It's been nearly two years since we at NZGamer were able to review the last Harry Potter game - The Order of the Phoenix (see the reviews for the PC, PS3, and Wii). While the game across all platforms was generally considered to be a solid title, we all had a few gripes about some of the controls and the game graphics. It sounds like EA was listening to the comments, because it looks like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is going to be bigger, faster, stronger - and better looking.
Like previous titles, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (ok, we're going with 'HPatHBP' from here on in) sticks very closely to its source material. In this latest instalment, Voldemort again tries to get to Harry, who meanwhile is blithely continuing with his studies at Hogwarts. Hormones are raging too, and so there are love triangles galore - which, if The Order of the Phoenix (OotP) game is anything to go by, will also feature heavily in the game.
What makes HPatHBP a significantly different offering from OotP is the fact that it is being primarily designed with the Wii in mind. Whether this will port well to other platforms is another consideration altogether, but Wii fans are guaranteed a heckuva lot of fun. The Wiimote will be used for minigames such as duelling, potion mixing and quidditch, and everything from casting Levicorpus to stirring a potion will be performed using a different Wiimote action.
In addition to improved gameplay, HPatHBP boasts vastly improved environmental and character graphics. Hogwarts continues to look fantastic, with much greater detail, and characters have noticeably more natural movements and facial animations. Lip synching, which was occasionally a problem in OotP, is also vastly improved.
Hogwarts is again completely open to exploration - something I loved in OotP - however there are now no loading times between the different areas of the school, which can only serve to emphasise the open-world style of play.
Throughout the school are 150 or so crests which can be collected through various means - usually puzzle-solving or through learning new spells. Collecting crests seems to be the main aim of the game (aside from saving the world and stuff), and crests in turn can unlock new game modes, characters, and other upgrades, such as health.
While it is understood potion making and quidditch are single-player mini-games, there will also be a duelling unlockable that will allow two players to face off against each other; I like to imagine in the future there will be kids who turn to wizard duelling to see who has to take out the rubbish, or flatmates who use the game to determine whose turn it is to cook. The uses for it are limitless, really. There are six spells in total: Expelliarmus, Protego, Stupefy, Petrificus Totalus, Levicorpus, and, Charging.
After having a very enjoyable time with Order of the Phoenix, NZGamer staff will no doubt be elbowing each other aside to have a go when the game itself comes through our doors. Perhaps a Wizard Duel or two will help to sort that one out?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be released on the PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, and PlayStation 2, in addition to the Wii.
The Good: Improved graphics and Hogwarts interaction.
The Bad: A cut down version of Quidditch?
The Ugly: Harry on the Wii makes you look dorkier than Wii boxing. Just kidding.