Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
We said at the end of our review for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that your opinion of that game will depend on how much of a Harry Potter fan you are and we can essentially say the same thing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Taking the game on its own merits, it's a decent game with great controls. It does have its problems however, but how forgiving you are of these problems will entirely depend on how big a Harry Potter fan you are.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince you'll get to step into the shoes of Harry Potter and as the bullet points on the back of the box puts it: "Feel the thrill of Quidditch, Defeat the Dark Forces and Perfect your potion-mixing skills." There's no real point in going into the game's storyline, except to mention that you'll play through Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts, because there isn't much of one in all honesty. At least what there is, is so vague as to be of little value to someone who hasn't read the book or watched the film. The game has a habit of skipping from one incident to another with scant explanation and it can be confusing.
The highlight of the Wii version has to be the controls. Whether you're playing Quidditch, engaging in duels or mixing potions the controls are good and add to the immersive qualities of the game. The potion-mixing involves mixing various substances in your cauldron. You'll make the appropriate gestures with the Wii remote, in a fairly realistic fashion, to pick up and pour the substances into the cauldron. There's some wackiness here as you'll have to shake both the Wii remote and nunchuk to heat up the cauldron but for the most part the movements you make are logical. You can also cast spells with the Wii remote. This is rather less impressive but it's still more involving that simply pressing a few buttons on a typical controller.
There are some significant problems with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that manage to sour the experience somewhat. The aforementioned three main tasks in the game make up too much of the game-play and as such it does get repetitive far too quickly. It is possible to explore the grounds of Hogwarts (and you can even call on a guide to help you find your way around) but some areas have not been included this time around and the linear nature of the game doesn't really encourage much exploration. The game could have been longer and most will struggle to get a half dozen hours from the game. This is compounded by the fact that the game is actually very easy with hardly any moments that will give anything resembling a challenge.
Graphically the game appears to be a slight improvement on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix but we are still look at PlayStation 2 quality visuals for the most part. The frame rate doesn't always hold up well but the dips do not cause any problems. Still Harry Potter fans will be pleased with the virtual presentation of Hogwarts and whilst the character models certainly aren't anything special, they do resemble the actors from the movie fairly well and all are recognisable.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is subtitled although the subtitles aren't enabled by default. You don't have access to the options menu before starting a new game so you'll inevitably miss out on a small amount of the dialogue before you have access to the options menu. The subtitles don't have any character names or portraits to accompany them. There are a few occasions where it's unclear who is saying what but for the most part it causes no problems. All tutorial messages are given in text. The game makes good use of icons to convey information. I particularly liked the way the symbols elevate from the potion book so you can see what actions need to be performed.
In conclusion then, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is far from being a game that will impress anyone who doesn't have the slightest affinity with the books and the movies. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the game makes no real attempt to tell a coherent story and skips from one thing to another without filling in the blanks. This isn't a major problem if you've read the book or watched the movie. In fact if you're a Harry Potter enthusiast you can pretty much ignore a lot of what's wrong with the game and I have no doubts that you will enjoy the game. It's just a shame that more care wasn't taken to make it more of a game in its own right rather than hoping your affection for the book or movie would be enough to compensate for the game's deficiencies.