Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review

Ah, Harry Potter. Now, let me begin this by warning you diehard HP fans out there that I’m not a huge Potterhead. I’ve only scanned summaries of the books; I have seen the movies and played the previous games, however, and I have a few diehard fans among my friends and loved ones who were more than eager to answer any questions I may throw at them.

Much like every other damn movie this summer (except Die Hard 4…for now), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been dealt the video game tie-in metal. With a slew of games coming out this blockbuster season, we’ve yet to have one stand out and go against the typical "movie games = crap" stereotype; is Harry Potter the one to do it?

Yes and no, depending which system you get it for. Like most major titles, HP sees his release on all current-gen consoles, the PS2, PC, Mac, and three handhelds. Outside of the handheld iterations, you’re looking at basically the same game across the board; the difference being the superior Wii version.

The story in all the games is rather loosely based upon the story of the film, which is loosely based upon the book. Harry and Co. are back for another year at Hogwarts, and after a few random events (which the game never explains in any detail-I had to result on Wikipedia and other sources to tell me what the hell is going on) you find yourself learning how to defend yourself against Voldemort’s imminent attack.

That’s one of the biggest flaws with this game: it’s horrible at telling the actual story. Several of the people who played through this game with me constantly interrupted any conversations with cries of things like, "That’s not how it happens!" and "What the hell is going on? That’s not in the book!" Having seen an early screening of the movie, a few things are fairly different from that, as well. If you’re a non-Harry Potter fan and haven’t really seen any of the films, you won’t understand a single event in this game.

For the most part, the game is identical in all the releases; they all have you exploring Hogwarts in a sandbox-like style, and they all have you upset at the fact you can likely count the number of fights in the game on your fingers. Where they differ-and what makes and breaks them-is how they control.

Using the Wii remote as a wand was something people tossed around the moment it was unveiled. The good news? It works as well as we had hoped-most of the time. Spells are cast by flicking the remote, or in the case of the oddly designed levitation spell, by flicking the remote and nunchuck. You can "force push" enemies by thrusting the remote forward, you can cast spells pulling objects towards you by pulling it up, and you can combat other wizards with a few spells, which use the same motions as other non-combat fare. For the non-Wii console versions, spell casting is conducted with the secondary analog stick (except the PS3 can also use Sixaxis controls, which feel extremely tacky).

Of the major releases, the computer ones are the inferior of the bunch; using the mouse and keyboard just feels wrong after playing the Wii or PS3/360/PS2 versions. Not to mention, many PCs will face noticeable slowdown in the game, even with high-end rigs. A patch may come up solving that issue, but in the meantime, you have to deal with it.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is extremely hit or miss. On some versions, the game feels sluggish and outdated, while others such as the Wii are fun and make you feel part of the game. The lack of battles is odd considering the emphasis of the story in the book/film, and running around a giant castle straightening paintings and stacking furniture remains fun for only so long before you want to shut it off. As far as movie tie-ins go, however, this is easily the best movie tie-in of the summer.



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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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