|System: DS, PC, PS3, X360, PS2, Wii, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Bright Light||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The spells are easy to cast, and for the most part, the touch-screen inputs are read accurately. The developers did a smart job of placing objects throughout almost every area of Hogwarts, and it becomes a fun pastime stopping to cast spells on a suit of armor or cobweb just to gather more items, even if you dont really need them.
Unfortunately, not all of the touch-screen elements work as they should, and youll often find yourself struggling to get Harry to either interact with something or someone. Additionally, the mini-games are a bit lackluster. Quidditch is perhaps the most disappointing, especially since it plays such a large role in the Harry Potter mythos. On DS, quidditch is a bit like a simplified version of Mario Strikers, giving you limited control of three team members. You chase after the ball or opponents by directing the highlighted character with your stylus, and then toss the ball by tapping in the direction you want it to go. Once you get the hang of it, the mechanics work fine, but its an extremely abbreviated and somewhat dull imagining of this Potter favorite.
Other mini-games include Gobstones and a Potter take on the traditional game of Concentration, both games being simple yet mildly entertaining diversions. Mini-games are also a great way to earn items, and there are challenge versions of each mini. By winning in challenges, you can acquire rare items that can then be traded for additional goodies later on.
Perhaps the most common mini-game youll be prompted to play is Magic Dueling. Often Harrys path will be blocked by one of the Slytherin students, and you can either toss a stink pellet their way or challenge them to a duel. Opponents drop potions when they lose, and since theres little challenge to dueling, it pays to give them the what-for each time they throw down the gauntlet. Dueling consists of little more than tapping high or low on the right side of the touch screen to shoot, or scratching on the left side of the screen to cast a blocking spell.
Though Half-Blood Prince has a plodding pace that runs along an extremely predictable track, there is, in fact, a sizeable payoff here. After each main objective is completed, youll be treated to a nice slice of dialogue and story. The game does a surprisingly good job of adapting the Potter vibe to the dual screen, and there were some true laugh-out-loud moments along the way. Rons sad whit cuts through nicely, and all of the lines are well-written. The story itself is also quite compelling, and I found myself eagerly trudging through the item quests just to see what would happen next.
The visuals in this latest DS Potter are also somewhat impressive, using a mix of 2D backgrounds and 3D character models. The characters exhibit a surprising level of detail, though its not necessarily the most attractive approach considering the limitations of the system. Collision detection was also an issue throughout the game, and often our inputs didnt line up with elements of the background as they should have. However, its still a decent representation of Hogwarts, and Half-Blood Prince is probably the best-looking of the Potter bunch on DS so far. The music is playful and themes change up often, but the sound effects are bland and generic.
The verdict? Its hard to say, really. Theres nothing truly wrong with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for DS; as a matter of fact, it does a lot of things right. You get to take control of Harry in real-time, cast a few spells with the stylus, run around almost the whole of Hogwarts, and the story rewards you handsomely. On the other hand, its a very simplistic formula, one that can be grueling at times. Some mini-games can be mildly amusing, and constantly stopping to acquire more stuff is a guilty pleasure. If you just want a Potter sim you can carry around with you, this game might be worth a look. Otherwise, grab yourself a copy of the book, or hold out a couple of more weeks until the movie hits the big screen.
CCC Freelance Writer