Publisher: EA Games
Publisher 2: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: EA UK
N Amer - 06/26/2007
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review
In a summer filled with drab and uninspired movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Spiderman, everyone is looking forward to the release of the latest Harry Potter movie. Of course, to coincide with the movie, there are the requisite video games being released. There is a version for every console, but the Wii version is unique because of the controller that can be used as a wand. This review is of the Wii version.
While the Harry Potter games have all been pretty fun for fans of the series, they haven’t exactly been the best games out there. Not bad games, but not wonderful, either. With Order of the Phoenix, though, fans finally have a fitting game to enhance their book and movie experience. I’m happy to report that this is by and far the best Harry Potter game yet, “wands” down. Fans, rejoice!
It’s Harry Potter’s fifth year at Hogwarts, but his fame has become notorious. Whereas people in the past wanted to be seen with the “boy who lived,” now most are avoiding him. No one wants to believe that Voldemort is alive and that the Death Eaters are active again. However, Voldemort is alive and the threat to Harry and all other wizards who oppose Voldemort, is real.
As a result of this blind opposition to the truth, there have been some changes at Hogwarts. The Ministry of Magic has taken the official stance that Voldemort isn’t back, and that Harry is lying. To control matters at Hogwarts, a new staff member has been installed. Ms. Umbridge is there to make sure that the students and staff don’t organize against the perceived threat of the Death Eaters, and therefore Harry and his fellow students are left defenseless, as it were. To make matters worse, Ms. Umbridge is also the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and is determined that no student will actually learn and practice any defensive spells.
But, you can’t keep a good wizard down, and Harry and the other students join together in secret to practice their defensive spells.
Order of the Phoenix is a splendid presentation of the world of Harry Potter. If there was any one thing missing in previous installments, it was the lack of complete immersion in this world. Order of the Phoenix faithfully recreates Hogwarts in the environments. Inside the school, the staircases move above the characters’ heads while they pause on the stairs below, and candles float above everyone’s heads. The people inside the paintings move around and speak, and lots and lots of students make remarks as they pass by. The grounds outside appear enormous in scope; kudos to the graphic designers for the illusion of space and depth.
And, players will really get to explore Hogwarts this time around, as they’ll be carrying out any number of quests and tasks all around the school. Thankfully, there is that handy Marauder’s Map which will locate people of interest. Players can select a person from the task list on the map, and when they exit the map, footprints will magically appear showing the correct direction. I heartily recommend using this feature, as there will be quite a bit of running around this huge place.
The main plot centers on the gathering up of interested students for the secret defensive spells club. In order to get these students to come to the initial meeting, Harry will have to play messenger boy. This is the one area of the game that can become tedious. Fortunately, besides all the fun areas to explore, there are many other things to do to take a break from the constant errand running, like practicing spells on anything and everything, and searching every nook and cranny for hidden places and items, some of which require interaction. These actions will garner the player special discovery points that can be used to view “behind the scene” clips about the movie. I have to say, this is the largest collection of award videos I’ve ever seen in a game, and they are all very interesting and fun to watch. And if these things weren’t enough to do, there are also several fun games to play like Wizard Chess (battle chess), Gobstones (marbles) and Exploding Snap (memory).
While the game is the same across the board for the console versions, the Wii is the best system on which to play the game, solely because of the Wii controller, as the Wii version isn’t as good-looking as the other console versions. The remote is used as a wand, and it is implemented perfectly in the game. Learning and mastering the spells is difficult at first, but with practice comes success. Also, Harry becomes more powerful as the game progresses. The first area of the game is a tutorial of sorts, where Harry learns how to cast spells around Grimmauld Place and Hogwarts, but the tutorial isn’t very helpful. The instructions given are confusing, as the in-game text is short on explanation and the accompanying visual demonstration of the movement of the controller isn’t clear, either. The first spell demonstrated is Accio, and the explanation leaves out a lot of additional movement to actually get the spell to fire. But, with trial and error, the spells can be figured out.
It’s pretty funny to watch Harry as you try to learn each spell; his arm and wrist waggle around almost like spaghetti! We also appreciated the dual nature of some of these spell casting moments, as often the other characters would stand next to Harry and cast spells as well.
Spell-casting is mostly limited to accomplishing the various tasks, although there is limited combat in the form of duels here and there. This is the weakest part of the game, and isn’t much fun. It’s difficult to see if Harry is making contact with his spells, and equally hard to dodge incoming spells. As the difficulty level in these duels is almost nil, Harry will still win most of the time, but it isn’t very fun or challenging. Chamber of Secrets had a much tighter combat system that allowed players to lock on to their targets, and also presented more challenge and better visuals during the fights.
While Order of the Phoenix is definitely better on the whole than any previous Harry Potter game, there are still many areas that could be improved. The types of quests could be more varied, other than the constant running around and fetching. The combat needs juicing up, and the entire game could hold more challenge, like having puzzles incorporated somehow for players to solve in order to advance. Some type of collection challenge would have been fun, as in one Harry Potter game that had players finding wizard cards and beans.
However, despite the easy play level and lack of exciting combat, this is one fun romp through Hogwarts, which is really all a true fan of Harry Potter requires. If a player isn’t acquainted with the movie or book, then this game will not be much fun or interesting, as the game assumes that players already know the story and don’t need much plot direction. Our family really enjoys all things Potter, and we actually just saw the movie today, the first day of release. We all loved the movie (the actress playing Ms. Umbridge is too rich!), which is mostly faithful to the book. So, we of course are thoroughly enjoying the game.
I absolutely recommend this game to any Harry Potter fan; they won’t be disappointed.
Review Scoring Details for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The gameplay is fun at first, with lots of things to accomplish. The huge world of Hogwarts really adds to the sense of actually being inside the famous school. But, these mundane tasks will sooner or later become a bit boring. Other activities like games and interaction with objects liven things up a bit, but not enough. However, true fans of Harry Potter will love all the exploration!
The school inside and out is wonderfully drawn, but the Wii version isn’t as good as the other consoles. Still, these graphics hold their own when compared to other Wii games.
The music is good and reflective of the movie, but there isn’t enough of it. There could also be more sound effects.
The gameplay is easy, which is good for young players. It may be a little too easy for adults, but the game as a Hogwarts experience is still way fun.
The game does a superb job of recreating the world of Hogwarts. Players will get an enormous kick out of experiencing the school.
We’re very happy with this game. We’re No. 1 fans, and if we’re happy, you will be, too. If you’re not a fan, why are you reading this review, anyway? Joking aside, this is the Harry Potter game. If you have multiple systems, the Wii is the version to get. Young and old will enjoy. I’m looking forward to the next time my mom visits, as she’s never played the Wii before, but loves computer games and Harry Potter. It is going to be very amusing to watch her cast spells with the remote.
Ok, I’ve found your gargoyle, mopped the floor and retrieved all your potion ingredients. What do you mean, you need something else?!? What do I look like, Harry the Handyman?
Reviewer: Anise Hollingshead
Review Date: 07/16/2007