I doubt there’s a single person of any age who, on reading the Harry Potter books or watching the movies, has failed to consider how useful it would be to have a magic wand. Now, for iPhone and iPod Touch users, if you want to pretend to be a Hogwarts student, there’s an app for that.
The app starts, as it should, by asking for your name, having you find a suitable wand, and then sorting you into a Hogwarts house. The Sorting Hat does not, as I had thought it might, automatically put you in Gryffindor, which I would guess to be most kids’ desired house, but seems to choose mostly randomly: I tried eight times, and the only house I wasn’t sorted into was Slytherin, which could well be purposeful on the part of the game’s programmers. After that, you have to learn your spells.
The game has fourteen spells, including the ones you would expect (e.g., Expelliarmus and Expecto Patronum) and a few you probably wouldn’t (e.g., Episkey and Oppugno). Each is cast by holding the iPhone (or iPod Touch) parallel to the floor and making a particular gesture, unique to each spell. This I found to be the hardest part of the app, primarily because the tutorial did not adequately explain how the gestures were to be made. It had seemed to me that the gestures were supposed to be made as though seen from above, whereas they’re actually supposed to be made as though the iPhone were chalk and you were writing on a blackboard. Once the folks who made the game sent me a video explaining that, it made things significantly less frustrating for me.
Once you’ve learned all the spells (you have to learn them one at a time, as each unlocks the next), you can practice them or engage in a duel. If you have a second device, which I sadly do not, you can duel between them, firing attack spells to defeat your opponent or using defensive and healing spells to stop your opponent defeating you. If you don’t, you can duel against a computer-controlled opponent, which is fun for a few times but quickly gets a bit tiresome.
Learning and practicing the spells shows some neat animation, unique to each spell, and makes the device speak the spell’s name (as though it were being cast). In a nice feature, the app lets you record your own voice saying the spell if you want to, though you can just use the default voice, which is a female voice with a British accent. This is the same voice that tells you when you’ve cast the spell correctly each time in lessons or practice, or gently tells you that “you failed” (which I got really tired of hearing before receiving the casting advice, let me tell you).
Wired: The ability to cast spells with the iPhone was, perhaps, the only thing iPhones had been missing. Dueling with another person seems like it would be a lot of fun. My kids, who are huge Harry Potter fans, had a great time playing with it.
Tired: The instructions included with the app lacked clarity. Without a second device (with a second $2.99 copy of the app, of course), dueling gets boring quickly.
(Screenshots used with permission of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. FCC Disclosure: I received a free review copy of the app.)