Harry Potter fans will dive right into the augmented reality game Wizards Unite.
With limited places to go with my 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, I decided it was finally time to try the augmented reality mobile game app Harry Potter Wizards Unite — think of it as the marriage of Pokémon Go with the Harry Potter world. In fact, the developer Niantic produces both games. Wizards Unite builds on the storyline built in the Harry Potter books and gives players the chance to find and battle “Confoundables” where they are in the real world to keep Muggles from discovering the existence of wizards.
So, I’m no techie, but I can usually figure out pretty quickly how mobile games work. That said, the learning curve is very steep with Wizards Unite. There are so many things to keep track of and so many layers to the game. After playing a few times, I eventually had to watch a YouTube tutorial to better understand how it all worked!
But for younger kids, the story and point-boosting strategies are not nearly as important as seeing Luna Lovegood with a fire-breathing chicken. So, if your kids would find saving Sirius Black from dementors to be great fun, you can simply play to cast spells and save various characters and objects. This is how we chose to go.
You start the game on a map that shows various challenges and potion ingredients in your actual location. I thought the game would be more dependent on walking, but you can often be in one location and come across various objects. The busier the place, the more goodies around. Pro tip: It’s a good idea to start playing the game at a busier location, so you can get more practice casting spells. For example, we played at Trillium Lake (socially distanced, of course) and our map lit up with “Foundables.” Whereas in our neighborhood, there were a lot fewer Foundables right around our house. But a short walk did lead us to a fortress, where you can fight against dark wizards alone or with other friends who also play the game.
To cast spells, you use your finger to trace a shape on your smartphone screen — such as a lowercase e for the spell “ebublio.” You have more than one attempt to save an object. My son had a harder time with the tracing. I’d end up helping him if his attempts were unsuccessful. My daughter picked it up quickly enough. (Each successful defeat of a Confoundable earns the player points and other rewards.)
Pro tip: Think of a really unique “code name” before you start playing for the first time. After downloading and registering, the game allows you to play a bit before you need to create a code name. You cannot move forward or do anything else in the game until your code name is accepted! It took me at least 12 tries.
Wizards Unite also allows you to play with friends, but I didn’t want to add that layer of complexity while playing with my kids. But I can see how it would be really fun for older kids playing on their own to virtually connect with their friends for battles and to earn rewards.
So while the game is super complicated, my kids love playing. And since playgrounds aren’t open yet, I found Wizards Unite to be a great way to take my kids to our neighborhood park, but keep them away from the play equipment and other kids. And I am not above using it as a bribe to get them out for a walk around the neighborhood! (And dear J.K. Rowling, please reconsider your TERF stance. We all know Hermione Granger would ally with trans women.)
Find out more at harrypotterwizardsunite.com. Available for download through the App Store, Google Play and Samsung Galaxy Store. Free, but in-game purchase options often pop up.