Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix PS2 Review

Editor’s Note: This game was a source of much debate in the DarkZero offices, Alasdair has a higher opinion of the game than the reviewer of the 360 version.

Mr Potter, or just Harry to non-muggles, returns in this fifth game of the movie of the book. In my opinion, this book has the least amount of actual major events of the series so I was curious as to what the game would involve.

Taking into account the sheer volume of poor movie tie-in titles already available, no-one expects anything more than mediocre from this, newest movie tie-in. Surprisingly, it delivers more than just a bog standard half-game. The school that you are allowed to roam through freely is huge and the way in which you interact with other characters is almost GTA-like. The ability to threaten and attack others with magic is something fans have been crying out for since the original game, and now their wish has been granted. Freezing somebody on the spot never gets old.

The game features a basic task driven layout, and an inventive map system, using the Marauders Map and then fading footprints to guide you in the right direction, so nothing feels out of place in the Harry Potter universe. The game-play is pleasingly simple. Use the left joystick to guide yourself, and then waggle the right in different patterns to cast spells. This works a lot better than any kind of button control for spells, and it feels more like actually casting spells than in previous games. Unfortunately, this is let down by the targeting system being less than usable. You cycle through targets using L2 and R2, but your actual target is almost indistinguishable and so you end up cycling through every close by target twice before you actually aim at what you want to hit.

Throughout the school, there are little discovery tasks to be done. These have quite a wide range requiring you to use different spells. From mopping up water to rearranging paintings, each one earns you discovery points. These points, when accumulated, mean stronger spells and bonus material. There are many different ‘making of’ style videos to be unlocked featuring interviews with different people behind the game and even some of the stars of the movie. There are even mini-games, taking the form of different wizarding versions of games we would know. Play against other Hogwarts students at various games, the best of which being exploding snap. The new elements here really help make this game the closest experience to spending life in Hogwarts so far in the series. Some of the characters have been voiced by their film counterparts, and to hear them in the game makes the whole game come to life. You can’t help but feel let down that not all of the characters are voiced by the stars, but nonetheless, it’s nice to hear familiar voices.

So far, so good, then. But here things take a turn for the worst. Firstly, the sheer stupidity of some of the tasks that require you to search the whole school for talking gargoyles, with no idea where exactly they are. These take an immense amount of time to do and one section gives you around 25 mindless tasks to be done and this makes up around half of the game. Considering that these tasks are more mundane than listening to an Al Gore speech, this is sorely disappointing.

There is still more disappointment to come however because, even though the actual game-play is intriguing, once you learn the basics the game becomes a repeated instance of; use the right spell, use it again, move on. The excitement of actually being Harry Potter is drained by going from one situation to the next and doing almost exactly the same thing over and over again. It hardly drives you to continue playing.

For my final criticism, I don’t think there is much else to be done. The PS2 version of the game suffers greatly from being on the last-gen console. A game that was clearly made to be grand on the 360 or PS3 has been pushed onto the PS2 and the strain of it really shows. When travelling through the massive school, going seamlessly from area to area, the frame-rate can drop so harshly, the game becomes unplayable. Although this is not an enjoyable thing, it speaks well for EA who have clearly aimed to make a decent current gen game and ported it, rather than make a game for PS2 and transfer it to consoles that would make it seem inadequate.

Having said all this, I do feel that I should point out how well this game has been done. Most movie tie-ins are more abysmal than this British summer, however Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix manages to set itself apart from this category, and become an actual self standing game that doesn’t need to depend on the franchise to be popular. Where the game lacks is in its substance, but for fans, this won’t make much difference as it delivers on the only basic requirement – an interactive Hogwarts for all. Harry Potter exceeds many expectations here and I am almost impressed.

More than just a movie game, but a game in itself.

6.5 out of 10

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