Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review
Written : Sunday, August 19, 2007
By: Tim Billups (GT: rocket x360a)
Summer has ended for young Mr. Potter, and with that comes another year at Hogwarts. What lies in wait for Harry and his friends this year? Will You-Know-Who make another attempt at ending the life of everyone's favorite wizard? Accompanied by his usual crew of Ron and Hermione, only time will tell what lies in store for the group of teens. If you don’t know what has happened so far, you will soon find out when you play EA’s latest game in it’s Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
The game is based on the Harry Potter novels, and is number five in a series of seven. EA has released a game coinciding with each of the blockbuster films. Order of the Phoenix is the first of the releases to be made available for the next generation console, and likely won’t be the last. With previous movie to video game releases such as Superman Returns under EA's belt, Order of the Phoenix at least has a big name publisher behind it.
Which way is the library again?
The game itself is clearly designed with a younger audience in mind. You play through the game much like the movie/book progresses. Starting out with a Dementor attack on Harry and Dudley Dursely, then moving forward to Grimmauld Place, and eventually making your way to Hogwarts. As you progress through the game, you will make what are called Discoveries. Discoveries are just that, you discovering some hidden statue or mopping up water on the floor to reveal something that wasn’t there before. Sometimes the discoveries you make don’t really seem like discoveries at all, like pulling a book off a shelf and then using your “Incendio” spell to like it on fire.
Throughout your progression of the game, the more you discover, the more powerful the spells you cast will be, with the highest level being 13. When you enter a certain area of Hogwarts, you can go into what is called “Discovery View”. Discovery View is accessed by pressing and holding the B button. When pressed, the camera angle will change, allowing you to see areas of the game that you need to discover. With Discovery View, the camera moves in different ways, which is very frustrating. For instance, the camera will change to where it will be through your eyes, and you can get a full 360 view, or sometimes it will move directly in front of your face, limiting your vision significantly in the game. This can be frustrating when you only have one percent left to find in a particular area and the only view you get is looking at yourself. In my eyes this should have been left to one view, the 360 view.
Somewhat short, the game only offers three main objectives; find the DA Members, unhinge Umbridge, and then face You-Know-Who. There are some side missions that they throw at you, like the teacher mini-quests that require you to find a book and “write and essay”, and learning occlumency with Professor Snape. Then there are the OWL’s, your basic progression tests, which are super simple. Requiring you to use your basic spells to move objects into position, the only way to fail is to not do them at all. If you are able to cast any spell without missing a beat, then you will have no problems with these. All in all the game itself is not long at all. If you were to skip the majority of the discoveries, you would be able to finish the game in four or five hours.
Your shoes are untied.
Also part of your adventure are the three mini-game types; Exploding Snap, Gobstones, and Wizard Chess. And with each one you must defeat the respective champions from the other houses in Hogwarts. Exploding Snap is relatively simple, all you must do is find the pairs of cards as they come through the stack in one game, and then find the pairs as all cards are laid out face down in the other. Not much difficulty, but as you get more pairs, the deck speeds up as does the amount of time you have before the cards explode. Gobstones is by far the most difficult of the trio of mini-games, but doesn’t really require skill, but merely luck. The way you control the marble is with the right analog stick. The further you pull it back, the farther it will go. This in effect can be very frustrating when you barely pull it back and release it, and the marble sprints across the circle, hence the luck. The requirements for one of the Gobstones games is to knock the most amount of marbles out of the circle, without your marble going out at the same time. This game gets frustrating when you get in a good shot and knock out two, but then your own marble decides that it is time to roll out as well.
The last mini-game included is Wizard Chess. We all remember from Chamber of Secrets Harry, Ron and Hermoine playing Wizard Chess in order to gain access to the chamber. There are three champions that you must defeat in the game, and with each one you play the difficulty gets higher. The four move checkmate will not work on this AI. The game itself is fun, but seems to be a tad too difficult for a younger audience in my opinion. How many 9 or 10 year olds really play chess these days? Who knows, but the point is, I had a difficult time playing against the Hogwarts champion, so I can only imagine how the 9 and 10 year olds are doing.
