Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Wii) - Review by Andrew
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the Wii is based on the recent Summer blockbuster movie (based on the book) of the same name. Harry Potter has been stuck in his Aunt + Uncles house all summer, with no communication with long time friends Ron and Hermione. Out of the blue, this organization calling themselves The Order of the Phoenix burst into Harry's room and bust him out of there, to prepare him for yet another year at Hogwarts and to discuss more sinister matters at hand such as the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort. The game takes this basic premise and throws in a tonne of quests and spell casting not seen in the movie, to make it a more video game like experience. However, can the magic of the film carry over to the video game, or will it be found in the next EB Games bargain bin along with a million other video game movie tie-ins?
The game follows the basic storyline of the movie, and basically makes you act out Harry Potter when he isn't doing something overly exciting like fighting off Voldemort or flying around on your broom (though you do get to do these things as well).
The gameplay initially seems very shallow, as you wander around Hogwarts and the surrounding areas looking for people, talking to them, and continuing doing so. Most of the game actually consists of doing just this, and helping out almost everyone and anyone you see. For example, you are given the task of finding 28 members for Harry's secret Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching, the DA. You then must search the whole of Hogwarts for these certain people. This can be quite a daunting task, as Hogwarts is absolutely humongous. There are tonnes of little passages and rooms all around, and you can get lost in it quite quickly if it weren't for your little savior - the Marauder's Map. With a tap of a button, a map opens up with a list of every character and every room/area in and around Hogwarts. By selecting where you want to go, little footsteps appear on the ground in front of you, leading you towards your destination. This is insanely handy as you would be completely confused with just a map there, and no directions telling you where to go, as some paths are blocked off. Once you find these people, usually a small task or mini-game is presented to you.
A good example of this is climbing Hogwarts to reach Colin Creevey's camera (according to him, some bullies threw it up there, but how it is standing up right and in one piece is beyond me). Throughout the game you learn spells that can basically alter the environment and move objects around. Spells such as 'Accio' pulls an object towards you, where as spells such as 'Wingardium Leviosa' can levitate an object, and you can freely do what you want with it (such as smashing it off a fellow students face, they actually fall down if you slam them with an object like a table or a rock, its quite fun). Climbing Hogwarts seems to be very reminiscent of games such as Tomb Raider Legend, you must place a nearby table underneath a ledge so you can climb on top of it. You must then jump from ledge to ledge, sidle along the walls and climb up drainpipes till you get to the top. Along the way you must cast various spells to fix broken ledges, adding a nifty puzzle element to the whole thing. The problem is fetch quests appear once too often, where you are required to look around Hogwarts without any aid and find a few plants or herbs so someone can make a potion. Progress in the game means you must do these rather mundane tasks, though luckily they are spread out amongst themselves so the whole game is not just a collect-a-thon.
Most of the puzzles revolve around you casting spells to aid you or a fellow team mate into achieving their goal, though the variety is quite expansive as you are given many different tasks to do. There are of course breaks in this puzzle solving element, in the form of Duels. Unfortunately, these are not as good as they could have been and are very shallow and sometimes dull. If you get into a fight with a fellow student who is willing to fight back, a duel occurs. In a duel, you basically are constantly locked on to your opponent, while you cast spells at them repeatedly until they fall. Usually you are against one opponent, but sometimes their classmates get involved and you have to defeat each student as they come along. Duels are very easy and I haven't died once in them, as the opponent rarely hits you as you can just hold left or right to strafe to easily dodge attacks, where as they rarely move. While providing a decent break in the running around and doing tasks for people, hey are very shallow, and could easily have had a bit more depth by maybe adding a magic meter (waiting until the right time to cast a more powerful spell), or being able to hide behind desks and such to avoid attacks.
