Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Harry Potter has always intrigued me, though I have never had the self-discipline to sit down and read through all of the novels. I’ve opted to see the movies instead, even when they bored me to tears. It’s fascinating to think that they have gotten progressively better over the years, and the video game tie-ins have certainly followed suit. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an entertaining (albeit very predictable) journey into Potter’s world, but it got me to sit down and pay attention a lot longer than the books did.

Entertaining Duels
While it’s true for a while you’ll just be running about through Hogwarts performing different errands, going to class, and meeting up with your friends along the way, you will be fighting a great deal as well. Using several spells picked up along the way, you’ll perform them with flicks of the analog stick and button presses. Your most valuable spells will likely be that of Expelliarmus to knock opponents onto the ground, as well as Stupefy, which is a singular attack that can be charged. Though duels obviously weren’t meant as a means of battle between students at Hogwarts, you’ll likely enjoy running into some of Malfoy’s cohorts, ne’er-do-wells, and even Bellatrix LeStrange as you engage in magical duels.

The analog stick controls work well, and some of the fights can really test your reflexes. It’s a welcome change of pace from gallivanting throughout the school and talking to aging paintings who have nothing better to do than think of obscure passwords to quiz students on in exchange for quicker shortcuts.

Fast-paced Quidditch
It’s been done much better before, but that doesn’t mean this Harry Potter’s quidditch elements aren’t enjoyable. I found that playing the fictional sport was much like flying through the familiar rings of NiGHTS, and enjoyed it just for that reason. As the Seeker (Harry), you’ll zoom along on your broom to try and get your mitts on the Golden Snitch, all the while avoiding obstacles and other players. It’s a great change of pace even if you are only flying through hoops and smashing into practice dummies for time boosts. There’s some great fun to be had here zipping through the quidditch field, and I found myself looking forward to those segments the most.

Creating Potions
What would Harry Potter be in the magical world without potions of all sorts? This game has them in full force. When attending Hogwarts classes or running errands, you’ll often be asked to create a different potion. You’ll do this by playing an enjoyable little minigame where you race against the clock and follow small onscreen commands in order to take several ingredients and create different magical potions out of them for various purposes. Potions come in different shapes, sizes, and color, and you’ll be adding ingredients, stirring the cauldron, raising and reducing the heat, and even shaking up other potions to add to the mix. If you screw it up, a puff of smoke will obscure the play area and that will cost you precious time. Creating potions is absolutely essential to the gameplay and I feel that it was implemented very well so that it gets more tough with each instance, ensuring that you never get too bored with it – at least, in the regard of it being too easy. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for pretty neon colors.


Even if you’re a newcomer to the Harry Potter series, you’ll find that you can easily complete this adventure in less than 8 hours, depending on what you bother to collect or unlock along the way. The main storyline is painfully easy to wade through even if you’re barely paying attention, and the duels (while they are enjoyable) can easily be won by spamming some of the same attacks over and over. Since it is a movie game it can’t be helped I suppose, though it would have been nice if the game put up something of a challenge rather than a cakewalk.

Though the game is certainly fun through its different minigame-like excursions, the different segments will likely wear on the nerves quickly. Moving along at a set pace collecting crests, dueling, making potions, and then practicing Quidditch will begin to get old and you’ll find yourself putting the game down early rather than fighting through to see the tale to its end, especially in some of those dreadful stealth segments. How boring.

Imprecise Wand Controls
Quite often throughout the game you’ll be asked to perform maneuvers via your wand to cast spells, move items, or even just to get to hidden crests. Moving objects with the wonky control scheme is an absolute disaster, and you’ll likely want to skip through any unnecessary movement with the wand in order to make it through the game without having transformed yourself into a seething mess. Since you must rely on the wand for spells within duels, it’s unfortunately something you’ll just have to get the hang of, though.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter then the latest movie tie-in should be right up your Diagon Alley. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it as more than a weekend rental or a borrow from a rich friend. As far as movie games go I’ve certainly seen better, but I’ve seen much worse than this and the movie adaptations are admittedly pretty intriguing fare once you pop them into your console and give them a chance rather than scoffing immediately.

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