Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review for Nintendo Wii

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review for Nintendo Wii

Harry Potter hops on his broom stick to hit each and every gaming platform, with Wii receiving what is perhaps the definitive version of the Half-Blood Prince. Does EA truly bring Hogwarts to life with this video game adaptation of a bestseller, or should you simply wait on the movie?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

Regardless of which version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince game you opt for, the story is going to be pretty much the same. Rather than branching off to explore some unique plot, the console game aims to run you through the book’s main events by way of exploration of the fabled Hogwarts School of Wizardry and three basic mini-games.

Aside from one brief instance in the game where you’ll exert limited control over Ron Weasley, you’ll take control of Harry using the analog stick on the Nunchuk. Moving Harry around feels natural, and you can walk or jog depending on how far you push on the control stick. He can also run fast when holding the Z button, though that’s best reserved for navigating wide-open spaces.

As is the case with EA’s handling of most licensed games, Half-Blood Prince pretty much leads you by the nose each step of the way. You’ll first meet up with Ron and Hermione for a bit of clean-up on the Weasley farm, in which case you’ll be instructed on how to cast your first spell, Wingardium Leviosa. This spell allows you to lift things highlighted in the environment, and it’s executed by pointing the Wii Remote and pressing A over the desired object. Once locked onto an object, you flick the Wii Remote upward to levitate it, aim with the control stick, and toss objects with a forward-flicking gesture. Casting works fairly well, but it only comes into play in the main story a handful of times. You’ll otherwise be using this type of utility spell to collect crests hidden throughout the game (more on that later).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

Half-Blood Prince on Wii plays, in some respects, like a Grand Theft Auto game, affording the player a fair amount of freedom to explore. There’s only one way to progress in the story, but between scripted events, you can wander around Hogwarts at your leisure. This is also the most impressive element of the game, and when it comes to offering a sandbox based on the Harry Potter universe, Half-Blood Prince pushes the envelope on Wii. There are zero load times when moving from area to area, and the school feels truly alive.

Considering the scale of Hogwarts, it is unfortunate there isn’t an overworld map to consult. In lieu of a map, however, you can call on the aid of Nearly Headless Nick, who will either offer clues about your next objective or lead you directly to it. It’s a mechanic that works great during the main game, but the lack of an actual map can make covering the whole of Hogwarts a bit tedious after the tale has been completed.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

The actual story portion of the game is really short, clocking in at about five hours, give or take. Half-Blood Prince uses three mini-games and a handful of spells to move the story forward, and as brief as the experience is, you’ll likely be glad to see it end. Using Nick, you’ll be led to one mini-game after another. The story uses the minis as an excuse to get to the next bit of plot and dialogue (or perhaps it’s vice versa?), though the payoff is sparse. Whereas the handheld version of the game offers players nice, large chunks of dialogue, the story in Half-Blood Prince on Wii feels incidental.

Luckily, the mini-games on offer here are mostly fun, even if two of them are played into the ground. The first one you’ll come across is potion making, and it’s not only worked into the story in clever and interesting ways, it’s also the most fun you’re likely to have in the entire game.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

When making potions, you’ll see symbols scroll up on the bottom right of the screen, instructing you either to interact with your cauldron in a specific way or to add certain ingredients. In order to add liquid ingredients, you’ll point the Wii Remote at a bottle, and then make a lifting gesture; you then pour by tilting the remote sideways, and when you feel a rumble on the controller, you’ve used enough of that particular ingredient. If you add too much of a particular ingredient or make a mistake, smoke will puff up around the pot, which you’ll then need to wave away by shaking the Nunchuk. Adding solid ingredients, such as dragon dung or rat’s spleen, is done in much the same way, though you’ll simply press the A button to drop items in once they’re over the cauldron. Some liquids need to be shaken slightly, and occasionally you’ll be called upon to either fan the flames or stir the pot. The beauty is, the controls for making potions work great, and the activity is a ton of fun.

Another major part of Half-Blood Prince is quidditch, and here your main goal is simply to ride your broom stick through star markers in order to chase after the golden snitch. It’s an on-rails event that’s controlled using the pointer functionality of the Wii Remote, and again, the controls here work splendidly. However, you’re forced to play through a practice run each time the mini-game pops up in the story, which quickly drains the fun out of the experience.

The last, and most abused, mini-game is dueling. You can’t have a Harry Potter game on Wii without some form of wizard combat, and for the most part, it’s executed well. But again, the developers shamelessly pad the length of the game and create artificial obstacles by forcing you into one duel after another during climatic portions of the story. The pacing feels stapled together and disjointed, and when spamming one particular spell usually guarantees success, combat grows old quickly.

There are six spells you can eventually learn for use in dueling, and each is executed using gesturing. Stupefy is your main attack, which shoots fireballs at your enemy, and the spell is cast by making a jiggling motion with the Wii Remote. Other spells, such as Expelliarmus or Levicorpus make use of both controllers, and though you can routinely cast these spells successfully with a bit of practice, there were plenty of times our gestures were misread, causing us to cast a completely different spell than what we had intended.

The presentation in Half-Blood Prince is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the story is rushed and rugged, the cutscenes are often awkward, and the character animations are very unnatural. On the other hand, in-game animations are excellent, and the facial expressions are impressive, adding subtle nuisance to the spoken word. Hogwarts also looks amazing, though visual elements far off in the background lack polish and detail. The sound effects and music, however, are powerful additions that lend weight to the overall experience. The voice acting is also delivered faithfully, even if some of the original actors from the movie are absent.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Wii offers a completely average and somewhat lazy adventure. The story is shown little love, which is confusing, considering the game costs five times that of a movie ticket. The mini-games are fun and well-constructed, but they’re overused and often abused. That being said, there’s great value in being able to freely roam the hallowed halls of Hogwarts. The school is both charming and slightly creepy, and EA probably would have done well to simply offer fans all the various components of the game, minus the story, since it only serves to trip up the experience.

The cutscenes are a wash, but in-game graphics are a treat on Wii. Animations, lighting, and the absence of load screens are a real boon, in spite of a few less-appealing elements far off in the distance. 4.0 Control
Controlling Harry feels great, and the camera system has been handled wisely. Casting spells during duels, however, can occasionally be problematic. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice work is admirable in spite of the disjointed presentation. Themes and sound effects, though, go a long way in enhancing the experience. 3.2

Play Value
It’s a shame you’ll have to play through the actual story in order to get at most of the game’s best features, but the individual components of Half-Blood Prince on Wii are very nicely polished pieces of gaming.

3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • The Wii Remote becomes your wand: Use the Wii Remote to cast spells and interact with the world. Gesture-based spell casting makes the game incredibly immersive and fun to play.
  • Explore authentic Hogwarts environments: From the Quidditch pitch to the Astronomy Tower, you will be amazed by the attention to detail in every area of the school grounds. Plus, the castle corridors are filled with a variety of magical objects and rewards for you to discover!
  • Characters look and move like actors: The mo-cap technology and facial capture techniques are the most advanced ever used to create a Harry Potter videogame. The in-game characters resemble the film actors so closely, you have to see it to believe it!

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