Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

By Nelson on July 9, 2009

With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hitting the cinema, EA have released the game in direct correlation to the movie. Based on the 6th book, the game hopes to allows fans to be part of that world they've imagined for so long, by making the school of magic, Hogwarts, as true to the books/movie as humanly possible.

It's pretty logical to assume that by now, most people have heard of Harry Potter. However, for those not aware, it follows the tales of a young wizard and the years he spends at Hogwarts Academy. There, he studies magic and encounters various dark enemies, including the legendary Lord Voldemort who killed Harry's parents when he was young and left him with the lightning shaped scar he bares on his forehead. This isn't EA's first venture in bringing the film/books into game format, but have have they been studying hard enough, or will some detention be in order?

Story-wise the game stays as close to the movie as possible. All the key events are quite well told and the cutscenes and voice acting are commendable, mainly because they're provided by the official cast members. While some of the more potent moments are envisioned quite well using cutscenes, some of the more action-based sections can seem a tad lacking at times.

In terms of recreating Hogwarts, the game cannot be faulted at all. Absolutely everything is mapped out with such precision and it's hard not to feel the impact of the overall scale it has while wandering around its many halls, and rooms. The majority of the characters look fairly true to life, although many of the generic type students don't have anywhere near as much expression, which is a bit of a shame. The Quidditch field also stands as looking impressive. Flying around at high speed around is a joy, as the surrounding landscape has a certain quality to it that just enhances the experience.

The majority of the game is spent exploring Hogwarts and navigating various areas. While Hogwarts may seem extremely large towards the end, it's unlocked gradually throughout the story, so it isn't too overwhelming. Shortcuts are also added later which is extremely helpful, as one of the major downsides to exploring is the somewhat lethargic camera and movement. Getting around in a straight line is fine but turning corners is just far too slow, it isn't fluid at all. Aside from that there are various things that can be picked up and thrown around using the wand, as well as other objects which can be interacted with by using the right analogue stick. This is actually a lot more intuitive thankfully.

The rest of the game boils down to mini-games, and there are three main types: potion mixing, Quidditch and dueling. All three start off relatively straight forward and as the player progresses they slowly add more variation to increase the difficulty. Potion mixing involves picking up various shaped/coloured bottles and pouring them into a cauldron until it changes colour. The biggest annoyance with this is when trying to put elements into the cauldron, as it's quite difficult to tell when an ingredient is actually on top of it. However, even the hardest recipes can generally be passed in the first attempt.

Quidditch is all done with the left stick and is just a case of guiding the broom through a series of checkpoints. It's practically impossible to lose as long as the majority of them are hit, and the broom automatically guides itself subtly towards the checkpoints. There are some elements of defence, but it's not actually clear whether this actually does anything in terms of preventing them from winning.

Dueling is the final type of gameplay and it also has some faults. Players control the movement of the character in a circular lock on motion around the target and exchange spells using the right analogue stick. Dodging is also possible with the triggers. The various spells are easy to pull off, which makes it quite entertaining at first. However, opponents are far too easy to beat once stronger attacks are learnt which can't be avoided. The standard strong spell early on knocks people over, and once the ability is gained to charge up the initial spell, fights often end in a one hit KO.

In terms of re-playability, many of the areas gain more difficult versions of previous challenges, which are accessed via notice boards. It doesn't appear as if there is any real benefit to finishing them all though. Aside from that there are a lot of Emblems to collect around the castle. Some involve hurling objects against walls to knock them free, or repairing broken emblems back together. Finding them isn't particularly hard, as it's basically a case of running around until they're found. However using Headless Nick - a ghost that is able to show any part of the map - he will make comments when an emblem is nearby making the experience even easier.

Final Thoughts

While the game is a decent representation of the film, that alas is also one of its major failings, because its length also directly reflects this. Most players will be able to complete the game in under 4 hours without any problems and while some of the gameplay modes are varied and inventive they are also quite flawed. Even though there are a fair few optional tasks to do after finishing the story, it's not really a reason to pick the game up again. This really is a game which can only be recommended to fans. It accurately represents the Hogwarts experience in all its glory, but as for posing a decent challenge and having a good length, in short, it doesn't.

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