Sometimes it's all about being in the right place at the right time. On the very day EA announces that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is to feature EyeToy compatibility, we managed to entomb three of its representatives, including senior producer Dan Blackstone, in a sorcerous dungeon of our own devising, for a full and exclusive hands-on playtest of the third instalment of the boy wizard's adventures.
Scheduled for a release on May 26, just one short week before this Summer's big movie release, Prisoner of Azkaban the game marks a darker and more adult direction for the series, mirroring the book and film's theme as Harry, Ron and Hermione come of age and enter their third year at Hogwarts.
The game opens with an impressive cinematic sequence which zooms in on the three chums already aboard the Hogwarts Express. After Ron's pet rat Scabbers makes a break for it, Harry and Ron race after him at breakneck speed.
They soon encounter Harry's arch-nemesis Draco Malfoy and a couple of his cronies, which immediately kicks off an intense wizard duel, nicely illustrating some of Prisoner of Azkaban's many new features.
"We wanted to give them more pace, make them more like a proper gunfight," says Blackstone of the wizard duels and he's not wrong. With spells flying, including a new one which transforms its victim into a Halloween pumpkin head, Harry and Ron eventually defeat Malfoy - only for the truly sinister Dementors to make their first, chilling appearance.
As Harry collapses, Ron has to drag him to safety as the Dementors try to suck Harry's very soul from his body - which in this case can only be prevented by judicious waggling of the left analogue stick.
When the Dementors are eventually driven off with the aid of Professor Lupin, a handy Patronus charm and some chocolate frogs, it was time for a quick pause and a chance for reflection.
"Graphically it's a huge leap forward," says Blackstone and comparing Prisoner side by side with Chamber of Secrets, it's easy to see the work the EA team has put in. Harry, being older is physically taller and more imposing, but the game engine is also smoother, richer, more detailed and certainly a lot quicker than Chamber's, really bringing Harry's darkest adventure to life.
Prisoner's biggest gameplay innovation has to be the new companion mode, where at the flick of a button you can switch between Harry, Ron and Hermione. Each has a slightly different set of skills and spells and learning to combine their unique wizardly talents is vital to progress.
Harry is fast and agile and probably the 'action man' of the team, while Hermione's bookish nature gives her access to a wider variety of spells and incantations. Her slighter physical stature also means she's more useful for delicate, stealthy sections like crossing over thin ice.
Ron's 'friend to everyone' (for which read 'bit of a mug') nature means he'll willingly step forward to take one for the team when the others are low on health. Being a lifer at Hogwarts, he's also developed Ron-Sense, the ability to sniff out secret areas and unearth hidden clues in the rambling corridors of the ancient school.
Blackstone revealed that balancing the three-player companion AI for Prisoner was one of the most challenging aspects of the new game, but just past pre-Alpha stage, the team is pleased with the results.
At first Ron and Hermione would simply rush in and slay everything for you, but now all three have to work co-operatively to defeat the game's many puzzles, creatures and bosses.
It wasn't long before we had a chance to check them out in action: after a brief duel where all three team-mates gave some magical hammer to those troublesome pixies, Blackstone unleashed the Cauldron boss and defeating this monstrous amalgam of cooking pots and oversized saucepans, relied on Hermione freezing him before Harry and Ron unleashed a storm of spells to finally defeat his awesome culinary power.
Intriguingly the Cauldron boss is a good example of Prisoner's relationship with the book and film. Although the game follows both closely, there are bonus sections, creatures and spells which have never appeared in the Harry Potter universe before.
However hardcore Harry fans shouldn't worry as Blackstone revealed that the team had spent plenty of time with JK Rowling herself to develop all this new content, so it carries the absolute highest seal of authenticity. "She's very protective of Harry Potter and rightly so," he concluded.
Prisoner is also set to feature five mini-games, two multi- and three single-player outings which can be unlocked through the main single-player adventure.
Advanced Broom Flight and Duelling Club are open at the start, but you'll eventually be able to experience Owl Racing which allows you to control Hedwig and there's also Hippogryph Flight Challenge and Flying Seahorse Fishing.
And yet there were even more revelations to come, because when you open up Hermione's ability to transform people into mice, you can play as both mouse and owl in the single-player game to explore previously inaccessible areas (check out those mouse holes).
Yet Blackstone had even more to tell, because in the 'Cube version of Prisoner, you'll be able to download Hedwig onto your GBA as a kind of virtual pet, improve his stats then reload him back into the main game for the Owl Racing challenge.
Okay, you're probably reeling under the magical assault of all these Harry Potter revelations right now, but as usual we've saved the best until last: Prisoner of Azkaban's amazing EyeToy capabilities, exclusive to the PS2 version of the game.
Avoiding the neat irony that Harry Potter was in fact originally intended as the first ever EyeToy title, this section in Azkaban begins with a quick photo session which prepares you for the Sorting Hat, where you're assigned to one of Hogwarts' four school houses of Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Gryffindor.
Then it's on to one of seven EyeToy games which, though relatively un-taxing, are quite immense fun, especially with up to four players involved.
Exploding Snap is a gentle match-the-cards style opener and Filcher's Chores is a window-wiper-style offering which sees you polishing up the school trophies. Gnome Throwing does exactly what it says on the tin, encouraging you to flick the little perishers at targets for points, while Catch the Snitch lets you hone your seeker skills, while attempting to avoid that pesky bludger.
That's followed by Chocolate Frogs, a happy-clappy kind of affair, where you trap the hoppers on the Hogwarts' Express. Prisoner's EyeToy offering finishes with Gob Stone and Zonko's Joke Shop, two reasonably similar, though still cute offerings where you have to spatter the screen with disgusting goo.
Perhaps funniest of all though is the random appearance of Peeves the ghost in each of the games, which you have to scare away by shouting directly at the EyeToy - which we were told is the first ever use of EyeToy's mic feature.
While Blackstone was content to shout a very gentlemanly "Go away!" we wondered if stronger stuff might be in order? Would it respond equally well to a hearty Father Jack- style "Feck off!" Sadly, we never had the chance to find out.
Anyway if your Harry Potter cup doesn't runneth over after reading all of that, we'll be truly shocked. Further Potter revelations coming up, so consult your spellbook, start practicing your finest incantations and keep watching this space for further Potter-related goodness.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is due for release on PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube and GBA on May 26.