Games that are based on movies rarely ever break the mold of being anything more than average to mediocre titles. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix changes that—it’s completely terrible. With a franchise like Harry Potter, which is filled to the brim with high-fantasy source material, you have to wonder what caused this game to go so completely, horribly wrong.
In the game you’ll play as your favorite four-eyed Hogwarts student, Harry Potter. The story will take you through some of the main events of the movie, but because the game had such a big lead time on the movie’s release, it does not spoil any of the big plot twists. While you might think this is a good thing, it’s not. Because EA had their hands tied in relation to what they could do with the story, what you get is a pieced together narrative that has absolutely no continuity from one point to the next.
They might get a small pass for the uneven, incoherent storyline, but there is no excuse on how poorly the game plays. That’s not to say the game is broken on any level or does not play as it was intended to—it’s just that what you’re doing gives you no feeling of danger or purpose. (How can you when you’re going around Hogwarts helping people put boxes in a boat?) The first half of the game is completely centered on finding 28 different people to come to the “Dumbledore’s Army” meeting. Of these 28, about 20 of them have some completely bone-headed quest for you to do—help them do their homework; catch an owl; find talking gargoyles around the castle, etc. In fact, even after you find every one of the 28 individuals you need, in the second half of the game you’ll be doing even more fetching for these same people.
However, the game isn’t all fetch quests. You also battle the Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy on a couple of occasions, as well as a few other bad guys. Sadly, though, the combat takes about as much skill as putting your shoes on, and is about as fun trying to bang your head through a wall. All of the spells are mapped to the right analog stick, and a combination of pushing, pulling and twirling the analog stick will allow you to do a spell. While there are specific movements for each spell, when you’re in battle you can literally just move the stick around and win all of the encounters you are faced with. (A grand total of four battles, folks) You can definitely understand that the developers wanted to make the game’s combat simpler due to the target audience, but kids today can’t be this brain-dead to find this fun. The only fun that was experienced when casting spells was when the player could lift up benches and smack fellow students in the head with them.
Traversing all of Hogwarts is another important part of the game, and in this case, EA did something right. You can select which tasks you wish to complete by hitting the select button and scrolling through a list. When you select one, little footprints in the world will guide you to your destination, making travel a whole lot easier. However, the act of actually walking through the world can be frustrating when random students, Ron or Hermione get in your way when you’re trying to get through doors or passageways.
Visually, the game doesn’t really fair much better than the shallow gameplay. The game does give a good sense of scale when you’re walking across a bridge (it’ll zoom out a bit and show you the castles, for example) but all of the textures are a bit muddy and low-resolution. The effects for the spells are pretty bland and uninteresting, which at least matches how the spells feel when they’re coming out. Lastly, the character models look like they were made for a PS2 game than a PS3 game. They’re a bit crisper, but they just lack polish and scream “rushed”. The audio presentation fairs a bit better, but EA can thank the movie series itself having some fantastic music, rather than the tracks being original to the game. The voice acting is done by one of the three main characters (Ron) and the sit ins for Harry and Hermione do a good enough job that you don’t notice the difference. The problem is that there aren’t enough lines of dialogue in the game, so you’re going to be hearing the same thing over and over again from them.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix also suffers from a terrible value proposition. The main story takes about 5 to 6 hours to complete, and after that, you can choose to explore Hogwarts and find all the secrets that the game holds. This will unlock some bonus content, which is mostly behind-the-scenes fluff. (But why do I have to go into the game to view the content?) Yet, if the core game is complete garbage, why would anyone go through the trouble to fix vases, broken statues and light lamps for some behind-the-scenes videos?
Overall, this Harry Potter is almost a complete failure. There is no one thing that sets it apart from any other licensed game, and in some ways, it is worse. It’s a short, shallow and unfulfilling experience that not even the most hardcore Harry Potter nuts could swallow. Simply put—avoid this game.
Originally Written By: Art Green