Saturday, July 11, 2009

Xbox 360 - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Harry Potter (and the Half-Blood Prince) by Warner/EA

Preface this by saying I've liked most of the Harry
Potter games. I specifically liked Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix game. Order of the Phoenix took advantage of some things that HBP doesn't. Let's explore Half-Blood Prince.


The game's story pretty much follows the book, but does leave out a lot of elements. For a movie game, the games have always been light on the story side. Even lighter than the movie, unfortunately. So, this basically leaves the game elements to pick up for what the story lacks. The game does put in most of the major story points, but leaves out a lot of nuances that makes Harry Potter stories intriguing. This is unfortunate because a game has a lot more time to give the player to explore Hogwarts, Harry and his friends. But, in every HP game, they've always ignored what can be done with the length of a video game... and Half-Blood Prince is no exception.


You play as Harry most of the game. You do change to play as other characters twice in the game... first Ron, then Ginny.


Quidditch is a big part of this game, but unfortunately it fails completely in gameplay. The Quidditch sections force you to practice each time before a 'real' game and you cannot skip the practice. The practice course has nothing in common with the 'real' course when you play the game. Worse, your sole goal is to chase the snitch by flying through star shaped rings. You can't fly faster or slower, you simply have to follow the course laid out for you. You have a limited amount of time to get through all of the rings and if you miss enough rings, you run out of time as flying through the rings extends the time. There is no timer on the screen, only the color the rings guides you. Green, you're ok, red you're running out of time. Of all of the sections of Half-Blood Prince, the Quidditch is the most annoying as you can't skip it.


Unlike Order of the Phoenix, this game has no quests to speak of. There
are a few side quests, but not near the quality of what was in OOTP. This game basically removed most of the side elements that made OOTP fun. So, there's no Wizard Chess, no Gobstones and none of the other little things that made OOTP a better game then HBP. This game is fairly light on anything but the main storyline. So, pretty much everything leads you back to the main story. The exception to this is dueling and potion making.


The passageways remain from OOTP, but there are fewer and you get the passwords to them far easier than OOTP. In fact, most times you just happen upon them by some character telling you the password after you've completed some part of the game.

Crests and mini-crests

The game offers both Crests (large medalions) and mini-crests. Most other games offered collecting jelly beans to give you things. In HBP, the jelly beans were replaced with mini-crests. Certain things like lights, bushes and suits of armor can be touched to give you mini-crests. Once you collect enough mini-crests, you will be awarded a full crest. There are 150 full crests in the game.


Because HBP is mostly about the HBP's potion manual, this game focuses on potion making as a big part of the mini-games. You do potion making through the potions club. So, you are tasked with making various potions. The most annoying part of this is that the potions have a timer so that you must complete the potion in a specific amount of time. The problem with the timer, for example, is that this doesn't follow with Rowling's canon. For example, Polyjuice potion supposedly takes a month to brew. Yet you have only a few seconds to make it in the potions club. In fact, I don't even see why there is a timer on potion making. It should take as long as it takes. I understand the gaming aspect to adding a timer, it's just not realistic with the actual canon of Harry Potter.


The second mini-game aspect to HBP is dueling. This was present, somewhat, in OOTP, but it becomes a mini-game in Half-Blood Prince. In dueling, you have to try to get the most points by using the most unique spells. The problem is, it's far too easy once you know the trick. Basically, if you stand a few inches away from the other person, you can hit them with any spell every time. Expelliarmus knocks down the opponent and then you can hammer them with smaller spells to whittle down their health. This works in any duel (whether in the dueling club or outside it).


Considering the release date extension from November 2008 to July 2009 for the film release, this game is not nearly as good Order of the Phoenix and is overly short. The questing system is incomplete. The lack of quests is annoying and the linear nature of the game basically forces you to stay on track. Quidditch should have been fun, but was completely botched. Overall, as a family game for kids, they might like it. For adults, this one is much weaker than the previous games... but at the same time, it's also much much easier than OOTP. I liked some of the challenges in OOTP because they were challenging. Especially the chess. Unfortunately, that was taken away in this game and what's left is far too easy.

  • Sound: 7.5/10 (reasonable, but could have been better)
  • Graphics: 7.5/10 (textures are done well enough)
  • Gameplay: 6/10 (too linear, too easy)
  • Story: 5/10 (not enough detail)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 9/10 (same controls as OOTP)
  • Bang-to-buck: 2/10 (too short, too linear)
  • Play Value: $7 (rent it)
  • Overall: 5/10 (needs a lot more work)

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