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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

There really is no excuse for the poor quality of this game. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince the film was delayed from winter 2008 to summer 2009 which ideally would have given EA another eight or so months to polish the game into something a little more special than this. What we have here is one of the laziest pieces of shovelware ever to be crapped out onto the marketplace, something that you would only find challenging to play if you happen to be a barely sentient puddle.

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If you need to move the plot along Harry, why not mix some potions? That usually works.

To be fair to EA for a moment, they were always going to have a hard time making a game based on The Half Blood Prince. Although the book has an exciting ending, not much actually happens before then. There is lots of characterisation detail and lots of background and motivation for Voldemort is finally plotted in via flashback. Great on the printed page, not so videogame friendly. So what we have here is a mini-game collection strung together by some basic tasks collection tasks to move the plot along. Honestly, with games based on gobstones, exploding snap, quidditch and potion mixing, the whole thing feels like a cut and paste game structure from a Philosophers Stone PSOne game with just some more relevant story text clumsily inserted into it.

The game starts as it means to go on with a “cutscene” showing Snape swearing the unbreakable vow. Though cutscene is rather a grand description of what is in fact some barely recognisable sprites standing motionless against a low res background. Then you take control of Harry and play some quidditch. An incredibly unspectacular offering where you trace the stylus around the screen to move the players and tap it to tackle and shoot. The players are dots, the ball is a dot and the whole thing is very fiddly and looks really rough.

Once you get to Hogwarts you can start using spells on the enviroment to collect things like wizard cards and gobstones. Using the stylus you can cast Accio on books to find cards; Depulso on bushes to find gobstones; Wingardium Leviosa on tapestries and chairs to find chess pieces; Ruduccio on suits of armour to find stink pellets and Incendio on cobwebs to find butterbeer. You only begin with Accio, the rest are doled out as the story progresses. So if you need butterbeer before you learn Incendio, get ready to get trading.

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Rumour has it Burberry have cancelled Emma Watson’s modelling contract based on this game’s visuals.

Because that’s basically what the game is. Making series of trades to get the item you need to keep the story moving. A student will ask you to get them something, like say, some quidditch equipment from someone else. You then have to track them down and if they require an item that you can’t conjure from the environment you have to hunt around for the person who will, say, trade gobstones for chess pieces, etc. Cue plenty of aimless wandering and getting lost because the layout doesn’t feel natural. Hogwarts feels like a selection of screens thrown together with little rhyme or reason, so even after several hours of play you’ll probably still be getting lost and frustrated.

Occasionally you get to fight a one-on-one duel. This is very exciting. You and your opponent appear on the top screen and you use the bottom screen to attack and defend. Tap bottom or top left to block low and high. Tap bottom or top right to attack low or high. Truly challenging gameplay there. Perhaps that’s unduly harsh. The whole thing feels like it’s aimed at a young audience. But kids deserve better than this bland collectathon. Kids are often better at playing games than adults are. They’re the first to be turned off if they feel patronised and talked down to, which is exactly what this game is doing.

The graphics are rather disgraceful too, looking like Gameboy Advance era visuals in places. The character models are not very detailed and the backgrounds don’t really do justice to the majesty of Hogwarts. The sound isn’t particularly good either, though chances are you won’t hear it over the sound of your sobbing over how much you spent on this rubbish.

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That’s right; you show that suspicious looking wall who’s boss!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a throwback to the bad old days of EA; a shameless and shameful cash-in that barely qualifies as a full game. It’s a horrible piece of software designed to extract cash from the ardent elements of Potter fandom who’ll buy anything associated with the brand. But even they deserve better than this. Reread the book. You’ll save money and you won’t have to keep tapping it every now and then to move the story along.

2 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2003.

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