Wii

North America

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by Michael Flynn - July 16, 2007, 11:53 am PDT
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Potter and friends return in their best adventure yet. Does that mean the game is actually good or just a little less awful?

The Harry Potter universe contains two kinds of people: muggles, who are just regular non-magical folk like you and me with day jobs and bad backs, and magical folk, with wands and spells and the occasional flying broom. In the real world, the Harry Potter phenomenon has created two kinds of people as well: those who've read the books or watched the movies and know the difference between a quaffle and a snitch, and those who have somehow avoided it all and think quaffles are oddly-shaped breakfast cakes. Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix for Wii is clearly intended for the former and would be completely unintelligible for the latter. Potterphiles will be able to extract some enjoyment from this charming yet uneven game. Muggles need not apply.

Players assume the role of Harry in his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. There's a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge, who along with Snape is ruining Harry's life. Dumbledore is incommunicado, Voldemort is on the loose and gaining power, and Cho Chang is really hot. If none of this makes any sense to you, don't expect the game to explain it in detail. This is meant as a supplement to the movie and/or book, and the cut-scenes are so sporadic and out of context that if you don't already know who's who and what's happening then they're not going to clear it up for you. Suffice it to say there is danger afoot, and the best way to fight it is a series of fetch quests, puzzles, and battles with fellow spell-casters like the always smug Draco Malfoy.

The actual gameplay is promising: you do get to run around in a fully realized 3D Hogwarts, complete with students, Gryffindor common room, and Hagrid's hut. There is no loading as you run from place to place, and the school itself is quite large and full of little details that lovers of the series will appreciate. Navigating the school is easily accomplished with the Marauder's Map, which lets you locate objectives and follow footprints in the game world to find them. Best of all, you are able to cast spells through some well-implemented waggling. For example, by raising both wand and nunchuk simultaneously, Harry casts "Wingardium Leviosa" to lift objects into the air and move them around the room. To knock down an adversary with the "Depulso" spell, move the remote forward towards the enemy like you're hammering a nail. It's not quite 1:1, but Harry's wand even mimics your movements pretty closely in the game. It feels intuitive and works great for the most part. As with previous titles like Godfather and Madden, EA must be commended for using the motion controls of the Wii to create a more immersive product.

Unfortunately there are some shortcomings that keep the game from being truly great. It's a little buggy, sometimes repeating a line of dialogue over and over or ignoring your spellcasting/target selecting attempts. Movement is clunky and stiff. The camera can be extremely uncooperative, and combat soon devolves into repetitive, meaningless waggling. Gameplay is built around a series of go-here-and-talk-to-this-guy quests that quickly become tedious, which is even more alarming when considering that this isn't a very long adventure. There are a few mini-games to expand the experience, like marble-tossing and sculpture-repairing. They're fun distractions but too shallow and repetitive to really add any depth. You can maybe stretch 20-25 hours of gaming out of doing everything there is to do. A typical run-through of the main storyline takes far less. Regardless, be prepared to reach the final showdown with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named earlier than you're expecting. Besides a few over-compressed, unlockable making-of movies, there's not much reason to keep playing. And yet the charm and, dare I say it, "magic" of the Harry Potter universe is such that it renders most of these problems mere nuisances and not deal-breakers. You're still running around Hogwarts, doing stuff you've always daydreamed about doing.

Visually, the game can be quite lovely, although it's marred by the same washed out, muddy presentation that has plagued other EA Wii releases like Godfather. Character models are detailed, bloom lighting is used nicely, and the environments range from beautiful to nondescript (it looks like the development team ran out of time before finishing the Ministry of Magic, as it feels about as detailed as something out of Tron). The audio is great, with a full orchestral score and quality voice acting from most of the movie cast. You may find yourself turning down the volume in embarrassment as Harry calls out his spell incantations with the whiny fervor of an emo band's lead singer, but that's a small price to pay for total immersion, I suppose.

As you may have heard, this is the best Harry Potter videogame yet. But that's like saying "Bloodrayne" is the best Uwe Boll movie yet -- it might be true, but it doesn't mean much. The previous Potter games ranged from average to dreadful. Still, this is an acceptable purchase if you're just trying to make it through the summer games drought and need a fun little distraction. If you're a fan of the books and movies, you'll like this game. If you're a fan of the books but not the movies, you'll still probably like this game (but a little less than the last guy). If you're not a fan of the books or movies, Order of the Phoenix isn't going to turn things around for you. But why don't you like the books at least? Too cool for them, are you? They're brilliant! Ah, muggles.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6.5 8 6.5 6 5 7
Graphics
6.5

The environments are lovely, character models are detailed, and animations are smooth. Also, the developers included 16:9 and 480p support, which is much appreciated. Unfortunately, it's all presented through a hazy film, as if somebody smeared Vaseline on the screen. Colors are muted, blacks are grey, and the incredible presentation is short-changed. This is a recurring problem with multiplatform EA games that were probably designed for the Playstation 2 and ported over to the Wii. Think about it this way: this game has better graphics than Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. But Zelda doesn't have the hazy filter effect blanketing everything, so it looks superior in a side-by-side comparison. Get this figured out, EA.

Sound
8

The orchestral score is gorgeous and sets the mood perfectly. Sound effects are good. Voice acting can be annoying (and some of the actors from the movie are missing) but overall, it's still well above average. All of it comes together to make an immersive aural experience.

Control
6.5

Another mix of good and bad. The good: spellcasting with the remote and nunchuk is absolutely thrilling and generally well implemented. The bad: movement control is awkward and imprecise; Harry is constantly running into walls or other people. During combat, spellcasting devolves into furious wand waggling; there are no rapid fire spells or any rhythm to it, so the player ends up just constantly moving the remote as spells are cast intermittently and seemingly at random.

Gameplay
6

Doing magic is really fun. Running around in Hogwarts solving puzzles and talking to NPC's is fun, too. Through the first third of the game it seems like EA might have finally crafted a masterpiece with the Harry Potter license. Then it becomes apparent that the fetch quests, puzzles, and light combat that make up the first third of the game are pretty much all that there is. Besides a few mini-games, it never really takes the player on much of a journey. No giant bosses or interactive cut-scenes await. So the gameplay, while fun at first, grows stale and monotonous as the game progresses. A letdown ending doesn't help.

Lastability
5

The game is probably 20-25 hours from start to finish if you do every side quest. There are a few things to collect and some making-of movies to unlock, but the adventure is pretty much over when you beat it.

Final
7

If you're a big Harry Potter fan, bump this up a point. If you hate Harry Potter, subtract five points. It's an uneven experience, but worthwhile for fans of the series or anybody looking for some fun-yet-flawed questing.

Summary

Pros
  • Giant 3D Hogwarts with no load times
  • Great remote-enhanced spellcasting
  • Um, magic is awesome
Cons
  • Fetch quests ad nauseum
  • Graphics are beautiful, but blurry and drab
  • Movement control is unwieldy
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Box Art

Genre Adventure
Developer Electronic Arts

Worldwide Releases

na: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Release Jun 25, 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Release Aug 02, 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
RatingAll Ages
eu: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Release Jun 29, 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
Rating7+
aus: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Release Jul 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
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