IGN Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
If I ever take an Unbreakable Vow and have to kill somebody, I'll give them a handheld version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If they don't die of boredom, they'll Avada Kedavra themselves.
The handheld versions of the game are adventure titles. Harry explores nearly all of Hogwarts, running around the halls and staircases that make up the school. The games are nearly identical in terms of gameplay. The DS one went for a cel-shaded look to the character models, while the PSP one fully rendered theirs. Neither looks particularly great, but the school is pretty well done. Some random things like none of the staircases moving make it feel kind of static and non magical, though.
As an adventure game, you'd think Half-Blood Prince would be very story driven. There was a reason JK Rowling didn't write out every detail of Harry and gang's day to day lives: school is boring. Yet, 90 percent of this game seems to take place in the unspoken sections of the book. Nearly every major plot point happens via a cutscene. Unfortunately by cutscene I mean shot of every character standing still like a mannequin while you get to read word bubbles. I understand that the only people playing this game are likely to be fans of the book and movie. That said, the plot is incomprehensible. The game comes out weeks before the film, so it's likely people will be playing it before they go see the movie. And this story is good too. Horcuxes, curses, memory flashbacks, insight into Voldemort's past, some cool battles. All of that is lost.
Hey remember that part in the book where Harry ran all over school, finding Luna's shoes? Or when he had to play a game of marbles so that he could give them to that Hufflepuff girl? No? Oh that's right, because stupid stuff like that didn't happen.
Sorry to geek out on you Muggles, but this is Harry flipping Potter, here! The Dark Lord returns and is trying to kill him, the prophesied savior of the magic realm, and the video game version of his story is a string of meaningless fetch quests? The developers could have at least given me an option not to accept these inane quests. Maybe right under the "Swap Items" button there could have been one that said, "I'm the Boy who Lived you tool, I don't have time for this crap!"
What is even more baffling is how big of a step backward this game is. Granted the previous Harry Potter game was a series of chores, but you were at least doing things. You used spells to fix objects and extinguish fires. The only thing Harry ever seems to use spells for is collecting trading cards and butterbeer.
The mini-games are in there solely to collect items needed for all the fetch quests. Oh, and most of them are really non magical. Gobstones is marbles only… no it's just marbles. Not magic marbles or anything. Exploding snap is a basic card matching memory game, but the cards flip around a lot, because they're enchanted.
The only spells Harry seems to know are ones to find random junk people see to be losing all over the school. Players use spells to collect the fetch quest items out of bushes, bookcases, spider webs, suits of armor and other objects around the school. Harry can cast spells, by swiping on the touch screen with the DS or flicking the analog nub on the PSP. So about halfway through the game, the mini-games become useless. It's faster, easier, and honestly nearly as much fun to just run between rooms collecting the items you need than to have to sit through a game of Skittles (which is like pinball, but without bumpers, or being fun).
Dueling and Quidditch are the two mini-games that don't link to item collection, and are also occasionally required. Dueling pits players in a in a one on one magic battle. Players select from either a straight attack or a high arcing attack, and can also reflect incoming attacks. It's basic and very easy, but at least comes with the charm of zapping well known Hogwarts students until they pass out.
Quidditch plays like an overhead 16-bit ice hockey game crossed with bumper cars. The three Chasers fly around, ramming into each other to steal the Quaffle. It's a tactile cacophony, with every person on screen flying in all different direction, bumping into each other like blind bulls on roller-skates. Plus none of it matter because you're only playing as the Chasers until the time counts down and the snitch is released. In the DS version the game actually has the player grab the snitch on the touch screen, whereas the PSP one just ends the game when you've found it and kept the crosshairs pointed on it. Even with me not even bothering to play, the opponent still couldn't manage to rack up nearly enough goals to counteract the 150 points earned by catching the snitch. I suppose this is more of a complaint about stupid the rules of Quidditch are, but the game version sucks too.
And despite what the back of the game case implies, Half-Blood Prince is pretty linear. Sure the game gives you a few quests at once, and you can do any of them in any order. But it's usually just parts of one quest. Find these three ingredients. Find these three items of clothing. You just trudge along, doing meaningless tasks until the game makes you make a potion, play Quidditch or duel.
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