With a new Harry Potter movie comes a new installment in the Harry Potter video game franchise from Electronic Arts. One thing that all gamers who are Harry Potter fans should know is that the game is simply a copy of the movie. For people like me who have read all the books and seen all the movies, I would have liked the game to take more after the book as opposed to the movie. If you haven’t read the books and aren’t familiar with the story (the way J.K. Rowling intended them to be) then the storyline in the game will be a bit patchy. EA made the game with the assumption that gamers already understood the plot and fortune of Harry Potter. Nonetheless, the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince video game is still a must play for Harry Potter fans, it’s just nothing to get out your broom for.
As you start your adventure as Harry Potter, you’ll notice that the game itself is actually pretty fun. If you know what is going on before you play the game then you can fill in the missing pieces in your head and just focus on playing the game and not understanding the story. You’ll notice that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has a pretty large landscape and allows you many places to explore. There aren’t boggarts or duels waiting around every corner but there are still a lot of things to find around campus. One nice thing about the game is that it isn’t a necessity to follow the storyline. You can simply explore and play mini games along the way such as dueling clubs, collecting mini-crests, potions club, or just wander around aimlessly. The large landscape can get you lost if you don’t use your resources well enough. For example, when you have to meet Professor Dumbledore in his office or get ready for a Quidditch match, all you need to do is hit the “back” button and the Gryffindor ghost Sir “Nearly Headless” Nick will appear and lead you to your destination. There’s also a “Where is…” menu when the game is paused.
The “Half-Blood Prince” gets his reputation from Harry’s Potions book as a potions expert. You will start to use the directions from the book while making potions and it can actually be a bit tricky. The time counts down and you have to shake or heat the right combination before time runs out. EA did the best job they could at making potions and it turned out a relative success. Quidditch, however, the game that will always have its place in the hearts of Harry Potter fans, really did not come up to standards. You fly through stars and follow the snitch, but you really have no choice following the snitch. When the snitch turns, you turn, and it’s your job just to maneuver. I thought Quidditch could have been handled much better.
The graphics are a bit shaky at times when it comes to dialogue between characters or when you get up close to things outside the castle, but overall it’s something I would have expected for a game based after a movie. The controls are very frustrating. You’ll notice that you do not have great control over the camera, which leads to you running into walls, and you don’t actually learn how to maneuver it until a little while into the game. And when it comes to dueling, you basically need a piece of paper next to you to remember how to cast certain spells (unless you want to keep pausing the game and going to the “Spells” menu to re-learn how to cast them). Playing Harry Potter on the Wii is a different story. Dueling is a lot more fun and instead of casting a spell by pushing “Up, Left, Right” on the toggle stick, all you need is a flick of the Wii Remote.
Targeted at the younger audience, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a decent game overall, but it doesn’t live up to the potential and grandeur of the Harry Potter legacy. The mini-games are fun enough to play and will keep you interested for a good while, but the actual storyline can be played through rather quickly. That doesn’t change the fact that Harry Potter fans everywhere are going to want to get their hands on this game, if only because it says Harry Potter on it, despite its mediocrity.