The magic of J.K. Rowling's universe makes its way once again onto the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS portable platforms, this time with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Like the console and PSP versions of the game, The Goblet of Fire on the DS and GBA follows the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they quest through a plotline that's similar to the one used in the book and film. Unfortunately, this adaptation of the adventure doesn't quite measure up to what you'd expect from a Harry Potter product.
The GBA and DS versions of The Goblet of Fire are the same for the most part, with a few minor differences. Both games are played primarily from an overhead view, using a 2D action adventure engine. You'll explore a number of different areas from the book, including the Quidditch Cup campsite, the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts school, the three Triwizard cup challenges described in the book, and more. Each area consists of a large, mazelike map that has simple environmental puzzles to solve. You'll need to use spells, such as the wingardium leviosa spell to lift obstacles out of pathways or to move platforms into place so you can climb to higher locations. You'll also use charms, such as the reparo charm to fix broken treasure chests for looting or the aqua eructo charm to put out flames. Some obstacles will require the simultaneous spellcasting of all three characters to lift heavier objects or put out larger flames, for example. The artificial intelligence in the game is generally smart enough to help you when needed, but you can always tap the left shoulder button to manually nudge the computer-controlled characters into following or assisting you. If you're playing the game in three-player cooperative mode, you and your buddies will need to work together.
As you work your way through the levels, you'll pick up special collector's cards, beans that can be used to unlock cards, and Triwizard shields. The levels are surprisingly large in scale, but unfortunately they end up feeling like repetitive filler rather than compelling content. The types of environmental puzzles you face are limited, so when you do the same task for the umpteenth time to open yet another blocked pathway, it tends to be more tedious than satisfying. Opening new levels and discovering new spells does introduce some different gameplay principles, but this often requires you to go back to previous levels and go down pathways that were previously impassable to you.
Various creatures will also fight you along the way. Burrowing dugbogs, vicious bowtruckles, and flaming fire salamanders are a few of the monsters lying in your path. The game does a pretty good job of varying the manner in which you have to dispatch the creatures. Red caps, for example, must be lured to you by turning your back to them until they get close--then you can lift them into a cauldron to kill them before they hide back in a cabinet. The fire crabs, on the other hand, are vulnerable only when their shells are open. The DS version of the game differs somewhat from the GBA version in that some of these creature fights will switch to a first-person dueling mode in the DS version. In this mode, you and the creature take turns firing spells at each other. You can choose different types of attacks--one requires you to trace an outline of various shapes onscreen, while another requires you to quickly connect dots that appear onscreen. Functionally these attack spells don't differ much, so you'll probably end up relying only on the one that's easiest for you to do. The method of defending against the attacks of the different creatures in this mode differs depending on the monster and also relies on using the touchpad, but for the most part, these duels play out the same every time and are more time-consuming than they are compelling. This of course also makes the Dueling Club multiplayer minigame included in the DS version of the game less appealing than it sounds on paper.