Even though I’ve seen four of the Harry Potter movies I’m not really a big fan of them. I can’t deny they look very pretty and the cinematics are at times stunning; just personally I find the storylines and acting a lacking something. Having not read any of the books I don’t want to label the whole Harry Potter franchise and being a bit bland, just the movies. So let’s see how the sixth movie has transferred to game in my review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for Wii.
Once again you take control of wizard sensation Harry Potter in another rip rollicking adventure that revolves around the staff and pupils of Hogwarts. This time it appears that the evil Lord Voldemort has given Draco Malfoy another dubious task and that it will be Harry’s job to sort out. But it’s not only the bad wizards he has to worry about; he and his close friends Ron and Hermione are teenagers now and that means hair has started to grow in unusual places and they’re getting interested in the opposite sex. If you thought teenage hormones were bad enough in a regular school just imagine how high the temperatures run when everyone can cast love spells all over the place. Harry will not only be dealing with the dark side of the magic world but a series of love triangles and relationship issues; I can only imagine the next Harry Potter movie will be rated mature if things keep going in this direction. Let’s get back to the plot. Harry has come into possession of a potions book that features some unusual hand written notes that help him perform better than usual and coincidently Professor Dumbledore requires Harry to go undercover and gather some important information from his new potions teacher Slughorn.
Typically games based on film licences are very lazily developed and if you’d have told me a few months ago that EA were going to create an open world Harry Potter game then I really wouldn’t have believed you. The term ‘open world’ has been used quite a lot recently to describe a multitude of games that give you quite a lot of freedom to choose what you as the character want to do next and how you’d like to do it. In Harry Potter for Wii you don’t get quite the same freedom you’d expect from say Grand Theft Auto IV but considering how closed these types of games used to be I’m quite impressed. At the start of the game areas of Hogwarts are out of bounds and these unlock as you progress through the game, however everywhere that is unlocked is totally free for you to explore. You can wander from the grounds of Hogwarts right up to the higher floors via several routes and even use shortcuts through paintings. What impresses me even further is that unless you take the shortcuts you can walk from almost any point in the game world to any other without seeing any loading screens; the game is constantly streaming from disc in the background.
So you control Harry some other characters in this open world rendition of Hogwarts and you’ll be following the storyline of the movie quite closely. Solving the mystery of the Half Blood Prince is quite fun and you’re treated to plenty of cut scenes with voice acting from the actual cast. Generally you’ll be moving from scene to scene quite quickly unless you veer off and do some of the open world things. Even though at most times you do generally have a mission to aim for but you can instead just wander around and explore as much as you like before you complete it. If you want to have a break from the main story then you can simply wander of go and do some duelling practice in the duelling club. You can spend hours searching the grounds for the special Hogwarts Crests that unlock special features; many of these are hidden and will require some puzzle solving and spell casting to acquire. So do you fancy some Quidditch? Well you can just head to the flying club and have a go at testing out your Seeker skills as much as you want. The same goes for the Potions Club; if you fancy doing some extracurricular potion making then you’re free to do so.
This amount of freedom really does make for a great Harry Potter experience and feels more like a Legend of Zelda game such as Twilight Princess than you’d believe. Whilst I’m not a fan of waggle I can forgive EA for its appearance here. I don’t really like to wave my arms about too much but using your Wii Remote as a wand to cast the spells feels ok. You can also use your Wii Remote to pick up and pour ingredients to create potions and heat your cauldron in a realistic fashion; after a while it can become a little tiring but I’m sure the kids will love being able to interact as if they were Harry himself.
Graphically this is actually one of the best looking games on Wii; the textures are a little bland here and there but apart from that I was really impressed by the attention to detail and the amount of stuff going on. Unlike previous Harry Potter games this isn’t a lonely experience; the school is jam packed with other pupils walking around and they all have something to say if you wander up to them. Sometimes they might even give you task to complete as well.
The interior and exterior of Hogwarts is very accurate to what you see in the movie and walking around up the switching staircases is pretty fun (and no you can’t fall off). At any time you can call up Headless Nick with your minus button and he will guide you to the next part of the mission so you’ll never get lost or stuck waiting for something to do. Having the real cast provide the voice acting makes a great difference here too, even if some of the acting is a little on the wooden side.
Overall I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for Wii; once you get going you’ll find it’s quite deep with some good puzzles and action sequences. It doesn’t push the Wii to bursting point but it’s great to see that this isn’t just an upscaled PlayStation 2 game. I award it a respectable 6 out of 10.
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