Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review
Written : Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
To be honest, I had all but forgotten about Harry Potter, as it has been a couple of years since the last book and I assumed the fanatical craving for the next slice of magic had finally died out. As someone who suffered through the anti-climactic final book, it came as something of a relief too, as surely there could not be much more interest left in the young wizard. With the newest film finally landing on our doorstep (after a much publicised delay), time will tell if the fan base is what it once was. Here then is the game, of the film, of the book and whether it will help us regular muggles understand the wizarding world a bit more or just leave us grasping at straws like squibs, is another question entirely.
Cor blimey Harry, does my bum look big in this?
Set during the penultimate year of the titular character’s time at Hogwarts, this story is little more than a set up for the events that would follow. Turning the events into a fresh new game was a tough ask for EA and it seems that they have chosen the much easier route of tried and tested game mechanics over innovative new features. I suppose that when sticking to a pre-written narrative there is only so much they can do but even the exploration and school class elements of the last game seem to have been toned down dramatically leaving behind a game that provides the bare bones of a fun experience.
Not wanting to spoil the story for anyone who has not read the books (do such people still exist?) or have yet to see the film, I will merely state that this chapter chronicles the sixth year at Hogwarts for our scarred hero. As ever he is out to foil the dastardly Lord Voldemort, while being aided and abetted by his comedy sidekick Ron and the - strangely hot - genius Hermione with the usual pitfalls of teenage life befalling him along the way. This time around he has stumbled across an odd potions textbook by the Half Blood Prince, which is instrumental in his progress. So far, so generic and this portion of the story seems like little more than a build up to the climactic events of the final chapter.
As ever you are free to wander the halls of Hogwarts, with new areas being gradually unlocked as the game progresses. A nice touch is the ability to summon Nearly Headless Nick to guide you to places should you lose your bearings, but the game is hardly big enough to need such a device with plenty of shortcuts on hand to aid your quest. You primarily control Harry, and other than one comical sequence with Ron (which has to be seen and heard to be believed) and a brief bit of Quidditch with Ginny, you have to undertake various quests in order to move through the school year. Here is where the game pretty much falls down as there are only three different tasks which just take the form of rather badly thought out mini-games. All of your work throughout the year will be divided amongst Quidditch, dueling and potions. Trust me when I say that after one or two goes of each task you will have had more than enough.
I’m not wearing a hairpiece. Honest.
Quidditch is by far the simplest mini-game as you follow an on rails flight path and merely have to steer through the stars along the way in order to keep topping up an invisible time limit; miss too many stars and you will fail but if you hit them all you will snag the elusive snitch and win the game. Easy stuff. Potions will also take up a chunk of your game as you have to display Harry’s new found prowess and whip up the perfect concoction when called up to do so. This takes the form of throwing a few ingredients in a pot until it turns the desired colour and using a variety of heating, shaking and stirring techniques to achieve success – again nothing too taxing here. Finally you will be called upon to take part in a number of duels, be it through the in-game dueling clubs or against villainous foes (sadly the chance to zap Ron proves all too fleeting). The idea here is better than the execution as there are a number of spells at your disposal with which to stupefy your opponent, however it becomes all too easy to beat them with the same spells over and over. I pretty much waltzed through the game using the same two spells and managed to beat EVERY opponent within two hits. When things are so easy it kind of reduces the epic battles to little more than a glum sideshow – which is a real shame. As every single task in the game revolves around these three challenges, it obviously means that they have to put on a strong show and that simply is not the case.
The look and feel of the game is fairly good but not great, which is pretty much in keeping with every other aspect of the title. The music has the familiar haunting melody and a few nice touches to the score when things get interesting, but otherwise is pretty uninspired. The voice work is choppy at best, though whether that is down to bored actors or a dubious script is mere guesswork – I think it is safe to say that even Rupert Grint must be tired of saying “Blimey” by now. The animation is ropey at best too whilst Hogwarts is displayed in as drab a manner as could possibly be imagined, the lead characters are little more than cardboard cut outs and the lip syncing is laughable at best. The whole thing reeks of ‘just enough effort’ without any extra work being put in to make it the truly finished article. The whole presentation would have been helped immeasurably by some scenes from the film instead of poorly animated cut-scenes and a few external shots of the castle that are there to display the passage of time.
Take that sir.
Surprise, surprise – this is an easy one thousand gamer points, but that is practically the norm for movie tie-ins. What is less excusable is the apparent lack of effort that has gone into thinking them up in the first place. A good chunk of points will come from simple story progression which requires very little effort, then you can go back and mop up the remaining club tasks for a chunk more and sweep up the 150 collectables (oh the joy) to finish things off. All in all it will be less than ten hours work, but that is a lot considering the fact you can complete the main story in about three. Talk about dragging things out.
This is not a game so much as it is three ridiculously easy mini-games strung together by a weak story and some basic exploration. This game will pretty much only appeal to those after a quick boost of gamerscore or especially dedicated Potter fans who can endure another rehash of the last game. The only merits here are the fact it is quick and easy to pick up and follows the story pretty faithfully but, for gamers, it really does not offer anywhere near enough and the overall presentation feels pretty sub-standard. Such a short experience and pretty much zero replayability (barring a pointless two player dueling section) does not equal value for money.
Wooden voice acting and characters that sound bored even when near death. The familiar Potter theme tune is starting to wear thin too.
Pretty much an exact replica of the last game, with amazingly wooden cut-scenes and lip syncing for your viewing pleasure. A few clips from the movie would have made the presentation a hundred times better.
The entire game is three simple mini-games broken up by having to run from one location to another. If that sounds like a good time then jump right in, but it will not be long before you are looking for something much, much better.
A fairly accurate depiction of what was, arguably, one of the weaker novels. Hogwarts is present and correct in all of its glory and the story sticks to the narrative fairly well, that alone will be enough for most fans.
A fairly dismal list and one that is wholly reliant on story progression and the odd side quest here and there. That would be no bad thing if there were some modicum of invention shown but there really is none. Throwing in 150 collectables was hardly an inspired choice either.
The entire game is almost identical to the last offering, only with the focus shifted to Quidditch, dueling and potions. If that floats your boat then prepare to spend a few hours just repeating those tasks until the game ends. This may be enough fun for rabid Potter fans but provides little in the way of entertainment for the rest of us. Hopefully the last game in the series will provide more bang for your buck.