Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix PSP
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Millions of Harry Potter fans are doubtlessly counting the days until the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released on July 21st 2007. In the meantime however, fans will be able to find comfort in the fact that the fifth movie is just around the corner. Of course all things Harry Potter are tremendously popular so it's no surprise that a game based on the movie has been released and that the game is being released on all of the major gaming consoles, handhelds and of course the PC. This review looks at the PSP version of the game.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix once again puts you in the shoes of the bespectacled young wizard in this fifth episode in the series. The game begins with him almost being expelled and then finding out that the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor refuses to allow the use of defensive spells. The aforementioned professor, Dolores Umbridge, also refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned and gives Harry a detention for insisting this is the case. Feeling rather cheesed off, Harry, Ron, Hermione and their friends decide to form their own Dumbledore's Army in order to defeat Voldemort and his rather evil Death Eaters. Whilst you get to control Harry for the majority of the game, you do get to spend a few minutes controlling Sirius and Dumbledore. Hogwarts also has numerous secrets to discover and when Harry has discovered a certain number, he'll be able to visit the Room of Rewards to collect his prize. There are also some mini-games to play too with the likes of Wizard Chess, Gobstones, and Exploding Snap being available for Harry to enjoy.
Recruiting Dumbledore's Army is going to require poor old Harry to traipse all over Hogwarts. To make your traipsing slightly less of a chore you have access to the Marauder's Map. The Marauder's Map on the PSP version is far more basic than the one found in other versions of the game. You'll simply scroll around the map and select where you wish to go. After choosing a location you'll see footprints appear on the ground to show you which way you need to go. This is actually a nice idea but if Harry is running around, the footprints occasionally have a hard time keeping up and it's possible to head off in the wrong direction. At least the footprints are lighter in colour in the PSP version and therefore are much easier to make out.
Unlike the other versions of the game you can't have any right analogue stick spell casting or motion sensing controls. Instead, you'll have to press the R button to take out your wand and then use the relevant buttons (square, triangle, circle and X) to cast the spells. This method of spell casting doesn't feel anywhere near as good as in the other versions of the game but it's difficult to see how the developers could have done anything else given the limited control options at their disposal. However they could have made this method of casting spells much less fiddly than it is. Instead of using simple button presses, you have to press and hold the button down for a short duration. It's far too easy to hold the button down for too long or not long enough and thereby fail to cast the spell. The problems are even worse when you have to press a combination of buttons to cast the spell and getting the timing right is far more problematic than it needs to be.
The PSP version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix looks quite good and is comparable to the PlayStation 2 version of the game. There are some frame rate issues here though and they are far more noticeable here than in other versions of the game that we've played. The camera, which was problematic in the other versions, is rather more so here. Most of the time you'll have a more elevated view of the action and your viewpoint is sometimes less than ideal. As with the other versions, you have no means of altering the camera angle so you simply have to put up with its foibles. At times it tends to snap around far too quickly and it can become both disorientating and a little nauseating. The load times are actually quite impressive for a PSP title and this helps to keep the action from being broken up too much.
Thankfully Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is subtitled. The subtitles are enabled by default and the game's cutscenes are subtitled with yellow text. There are no character portraits or names placed alongside the cutscene subtitle but for the most part this doesn't cause any problems. Occasionally though it's difficult to make out the yellow text because it clashes with the background. The dialogue in the main game does have character portraits placed alongside the dialogue which makes it much easier to see who is saying what. However, these subtitles don't stay on the screen for long at all and you'll have to read them rather quickly to avoid missing out on the dialogue. There is no option to slow down the speed of the subtitles, which is very unfortunate. The crazy thing is that the subtitles actually disappear in advance of the speech being spoken. There aren't any subtitles when the characters call out the name of the spell they are casting. All tutorial messages are shown in text and use relevant controller button icons to make it crystal clear what buttons or actions are needed. The game doesn't autosave. Instead you'll be asked, in text, if you wish to save when you reach a checkpoint. Whilst the game is subtitled then, it's fair to say that the PSP version can be a little problematic for deaf gamers thanks to the speed of the in-game dialogue and the occasionally background-clashing cutscene subtitles.
We should make it perfectly clear that your opinion of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will depend entirely on how much of a Harry Potter fan you are. If you like the idea of being able to explore Hogwarts and just want to take in the ambience of game, then you're pretty much guaranteed to really enjoy the game. If you're simply picking this up because you fancy an action adventure type of game then you'll probably be disappointed with what's on offer. The main reason for this is because you'll have to travel all over Hogwarts doing menial tasks that just aren't much fun. The storytelling in the game is rather vague and perhaps relies on the player having read the book, or seen the movie. Instead of having a storyline that's fully fleshed out, you have one that seems to skip from one incident to another far too hastily. There are only a handful of battles in the game and to be perfectly honest they aren't exactly engaging experiences. The less inspiring elements of the game mean that it's a game that only Harry Potter fans will really appreciate. The PSP version isn't as enjoyable as the other versions of the game and comes with its own fair share of problems as far as deaf gamers are concerned.
Only consider the PSP version if you can't play the game on either of the other consoles or PC as it's an inferior version in just about every respect. The speed of the subtitles is a big concern for deaf gamers and I suspect few will be able to put up with the speed at which they are displayed.