Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: June 26, 2007
It's been almost two years since Harry Potter has hit the consoles for some gaming magic. With the new movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," out in theatres, Harry makes his first appearance on the new generation of consoles, with a batch of similarly named games. For the Wii version, some unique control aspects were put in place to make it different from all the other console iterations.
In this chapter of Harry's life, You-Know-Who (a.k.a. Lord Voldemort) is returning with intentions of wreaking all kinds of havoc. The Ministry of Magic doesn't want to admit this fact to the public, so it has integrated Senior Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge into Hogwarts as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. However, she only teaches theory, never touching on the practice of defensive spells, fearing that Dumbledore will assemble an army to counter Voldemort's sinister forces. Knowing that this self-defense magic will be useful in the real world, Harry brings all his friends together to teach them the spells he has had to use in earlier perilous situations.
The majority of Order of the Phoenix is spent gathering all of Potter's friends so they can meet in the Room of Requirement for their secret D.A. ("Dumbledore's Army," they call themselves) meetings. You'll be wandering around the castle a lot, talking to students or helping them with possibly mundane tasks such as catching Cho Chang's owl or retrieving one of Fred and George's potions from Umbridge's office. Thankfully, you'll have the aid of the Marauder's Map, which shows you where everything in Hogwarts is located, and even provides footsteps on the ground for you to follow.
Since the whole point of the story is to learn how to use magic in combat, you'll be waving that wand around quite a bit. Your spells are divided into two categories: non-combat and dueling. The non-combat spells include things to repair, levitate, or set fire to objects, among other things. Dueling spells will help you with the pesky Slytherins around the school and the upcoming battles with Voldemort's followers. These will include stun spells, levitating spells, and spells that reflecting opponents' magic right back at them.
All of this magic is performed by waving your Wiimote around just like a wand. For example, wave it in a circle clockwise, and you will use Reparo, which unsurprisingly repairs broken objects. Flick the Wiimote upwards, and you will pull an object towards you using the spell, Accio. Most of the spells respond pretty well to the Wiimote movements, and the motion really adds to the immersion of the game. It looks kind of weird on-screen, because the character's arm doesn't move exactly in sync with your arm, so you don't really know if you've cast the spell correctly until Harry yells out the name of it. Otherwise, the wand movement is very responsive.
However, one spell in particular, Wingardium Leviousa (the levitating spell), is especially difficult to control. Performing the spell isn't hard, but once you have the bench, chair, or potted plant in the air, it is very difficult to figure out how to manipulate its movements using both the Nunchuk and the Wiimote, even more when you air to levitate it higher. Aside from that, the spell casting works wonderfully on the Wii.
Unfortunately, controlling Harry Potter himself is not such a liberating experience. His walking and running are extremely clunky, and he is constantly running into other students in Hogwarts, which bring his movement to a complete halt. Moreover, Ron and Hermoine follow Harry everywhere he goes, which makes narrow passageways and turning around not such a good combination. They are almost always in your way and certainly a burden.
When you're not running around the school grounds assisting your friends with their chores that they could probably do themselves, you'll most likely be in some combat situation. The duels are fairly easy (you don't even have to win some of them), and unlike some games with computer-controlled allies, these friends actually help in battle. You don't have a health bar, though, so it's difficult to tell exactly when Harry's almost done for, but that shouldn't occur too often.
In addition to dueling, the occlumency lessons taught by Professor Snape are included in the game. He points his wand at you and toward a certain direction in an attempt to see one of your memories, and you must wave the Wiimote in the opposite direction to prevent him from entering the personal depths of your mind. This part of the game can seem pretty boring, as all it really consists of is furious Wiimote waggling; thankfully, you won't be doing this too often either
Probably the most impressive aspect of Order of the Phoenix is the massive world map. You can traverse the entirely of the Hogwarts castle, and a vast amount of the grounds outside the main building. It is thoroughly overwhelming at first glance, facilitated by the incredible helpful Marauder's Map. For big fans of the books, seeing the magical school come to life on screen and exploring everything Hogwarts has to offer will be a huge draw. Not only that, but both the character models and the environments are the most realistic the series has offered thus far.
I felt that some of the cut scenes don't really convey the story of the movie and were too choppy or short, leading to plot holes for gamers who haven't seen the movie. It was interesting to see that they included some story elements from the book that weren't in the movie; one example would be numerous things the students did to thwart Umbridge's power trip, such as Fred and George creating swamps all over the campus. Inclusions such as these will be enjoyable for devout Potter fans who undoubtedly complain about the movie not containing every single detail from the books.
The game has a perfect mix of music and sounds to set the mood of actually being at Hogwarts. As you roam the school grounds, you can catch snippets of conversations between students, and once you go outside, you'll hear the sound of birds chirping in the background. Additionally, most of the actors lent their voice talents to the game, making the lines exclaimed by the characters sound just like anything performed on the silver screen.
While the main story only took about 10 hours to complete, you can continue your game in "endless day" to discover all that Hogwarts has to offer. When you repair an object or find something new in the castle, you get discovery points which simultaneously increase the power of your spells and unlock things in the Room of Rewards. To get 100% in the game, you'll need to uncover everything in Hogwarts, which will take quite a bit of work, considering the enormity of the environment.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has a gigantic amount of things to offer gamers, whether you're a dedicated follower of the series, or simply one wanting to experience a different way to use the Wii's motion controls. The sprawling environment will give you plenty to explore, and the spell-casting is enhanced ten-fold by using the Wiimote. Potter fans will swipe this game up faster than a hippogriff on crack.
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