Could the new Harry Potter game use more magic? There’s some good news and some bad news, depending on which version you play.
|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Electronic Arts for PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, DS, PSP, PC
Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
Xbox 360 and PS3
Replay Value: 6.0
Overall Score: 7.0
Pros: Great graphics, dueling club, casting spells
Cons: No online play, characters’ lips move weirdly, not enough that’s truly new
Replay Value: 6.0
Overall Score: 6.0
Replay Value: 5.0
Overall Score: 5.5
Replay Value: 5.0
Overall Score: 5.0
FIRST, THE BAD NEWS
I’m afraid I have to tell you to stay away from the handheld versions. Both the PSP and DS games are pretty similar. In some ways, they just don’t look finished and corners have been cut. In an adventure game that isn’t too full of true adventure, the gamemakers add a lot that isn’t in the book, and it’s boring stuff.
There’s so much going-here-and-going-there to accomplish tasks, you often don’t want to play. Plus, the mini-games based on Gobstones, the marble game, and Exploding Snap, the card game, just don’t inspire a sense of wonder. There’s very little that’s magical here.
The Wii version is almost as much of a disappointment. Like the last game, you’ll make potions, play Quidditch and explore Hogwarts. What makes this game lesser than the other console versions is that the movements you want to make with the Wii remote aren’t always the ones that end up happening on the screen. It’s been years since the Wii was released; shouldn’t you be able to pull off really precise moves by now?
NOW, THE GOOD NEWS
The slightly more thrilling versions of the game are the ones made for Xbox 360 and PS3. The first thing you see is a bunch of quick scenes from the game, which gets you energized. After meeting Hermione and Ron and riding really fast through some hoops and navigating via the left stick, you’re transported far outside Hogwarts.
In a beautiful but somewhat creepy night full of shadows and moonlight, the quirky Luna Lovegood leads you up the road to the school. During the trip, you learn that there are 150 Crests to collect during the game. Also, shimmering and glowing objects such as street lamps contain Mini Crests. Collect enough, and you’ll eventually unlock extra bonuses and shortcuts.
Once inside, you meet Nearly Headless Nick, who’s your helper in case you get stuck during missions or become lost. Early on, you learn how to lift and throw an object with Wingardium Leviosa. You need to do this to collect a Crest that’s high up on an old brick wall. Sometimes Crests are really difficult to get. Exploding cauldrons and dungbombs help when Wingardium Leviosa isn’t enough.
MORE BAD NEWS
You follow Nearly Headless Nick to the Potion room to do some timed mixing of the weird liquids and powders that make spells. While the designers try to make this cool by adding sound effects and vibrant potion colors, mixing things together is just not that interesting.
I also discovered that moving down circular staircases got me dizzy, especially when I ran quickly. If you’re prone to getting motion sickness in a game, try to move slowly and take a break every 15 minutes or so. There’s no need to finish the game in a hurry. In fact, moving more slowly lets you check out the detailed environments that fill the Half-Blood Prince and set the mysterious mood.
While the characters’ faces look pretty close to the real-life actors, their lips don’t look right when they say certain words, especially when the words begin with b, f, m, n and p. I know this sounds like I’m nitpicking, but check it out yourself. It’s pretty distracting.
It also would have been great to have Quidditch and dueling in online modes. But it looks like EA still believes (like many developers) that kids don’t want to play with their pals online.
BUT MORE GOOD NEWS
Yet there are some compelling things. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you unlock shortcuts in the game. And it’s fun to interact with characters. You can even talk to lion statues (if they feature Crests) and get small missions from them called Good Deeds.
One of the most enjoyable things to do is dueling. Once you take on Ron, you’re admitted into the Gryffindor Dueling Club. In these battles, which get harder and harder, you can use Levicorpus to levitate your foe and Petrificus Totalus to freeze your opponent. Basically, the dueling is practice that helps when you eventually take on the crafty Death Eaters.
Overall, diehard fans of the Harry Potter series won’t care about the glitches and lack of new gameplay. But do yourself a favor and rent before you buy, especially when it comes to the handheld versions. You’ll want to make sure you really like it before you make a financial investment in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.