Now, what would any Harry Potter game be without duels? Included this year you have the option to test out your defensive spells on any number of Hogwarts students. You will have a maximum of six spells in which you can cast, and this is done with the right analog stick. The different movements of the stick will decide which spell you cast upon your enemy and or unsuspecting innocent student. You will usually win the battles; however in tune with the book itself, the major battles are set in stone that you will lose them. From the book and movie we know that, however I felt that with this being a video game you should have at least been able to win the battle itself. Who wants to lose?
The graphics and the layout of the game are phenomenal. There was a lot of detail put into each of the different areas that you will progress through. From No. 12 Grimmauld place, to the Owlery at Hogwarts, the detail is outstanding. The characters in the game look so much more like the person they represent in this installment than any of the other previous Harry Potter games. Graphically this is what every movie to game should look like.
My new haircut really hides my scar.
Unfortunately, the audio fails to impress on the same level as the visual aspects of the game. Only a few of the actors did the voices for the game and it shows in the quality of the voice acting. We all know it's an issue of time and money, but I would rather hear the actual voice of Professor McGonagall than the woman who does it in the game. Although some of the characters are voiced well, I think that EA could have done a better job finding better sound-alike actors to do the voice overs. All in all, the sights and sounds of Hogwart’s and other areas were done rather well. Whether it be Mistress Black’s portrait screaming out “blood traitors” at the top of her lungs from behind a curtain, to the owl’s “hooting”, none of the sound are out of place. There is even the “egg” from Goblet of Fire in the Prefects bathroom that you must put in the bathtub, otherwise it makes a loud screeching sound until it's submerged.
Unfortunately, the same level of attention given to the graphics weren't exactly given to the rest of the game. Some of the controls for the game could have been given more attention in my view. The camera angles are poorly done and you don’t have any control over them. There are areas of the game where the camera will be behind you and everything is fine, but if you turn a corner the camera will end up above you or beside you or even in front of you, throwing off your direction. There are even times when Harry will disappear from view entirely, making it more difficult for you to move around. Another aspect of the controls I found that could have been done better is the running. You can pretty much run throughout the game, but there are areas where your character will stop and begin walking very slowly for no reason at all. This occurs on stairs and in hallways, but gets frustrating when you want to get somewhere and get something done quickly. There is also the non-playable charachters that get in the way. When trying to access a door or small entry way, you have to either talk to someone in order to get them to move out of the way, or walk away and come back. You cannot simply walk into them and make them move. This even happens with Ron and Hermione when you're trying to navigate through tight spaces.
The achievements for this game are rather simple, and there are a total of 41 of them worth 1000gs. From arriving at Hogwarts to collecting each one of Luna Lovegood’s belongings, the achievements are relatively easy to obtain. The majority of the achievements require you to locate a set number of objects, ranging from Fred and George’s parcels to meeting every character in the game. The “hunting” achievements are dull in my opinion as they only seem to be there to keep you playing a short game. All in all the achievements are easy to get, but the majority of them are annoying and pointless. There shouldn’t be an achievement for doing the same thing over and over again, i.e. each discovery level you reach.
Why I’ve had it up to here with you Malfoy, er I mean Ron.
To close, the game is fun to a point. When you have finished the story and have to continue playing to find everything you have missed in order to complete it, it does get tiresome. I enjoy reading the Harry Potter books and playing the games, but when games get rushed to market in order to meet a movie release, the consumer loses out, and it's rather obvious that has been the case with the Harry Potter games, and Order of the Phoenix is no different. I would recommend this game to anyone who has kids, but not the avid gamer.
The graphic layout was very good, but the camera angle casts a fog over that. Intricate details are clear and thought out, a step forward with movie to game visuals.
Though the background noises are done very well, the character voice-overs were not. This is a trend that should be broken, but we all know will not be.
The game itself is simple, but the controls diminish some of the easy-go playability. Characters getting in the way hindering your progression gets seriously old.
The game was delivered well. Not a masterpiece by any means, but leaps and bounds in front of other titles.
The achievement list is decent. The hunting/collecting achievements are better for this game, but there were too many of them. It is better to have a few than a lot.
A fun, kid oriented game about a popular book/movie. We know that the game we get is not going to be perfect, at least with this title the attempt was made to give the consumer more quality for what we pay.