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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by Neal Ronaghan - July 15, 2009, 7:40 am PDT
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Apparently all Harry did during his sixth year was fight classmates, brew potions, fly on his broom, and hit on his best friend's sister.

EA's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a stark reminder of the faults of licensed video games, especially ones that come out alongside movies (even movies that got delayed eight months). It has some cool gameplay ideas, but this EA Bright Light Studio-developed game has little variety and is over before you know it. It also doesn't help that the story can only be understood by people already familiar with the books. Coincidentally, this is the only market that would find joy from this game.

Harry's sixth year is primarily split up into three parts: dueling, potion-making, and the popular wizard sport Quidditch. Dueling involves using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to battle other students in the four different dueling clubs (one for each Hogwarts house) or fend off mischievous students or villainous Death Eaters in story segments. Spells are cast by gestures, with the simplest one involving a flick of the Wii Remote. As you progress through the game, you unlock more powerful spells that require you to gesture up, down, and to the left or right with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. These are easy to pull off, although the game seems a little sensitive to the defensive Protego spell, which is done by crossing the Wii Remote and Nunchuk and can get confused with the other gestures.

Dueling never gets too complicated, as Harry only has about five spells at his disposal, but there is some strategy to it as you have control of your character with the analog stick and can use the scenery as cover. However, once you get the most powerful spell, there is little incentive to use anything else, as it is pretty much an instant win if it hits the opponent. There is also a two-player dueling mode outside of the main game. This mode features a camera view that is set up like a tennis game without split-screen, which gives a sizable advantage to the first player. If you and a friend can get past that, it can be fun, but there isn't much depth to it.

Easily the most impressive and tactile part of the game is the potion-making. Players follow a recipe by using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to pour liquid into a cauldron, heat it up, stir it, and put other objects into it. It takes advantage of the Wii's motion controls, which give it a great feel. Each recipe has a time limit that is increased every time you successfully pull off a step. It's like something out of a Cooking Mama game, but instead of tasty food, you're making potions that include things like rats and eyeballs. There are a good number of potions to make, which is nice, but not when it is the most robust part of the game.

The final part of the game is Quidditch, which is presented in a simple and weird way, but works very well. All you do is point with the Wii Remote and lead Harry around the screen so he can go through stars that give him speed boosts on his way to catch the Golden Snitch. Basically, Quidditch is turned into an on-rails flying experience. There's not too much to it, but it's still entertaining. You participate in matches throughout the story where you control Harry as the rest of the sport goes on around him, but you can only participate in the less exciting practices outside of that.

In a nice touch, players can call upon the Gryffindor ghost, Nearly Headless Nick, to lead them around the large school grounds at the touch of a button. Harry can also wander around Hogwarts campus using spells, such as the levitating Wingardium Leviosa, to solve environmental puzzles, most of which reveal Hogwarts crests or mini-crests. These unlock numerous things ranging from characters in the two player dueling mode to score boosts in the different activities. The unlockables aren't anything special, and collecting all of the crests is really only an exercise for hardcore Potter fans or completionists.

As far as the Hogwarts design goes, it is straight out of the movies. The graphics are a little choppy at times as character animations are very rigid, but the entire world is gorgeous and extremely reminiscent of the movies, especially with the great orchestrated ambient music. The voice acting is all right, but there are very few actors from the film who lend their voices. The sound-alikes that replace them are passable (except for Alan Rickman's), but Harry and Hermione's unfamiliar voices stick out like a sore thumb.

While the wizarding world in the game might look great, it's very empty. Besides the story parts, there are six different clubs that you can participate in that give out badges for completing tasks in them. These clubs are based around the three activities that make up the entire game, with four of the clubs being focused on dueling. For getting high scores and completing other achievements, you unlock badges, which in turn don't unlock anything.

When it comes down to it, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is just a pretty looking sandbox game with three mini-games. These games are interesting, but gameplay variety is a second thought, and so is the story. The only people who should bother with this game are Harry Potter fans who can forgive the game for its misgivings and focus on the impressive-looking world and the nice Wii controls.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 7.5 8 5 4 6

The world of Hogwarts looks great, but every character who inhabits it is very rigidly animated.


While the lack of most original actors’ voices is apparent, both the sound effects and the original score that is evocative of the film are great.


With the exception of some spells in the dueling mode, all of the motion controls work very well, especially the potion-making ones.


The content is functional and a bit engaging, but there is such a lack of variety that it takes away from the fun of the game.


The story mode lasts a few scant hours, and after that, there's just a bunch of monotonous tasks (collecting crests and badges) that don't offer too much of a reward.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince presents a few good ideas and a great-looking world, but the overwhelming lack of gameplay variety offsets most of the redeeming qualities that would make it more than just a game based off of a movie that is based off of a book.


  • Hogwarts looks gorgeous
  • Lots of fan service
  • Makes great use of Wii controls
  • Hogwarts is pretty much empty
  • Lack of variety
  • Unsatisfying and short
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Developer Electronic Arts

Worldwide Releases

na: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Release Q3 2009
PublisherElectronic Arts
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