Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells has just now opened for pre-registration on Android, and prior to today's announcement, I spoke to key members of the development team at Zynga to discuss their approach to working within the Harry Potter universe and how they hope to enhance the match-3 formula.
One of Puzzles & Spells' biggest draws is its collectable spells from the books and movies. Every well-known spell is present here, and they can all be upgraded over time by playing through levels and earning XP. The spells I've seen in action look great, and what's more impressive is how visually distinct they are. Casting a spell also causes your character's personalised wand to appear on screen, which is a nice touch.
Within certain levels, you'll find giant 3D creatures roaming around. For example, one level I was shown featured a cave troll stomping about the screen and causing havoc. This completely altered the pace and focus of the level, with the player being required to work around the troll before sending it tumbling off the board. It appeared more like a climactic boss fight than a standard puzzle.
Another neat addition is the game's roster of collectable pets. These range from frogs and owls to giant dragons, and they'll even appear during levels to help you out. Ideally, this should add some extra depth to the core puzzling and your lineup of available powers.
One thing that kept coming up during the presentation was how the world and characters of Harry Potter tie into every facet of the gameplay experience. Fan-favourites like Hagrid, Dumbledore, and Professor McGonagall will occasionally offer a helping hand during levels. They're all voiced, though the lines and recordings are taken directly from the films.
Daily events are also an integral part of the game, and many of these are tied to actual anniversaries, character birthdays, etc, from the Wizarding World. Certain events can only be completed during specific times of day, especially the various classes you can participate in.
Customisation of your original character and wand are also important here. You can unlock various cosmetic items that should help to set you apart when it comes to joining a Club. Here, you can socialise with other players, share lives, and work together in co-operative events.
Every action you perform feeds back into earning that all-important XP, unlocking and upgrading spells, and gradually becoming a better witch or wizard. It remains to be seen just how much the game's many bells and whistles add to that match-3 core, but as of right now, I'm impressed with what Zynga has brought to the table.
If you want to register your interest and net yourself a handy Welcome Bundle at launch, you can do so now over on Google Play. What's in the Welcome Bundle? Some power-ups, rewards, and a custom item for your in-game avatar. It'll be available to all players during the game's first week of release.Searching for the best puzzle games around? Here are 25 of our favourites for iPhone & iPad