Reviews

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – review

Release Date: Out Now
Developer:  EA Bright Light
Publisher: EA
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: Yes, 1v 1 Duelling
Multiplayer: No
PEGI:12+

( Part of our Summer Drought Pre-owned/Bargain binge series of reviews)

Harry Potter has become quite popular for someone that rides a broomstick, and later this year his latest game (The Deathly Hallows) is looking set to provide the game Potter fans really deserve, which is something this title only provides in small amounts.

In fact, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is rather much a mixed bag in terms of both gameplay and graphics.

The star of the game is Hogwarts itself, it has been faithfully recreated from the films and is quite a sight to behold with players being able to venture around almost at will, though parts of the castle need to be unlocked by playing through the game.

The Moving Stairs, Great Hall, Quidditch pitch and grounds are all here and graphically speaking Hogwarts is a beautiful place and it’s a joy to venture around the castle and see the familiar sites from the game. Its any Potter fans dream recreation apart from actually being there.
It’s a shame then that Hogwarts has little to actually do considering it’s vast size, while there are clubs to partake in (Potions, Flying and Duelling) there are few secrets to uncover and no side quests to venture forth upon.
However there are collectible Crests around the place to appeal to those collection fanatics amongst you (you know who you are)
Some of these need to be knocked off of walls by using an object and Wingardium Leviosa to throw it, but the games rather picky approach to angles leads to many frustrating minutes of throwing a chair at a wall.

Oddly considering the fact that the Harry Potter series started life as a book meaning it’s a story driven affair the game actually has barely any story to it, instead it simply ignores most of the storyline and gives only the occasional reference and cutscene leaving anyone who has not actually read the books or watched the films with a general feeling of “What the hell just happened?”

Oddly enough as well for the few cutscenes that they have, the film and book diologue have been ignored and they’ve put in their own instead which is nowhere as near as good as either film or book.
Thats coupled with the lack of original voice talent, instead new actors have been brought in who sound nothing like their characters and frankly, it leaves alot to be desired.

Along the way you’ll also take part in the games 3 main area’s of gameplay; Duelling, Potion making and flying.

Potion making takes the form of a rather entertaining mini-game which is essentially Simon Says.
You’ll be faced with a series of icons on the right depictating what to do such as picking up and pouring in certain jars to get the potion to a specific color.
As you go you pick up more things to do such as heating it, stirring and shaking certain things and it can all get rather frantic as the timer counts down and the room starts filling with smoke. Whoops.
It can be a little fiddly to tell when a bottle or object is above the couldron to pour or drop it but for the most part it’s an entertaining game.
While this is done several times for the story there is also a Potions club to join, each potion has a timer and highscore as well to encourage you to do as well as possible.

Of course, Quidditch is a big part of the Potter and it’s included in the game, or at least sort of.
It takes the form of an on-rails style game as you attempt to catch the Snitch.
The camera and your character will always turn with the Snitch so it’s simply a case of guiding yourself through the star shaped checkpoints by going up, down, left and right to get yourself more time.
it’s far from a complicated system but it’s strangely compelling.
However the crowds during games would have looked bad way back in the days of  the PSone with some very poor animations.

In face those poor animations continue in other parts of the game with facial animations looking a bit like a constipated robot and characters hands look strangely shaped and lifeless.
And those eyes……..the eyes…….the eyes.

But while the other two main gameplay area’s are mildly entertaining it’s the Duelling where the game really picks up.
These one-on-one matches use the same spell casting system as the rest of the game which is done by flicking and moving the right stick around (think Skate) but the spells are different of course.
You start off with the basics and the ability to dodge and as you progress you get access to new spells.
Sadly it is rather broken, one spell if timed correctly allows you to keep an opponent on the ground permenently letting you simply spam the base Stupefy spell to take their health bar to zero.
But if you ignore that then Duelling is actually a fast paced, frantic affair where timing of Sheild spells and getting your offensive timing just right is invaluable.
This mode can also be played on the same console with a friend and a second controller and you can unlock new characters to use and arena’s but sadly there is no online duelling.

As with both flying and potions you can join clubs to keep practicing and advance your skills.
You earn badges in these clubs as well to keep you coming back.

The game has other problems such as movement being a bit clunky at slow speeds and Hogwarts for all its beauty has little interactivity and is pretty easy to get lost in.
Thankfully a tap of the back button summons Nearly Headless Nick to guide you to your objective.

Your spell selection is pretty limited as well and the few puzzles the game has are incredibly simplistic and the game sometimes has a little trouble picking up the spell your trying to cast.

It’s far from being great but it’s certainly not bad either, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a enjoyable romp through the universe of Potter that can be completed rather too quickly and while it does get repetitive it does has a certain appeal that keeps you playing and Duelling is fun and frantic.

The Good:
+ Hogwarts is a superbly recreated place
+ Duelling is fun!
+ Brewing the perfect potion.

The Bad:
– Robot faces!
– Complete lack of story
– the eyes……..

Scores:

graphics: 7.5
Hogwarts and the detail that has gone into it is brilliant and it’s a shame that the same level of detail did not go into facial animations and characters in general. And the Quidditch crowds are terrible.

Sound: 7.5
The great Harry Potter music from the films is correct and present and as good as ever but the voice acting is far from good. Many don’t even sound like there originals.

Story: 5
Little of the story is even mentioned and what is becomes a confusing mess. If you’ve only glanced at the films or books you’ll be lost within an hour.

Gameplay: 6.5
Whats there is simple fun but far from extraordinary and it becomes repetivie after a short time. Other minor bugs frustrate.

Lifespan: 7
The story can be completed in 5-6 hours but completion fanatics will be kept going by the 150 Crests to collect and the Clubs add some extra gametime.

Overall: 6.5
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is not very good nor is it bad, it’s an enjoyable adventure through the Potter universe and for fans simply exploring Hogwarts will be a magical experience but in terms of it being a game it’s a bit bland and lacking.

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