I bet we haven’t had a better timed game release than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, what with it coinciding with the release of the movie of the same name and the last book in the series. This reviewer played the game before watching the movie, so this review is uncoloured and unaffected by the mass hysteria that has accompanied the release of the movie/book (not that this reviewer is susceptible to mass hysteria, but even so).
To begin with, HPOP (since life is too short for me to keep saying Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) is a decent game. It’s based closely on the movie and now, after seeing the movie, I can see why HPOP has turned out the way it has. But more on that later.
A quick recap first: Harry Potter, the boy wizard genius, is convinced Lord Voldemort is back but has a tough time convincing the elders around him of the fact. So, an enterprising group of youngsters in the school get Mr Potter to form the Dumbledore’s Army to prepare them against the impending attack by Voldemort’s forces. Unfortunately, you would never have guessed the plot if you’d been playing the game, because it’s so poorly presented. Much of the story progresses by means of cut-scenes
that are strangely lacking in depth and polish, often cutting from one character or situation to another with little continuity.
Potter pits: The game fails to impress because of poor presentation.
Being a wizard, Harry has some basic spells at his disposal. These are for the most part gently introduced to you over the course of the game and involve moving the mouse in certain simple patterns to cast them. The basic spells include reparo (to repair objects), accio (to pull objects), depulso (to push objects),and wingardium leviosa (to levitate objects). If you’re wondering how on earth Harry’s going to fend off the powerful dark forces with these spells, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a few combat spells that will help disarm and stun opponents. However, much of your time will be spent in casting the basic spells rather than combat spells, so don’t get your hopes up. This is because the game isn’t about action, but about using the spells to solve mini-puzzles, thereby earning skill points that will boost the power of your spells. While the mini-puzzles are interesting at first, they soon become repetitive and boring since not much is required by way of skill or judgment.
The entire game takes place in Hogwarts castle and so the castle has been reproduced in great detail in the game. A case in point is the grand staircase with its moving stairs and the numerous portraits on the walls—they are beautifully done and go a great way in adding atmosphere to the game. Some of the portraits also offer hidden passages that can be used to traverse the large castle quickly once you know the passwords to open them. There are numerous hidden treasures and secrets littered around Hogwarts as well, and almost all of them can be unlocked using your spells.
And that’s it, really. You spend much of your time repairing stuff, or levitating objects into place or other mundane tasks that slowly numb your brain with their monotonous regularity. You certainly don’t go about banishing evil doers with heroic deeds as often as you would like to, which I suppose is fair enough considering the movie it’s based on isn’t exactly action-filled either.
The graphics are fairly good, but are not next-generation by any standards and are especially poor during the in-game cut-scenes. The sound and voice-acting are much better in comparison, thanks mostly to the fact that the original actors have lent their voices in the game.
All in all, this is a game for diehard Harry Potter fans who have read the book, seen the movie and now want to play as Harry at home. For the rest of you who prefer destructo totalus over reparo broken jar ad infinitum, you might want to hang on to your dough just a little longer.
Game: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Price: Rs999 at all leading retail stores. PS2, PS3 and PSP versions also available for Rs1,499, Rs2,799 and Rs1,899 respectively
Write to Arjun at firstname.lastname@example.org