One thing that also seems like a completely missed opportunity, is the lack of a flyable broom, to speed around Hogwarts and go wherever you like. The sheer scope of the world lends itself perfectly to this. It would also make boring fetching tasks become much quicker, as most of them are located outside. This was a great feature in previous Harry Potter games, and most of my time was spent flying around Hogwarts, through the tunnels, cracks and crevices and pretend to almost crash into people or the buildings themselves. There are, luckily, various paintings littered throughout the interior of Hogwarts which allow you to skip from one end of Hogwarts to the other, but this isn't fun compared to flying around at your own free will. Part of me blames it on the movie, as there was no Quidditch (a sport involving brooms and balls, think flying soccer/football) at all in the movie (where there was quite a large chunk of it in the book). There is no doubt in my mind that flying around Hogwarts will NOT return in the next few games, which I thought was one of the coolest features. However, the variety of tasks are largely different from each other that I can almost forgive the lack of broom-flying.
Controls are a bit of a hit or miss, mainly a hit though. Moving around with the nunchuck is fluid as ever, and running is used with the Z-button on the nunchuck. Your Wii remote itself essentially becomes Harry's wand. Moving your remote will move Harry's wand, it looks really cool seeing it on screen. The spells are also activated by moving your Wii remote in a specific order and, luckily, most of the time they work perfectly. There are a few annoyances when trying to conduct a certain spell, Repairo, which repairs any broken object. You must flourish your wand in a circular patter repeatedly until the object is fixed. Sometimes it just cuts off with what your doing, and when you are presented with a task where you must repair about 5-10 objects, this can not only become frustrating, but very tiring. Spells such as Accio and Depulso make sense. As previously stated, Accio pulls an object towards you, and this is done by basically swinging the Wiimote towards you, like a fishing rod being pulled back. Depulso basically shoves objects forward, and this is done with a casting-with-a-fishing-rod style move. One little annoyance is the fact that the map is locked to the '-' (minus) key. Though not the games fault (the Wii remotes fault, for lack of buttons), it is very mildly annoying having to move your hand down, but this is nothing to worry about. Simply me ranting on.
The major thing that has to be praised is the graphics department. Every location in and around Hogwarts is simply stunning. The whole place is gigantic and there is a lot of detail going about the place which really captures the atmosphere and expanse of Hogwarts itself. The character models are also very good too, though some characters do look completely daft, though this is more of an artistic issue than a technical issue. Camera angles often zoom out when exploring Hogwarts' exterior, mainly just to show you how impressive the game looks. It's like EA is saying 'Å“Look at me, look at me! Look what I can achieve on the Wii, isn't it fabulous? And rightly so, it is. But, and there has to be a 'but', the framerate very often drops below 30fps, providing a somewhat jerky experience. I guess there has to be a negative towards the stunning visuals that EA has managed to achieve on the Wii. With all the action going on on-screen, it's hard to imagine that it would be 60 frames per second all the time though. It isn't enough to make the game unplayable by any means, it's just something that is very noticeable throughout.
Like most of EA's releases, presentation has always been one of the most important aspects (alongside the gameplay and depth itself), and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the Wii continues that. Orchestrated music from the movie and the soundtrack are all throughout Hogwarts, and it really captures the magic of the movies thanks to it. The voice acting is also up there with the greats, as many of the actors from the movies have provided their voice for the game, though this isn't always noticeable, especially with Hermione. Every character always has something to say, though usually some lark disrespecting Harry and going about telling everyone that he's a lier. It's cool to listen to what they're saying, though the same lines can be heard quite a few times when playing throughout the movie. The presentation is simply top notch, props to EA.
Well I hope this review has been a magical and enlightening experience for all of you who have read it. Harry Potter for the Wii is an overall good experience, with little annoyances here and there. Big fans of the movies and books will find quite a lot to enjoy, though I recommend this title to anyone who wishes they could perform magic themselves, if only to smack a chair of Ron's ugly ginger mug. Ahem. Heres the lowdown.
Pro: Presentation top notch. Waving the controller like a wand is very fun.
Con: Minor control issues. Some slowdown. Gameplay a bit of a hit or miss.
Final score: 8
|Genre:||Action / Adventure|