3D” and move on. When I finally get into the game (there’s an expository story mode you can’t skip) I notice that none of the walls have textures. I fire it up in Software mode and the walls have textures – but of course it all looks like shit. I forgot how bad Software games looked. I read the little readme file and it lists the supported renderers – Voodoo3 isn’t listed, but Voodoo5 is.

My best guess is that EA woke up one morning and said “We need a PC version of Harry Potter“, so they got on the horn with Epic Games and bought themselves a license for the latest Unreal engine and just code-froze it right there, making the game on top of that version. Why they didn’t go with the Quake 3 engine, since they have several titles (including the PS2 port of Quake 3) using it already, is curious at best. Perhaps they enlisted a team that felt better about the Unreal engine. I just think it’s ironic and bizzarre that a children’s game requires a fairly top of the line system whereas more mainstream fare merely requires what I’ve got.

In any event perhaps my wife will like the game.