Whilst movie-based video games tend not to be enjoyable for the more hardcore gamer, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix proved to be a rare exception when it released in 2007, because of its free-roam capabilities. Two years on, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is upon us, with the film set to release in cinemas, along with a coinciding video game.
Having read the book, it was clear to me straight from the off, that the game’s narrative wasn’t going to be to a great standard - devoting a short montage to some key scenes early on. However, this doesn’t mean players won’t be able to grasp the storyline, many will be able to get the grips of it with ease.
The storyline continues of from Order of the Phoenix, with the evil Lord Voldemort (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) on the rise back to power, after years in hiding. Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and close friend of Harry Potter, starts to prepare for the inevitable showdown with Voldemort by introducing Harry to horcruxs, a device used by dark wizards to attain immortality.
Despite the rather dark storyline, there are some more positive aspects to it, including some interesting love stories between Harry’s best friend, Ron Weasley, and fellow student, Lavender Brown. Though the more interesting relationship is between Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, Ron’s sister, which is strongly hinted at many times throughout the game, even at the very beginning.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince begins at the Burrow, the home of Harry’s best friend – Ron Weasley, where Harry is talking to Ginny about Quidditch, a popular sport within the wizarding world - played on broomsticks, and how Harry has been given the title of Gryffindor Quidditch Captain. Quidditch consists of players flying through stars and into dummy targets in order to gain time so that Harry can catch up with the golden snitch (a small golden ball which, when caught, ends the game). Not only is Quidditch fairly enjoyable, it’s also simple to manoeuvre, with the left thumbstick the only control required.
The rest of the game’s controls are also very simple. It came as a surprise to see that there was very little use of the buttons, with the only button players are like to press throughout the game being the back button. Doing so brings up Nearly Headless Nick – one of Hogwarts’ many ghosts, who guides players to their intended destination. This proved to be a vital inclusion to the game after the partial-removal of the Marauder’s Map, which made cameo-appearances throughout the game, rather than being fully accessible.
As with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, spells are cast using the right thumbstick, which once again proves to be a winning formula, despite spells not being used for duelling purposes as much as players would have liked. Fortunately, this is where the duelling clubs come in. Duelling clubs allow players to practise their attacking and defensive spells on fellow house students, with each house having its own club, all of which are accessible by Harry. Duelling is a great addition to the game when played in small chunks, as it can get slightly on the repetitive side.
Whilst duelling is all well and good, it’s the new use of the thumbsticks which makes them that bit more interesting. With the Half Blood Prince having such a heavy emphasis on potion making, the developers introduced a very simple mini-game, which sees players being given instructions in the form of symbols. The symbols represent different shaped and coloured bottles, positioned around the cauldron, in which the bottle’s content are poured using the right thumbstick. Mixing potions is a good feature and something that younger players will enjoy playing, though it is likely to prove tedious for the older gamer as the game progresses.
Collectibles are once again on the agenda for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, with Hogwarts crests being positioned throughout Hogwarts castle and the grounds. Also being positioned throughout Hogwarts are mini-crests which, when enough are collected, form one Hogwarts crest. Mini-crests are situated in objects in and around Hogwarts, which require simple spells and clever-thinking in order to obtain.
As for Hogwarts itself, the layout of the building and grounds remain the same as Order of the Phoenix, with a few additions such as the Quidditch Pitch and Astronomy Tower to keep in with the game’s storyline. Although not only do the additions make the area more wide-spread, but they have also been improved graphically.
Hogwarts and the game’s characters have been modelled to almost perfection and both look as stunning as ever, with amazing detail and full of colour. Similarly, the audio for the game matches the quality of the film, with some very familiar soundtracks, as well as voices. It’s just a shame EA were unable to obtain the voices for all the characters, with the likes of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe missing out. Luckily, the stand-ins have contributed well, to match those of the real thing.
Whilst Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince doesn’t have many flaws, its major flaw comes in the form of repeat camera shots, which appear four or five times throughout the game. Whilst it does show off Hogwarts in all its glory, it’s such a shame to witness the same shot multiple times, when an alternative shot could easily have been used. Another flaw is the length of the game. The story can easily be completed within a few hours, with another few hours on top of that to collect the remaining Hogwarts crests and to finish all the various duelling clubs and potions.
On the whole, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a great title that Harry Potter fans and gamers alike will enjoy, though its short length doesn’t make the title worth its £40 price tag. If you’re looking to pick up the game, a rental or waiting till it drops in price looks your best bet.