Following the story and events in Harry Potter’s upcoming movie and fifth instalment in the series Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been put in to video game form, and instead of throwing you in to poorly done games of Quidditch, or lacklustre action titles OOTP focuses more on exploration and discovery. Instead of churning out yet another bad movie tie in EA have put some thought into the game, and while it isn’t perfect, it was fun to play, even if you are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter franchise.
The decision to take the game away from magical combat and focus on more of an exploration aspect was a good of one. EA have recreated an almost perfect virtual Hogwarts for you to explore in a sandbox environment. Missions can be completed at your pace. You can choose toow simply rush through story if you want to but the most enjoyable part of the game is exploring all of the areas of Hogwarts, interacting with all of the students and taking in the sights and sounds of the beautifully crafted environment.
EA did a great job of making you feel like you are Harry Potter, living at Hogwarts and experiencing all of the events of his daily life. You can explore the grounds, indulge in mini-games like exploding snap or Gobstone, take magic classes or just carry out side quests for you teachers and fellow students. A big chunk of the game is exploring the hallways of Hogwarts, either finding objects or people to progress the story or just having a look around and casting spells to repair things inside the school. Repairing things or completing tasks will reward you with points that can be used to unlock secrets such as more powerful spells, interviews with the cast of the film and behind the scenes footage, which does a good job in making sure that Harry Potter fans will explore as much as possible, in order to unlock all of the goodies that the game offers, and with over 3000 points to find, you will be looking for a while.
Obviously, being Harry Potter, magic is an integral part of the game. Throughout you time with the game you will need to learn and use magic spells, which are used to either solve puzzles, repair and move objects or aid you in combat. The non-combat spells are a blast to use; allowing you to levitate items, repair broken objects, set things on fire and move things closer or further from you. This is all done with the right analogue stick. Pushing the ‘Y’ button will make Harry whip out his wand, you then rotate the analogue stick in the direction required to cast whatever spell you need. This works well for the most part, but it sometimes fails to recognise what spell you just put in, leaving you standing there doing nothing, like an idiot. This happens rarely however, and doesn’t take much fun away from your casting.
The combat spells on the other hand? Oh, boy. It is obvious that combat was not intended to be part of the game and it just feels tacked on. At a few points in the game you will need to duel with other characters in the game, when this happens you hope it is over quickly. It basically involves you just side stepping your opponents attacks, or casting the odd defensive spell and then countering with an offensive spell of your own. It is slow, it is boring and it is repetitive and you will find yourself relieved that it is only a small part of the game, and the fights are few and far between.
The story in Harry Potter never really takes off, or increases in difficulty. It follows the story of the film but it doesn’t feel like you are doing anything to advance the plot. It basically sees you doing, essentially a series of fetch quests in order to recruit people to fight for your cause and then trying to cause trouble for the games villains. The missions can at times feel samey, and offer little in the way of variation. Another problem that I found with the story is that travelling around Hogwarts takes a lot of time, the place is huge and that is perfect if you just want to explore the grounds but when you are trying to get from A to B going back an forth all of the time can get a little dull.
The visuals and audio in the game, especially the audio, do a lot to draw you in to the game, and enhance the feeling that you are actually in the Harry Potter universe not just playing it. Fully orchestrated versions of original music as well as music from the movie, as well as voice acting by the cast of the film works wonders, and it a real treat to listen to. The grounds of Hogwarts all look great and the characters bare at least some resemblance to their real life counter part. However, it is not the visuals in the game that make it looks so good but it is how well Hogwarts has been crafted, all of the locations are there, students fill the hallways, each one reacting differently to Harry’s presence and the are loads of little magical touches to be found, all of which make the environment you are in feel alive.
Overall the game controls pretty well there are a couple of annoyances, having to hold the ‘A’ button to run is just stupid, some spells take a couple of tries to pull off and the camera sometimes obscures your view but a large percentage of the time you will find it easy to navigate around the game, and do you have to do.
In the end fans of the Harry Potty films will defiantly get a kick out of this game, being able to free explore Hogwarts and interact with characters from the film is great and the amount of stuff to find and unlock in the game adds length to the experience. The game also has just enough gameplay and quality to be enjoyable for people not familiar with the franchise. The game isn’t perfect by any means but it is enjoyable and a definite step in the right direction for both the franchise, and movie games in general
Originally Written By: Liam Kenna