Harry cast a Petrificus Totalus on me!
June 22, 2007 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has proven to be the greatest game of the series. This game caught me off-guard, as I thought this was just another movie-based video game that tried hard but didn’t get anywhere. Instead, this new installment of the Harry Potter series takes us where we had never gone before. Harry’s school, Hogwarts, is almost an open-ended scenario where the unimaginable can happen. It almost seems as if those virtual barriers we often find in video games have disappeared in this game, as if magic had taken over and made this game endless.
Now, endless gameplay has its good and its bad, because at some point you may grow tired of wandering around, trying to discover one more thing and finding out that there’s yet more to come! There’s no real sense of accomplishment if you can’t get it all done, especially if you’re one of those who won’t stop until it’s actually one hundred percent “finito.” At the same time, never-ending discoveries and side quests will give you reasons to go back to the game and continue unlocking those tasty secrets hidden in the Room of Rewards. Why not? If the game keeps you entertained, you might as well keep playing!
If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie (which won’t be out until July 11th), you are going to see how the story continues just by playing this game, so if you’re afraid of spoilers, you might want to wait and play after you watch the movie. I won’t spoil anything for you here, though. Just know that it’s the end of the summer and Harry returns to Hogwarts School for his fifth year of magical studies. Here he will reunite with his friends and make a plan to defend himself and everyone else from the evil Lord Voldemort. Some people, like Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Dolores Umbridge, say Voldemort vanished and will never come back. Harry will have to be valiant and prove to everyone that he’s not a liar; that’s where your mission begins.
EA’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was developed with the movie in mind, more than any of the previous games were. Harry Potter is not just a book-selling phenomenon but also a ticket-selling mayhem. There are few people in this side of the world that aren’t anxious to see the movie hit the big screens on July 11th, and you’re probably one of them. The movies sell because they translate into images all that we’ve tried to imagine by reading J.K. Rowling’s books. Harry is involved in a world of fantasy and magic but also goes to school, just like more than half of his fan base; this allows Potter’s enthusiasts to feel identified and dive right into this inspiring fantasy world.
The actors that play the roles of the characters are now famous and stronger than they ever were; they have become the characters they represent, and they’re the ones who everyone wants to see. There’s no Harry without Daniel Radcliffe, Hermione without Emma Watson, or Ron Weasley without Rupert Grint. That’s why this new game had to look and feel more real, because that’s ultimately what will bring the game to success. Thanks to the uprising technologies developers have in hands, the character’s faces are really true to reality, the environments are truly life-like and highly interactive, and the magic feels more alive than ever before.
If you top it all off with voiceovers by many of the real actors, the vibrant and mysterious soundtrack of the movie, and the addictive sound effects, you’ll see that no other Harry Potter game comes even close to what this one has to offer. If you’re a sucker for those movies and you love video games, you have no alternative but to play this game and jump into Harry’s life one more time. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.
Of course this game is far from flawless; you’ll find many not-so-perfect things along the way. As real as the graphics are, the frame rate doesn’t follow a realistic pace. Lagging effects happen frequently, and even though the game’s loading times are almost inexistent, which is very positive, you’ll see some strange cut-offs from one scene to another and from one room to the next. You can make Harry run through the hallways by holding a button, but sometimes he’ll just slow down by himself, as if he had free will. Some of these things can drive you crazy and affect your overall gaming experience, which is why I say, this game is not ideal, although it’s on its way there.
Closer Than We’ve Ever Been
June 21, 2007 – Harry Potter returns to us once again with new spells, new characters, and free roam of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As in the books, Harry matures; the games will follow the same pattern, making this one more edgy then any of its predecessors and will appeal to a broader audience with Death Eaters, Number 12 Grimmauld Place, new playable characters, free roam, spell casting, and much, much more, The Order of the Phoenix has yet to upset. Hogwarts not only offers an open world roam, but it also has hundreds of items one can interact with using any of the non-combat spells to gain discovery points.
As you may have guessed, discovery points equal more powerful magic. This allows your combat as well as your non-combat spells to be more powerful as well as more accurate, trust me when I say that the level of your magic WILL matter in the combat sequences on a high degree.
EXPECTO PATRONUM! Just like the book, we begin in Little Whinging where you’ll undergo your tutorial on your new spell casting charms. Since the Harry Potter games have been less narrative, you’ll find much of this game will leave you to exploring, which may prove difficult considering Hogwarts’ enormous size, long halls, room of requirement, Gryffindor common room and moving staircases to name a few of 85+ areas; this task will prove easier via the navigation system (footprints on the floor) you may choose if you need. You’ll need to explore to recruit members of the D.A. since Dolores Umbridge will indeed have reign of Hogwarts throughout some the game. Aside from the many missions in the game, there are also side games that may be played if one chooses, such as exploding snap competitions, wizard chess, and gobstones (similar to marbles)
Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 will offer you more realistic control, allowing you to draw out the shapes with either the Wii-mote or the Sixaxis like they are your wands, though Nintendo seems to be highly favored in this effect. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 will allow spell casting through the use of the analog stick, and PC will be drawing out with your mouse. Different shapes will cast different spells, and the shape will often resemble the effect. A stab-like motion for ‘depulso’ will result in pushing objects away, etc. PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii offer us the best feel of actually being in the game, and the Wii leaves us only a few steps away from a full on Wizards duel. Through your 60 or so missions, you’ll be given non-combat and combat spells, so the same shape drawn will offer different effects depending on whether or not your character is in combat. Some of the spells will be wingardium leviosa, accio, depulso, reducto, incendio, and reparo; these are your non-combat, or Charm, spells. Protego, petrificus totalus, rictusempra, stupefy, experlliarmus, and levicorpus will be your combat, or Jinx. spells. All spells will have the same effect as in the movie or book.
Though all systems promise nearly spot-on resemblance of the book as well as the movie, the graphics on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 seem more admirable, yet all will set high standards for any game to follow. The score was composed by James Hannigan and has themes for specific characters as well as John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme. The use of characters we’ve yet been given a chance to play will be allowed in Order of the Phoenix, giving use access to the Weasley twins, Albus Dumbledore, and, rumored, Sirius Black. As in previous games, Ron and Hermione will be by your side to give advice if you begin to get lost, yet in the latest version, expect the possibility of Sir Nicholas (Nearly Headless Nick) if you begin to stray to far off course which is likely if you opt-not to use your navigation system given the size of the school. A small sample of this game is hardly enough to satisfy, so mark your calendars for its release on June 26.