Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (DS) Review
Thursday, July 16, 2009 3:02 PM
Harry Potter's latest DS outing does little to attract gamers.
Whilst the Harry Potter franchise is undoubtedly a giant in the worlds of film and literature, in the often farcical realms of video game conversions it has proven itself to be unsurprisingly average, with previous Potter outings showing themselves up as awkward, buggy and uninspired.
The latest rushed-out offering in the series of rushed-out offerings is this title, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
While the big consoles may get fancy animations, quality graphics and full and rich sound as some sort of consolation prize for a lack of depth and quality, the DS has been neglected in even these areas, making this port a dire slog through the world of Hogwarts that even the hardiest fan will find themselves yawning through.
The game is basically just a series of repetitive collection tasks, with Harry being charged with finding a number of ingredients or items just to progress to the next section of plot. These ingredients are dotted around the open-world of Hogwarts, meaning you have to ask your fellow students for clues. This can be a double-edged sword in some respects, as if the student you are questioning drops a name or a hint at their location, then you can access it in your Rememberall (read: SatNav) so you can find the item with ease.
However, if the student only tells you a rough location with no highlighted text, you are forced to ask many others until you get a usable name or link, as infuriatingly the map is not navigable by hand, only by the Rememberall.
By the time you've gathered all the items needed to progress, you are treated to an animation-free snippet of plot before being thrown back into exactly the same scenario. This is a point-and-click/MMO-lite hybrid, with none of the entertaining parts of either.
The open-world aspect of the game means that you can do the challenges at your own pace, but there is no real incentive to, as exploration only offers meagre rewards. Items at large can be gathered from different bits of scenery, from suits of armour to spiderwebs, and are of varying value in trades. By the time you are halfway through the game you will already have a large stockpile of bits and bobs to swap, so trading becomes a breeze.
The mini-games on offer, whilst being varied, are also largely dry or frustrating. Gobstones, Wizard Skittles and Exploding Snap are fun for the first few attempts, but get boring fast. Quidditch is ten seconds of fun, providing you aren't playing the Ron Weasley goalkeeping game, which accounts for two small stylus dents in my DS screen already.
That being said, the potion-making task is an enjoyable exception to the rule. You have a strict time limit to create your brew, and EA has taken full advantage of the range of motions available to the stylus user, throwing in a smoke-blowing task using the built-in microphone.
Duels are basic to the point of mind-numbing simplicity, with four total moves available. The use of items adds a small amount of replayability, but hammering attack until your enemy gets overwhelmed by spell blasts is a far more efficient way of winning your fight.
When you do get to a proper fight sequence you assume a first person position, and get a chance to blast baddies with bolts from your wand. However, the touch-screen renders this a very inaccurate process with some enemies refusing to be hit at all, leading to many instances of unfair health loss.
It seems that a Harry Potter game for the DS has been largely an afterthought for EA, with most of the duelling and mini-games being reduced to echoes of their console-selves due to obvious hardware limitations.
Speaking of bad porting, there are obvious visual glitches across the whole of Hogwarts, with ugly vertical and horizontal lines slicing up the view as soon as Harry begins to move across the screen. This is a shame, as The Half-Blood Prince is hardly an ugly game.
Again however, in comparison to the full-blown versions, the DS version pales into almost non-existence, with only a portion of the original charm being kept alive through static backgrounds. Maybe an attempt at a 3D-style platformer could have yielded more success instead of this lazier approach to a hand-held conversion.
This also extends as far as to how the plot is handled. Whereas in the films or the books the sense of a strong plot is evident, in this game it is almost vacant in the overall experience. All the main characters are there, but the world seems strangely sterile and two-dimensional, and the actual unskippable plot sections fly by in only a few blocks of text.
It seems that when EA came to create the newest Harry Potter game for the DS, they assumed that because as it is smaller in physical appearance and simpler in ideal, everything in the game must be smaller and simpler as well.
This has led to an experience that fails to reflect the exorbitant amount of depth there is in the Harry Potter franchise, and also falls well short of utilising the full potential and power of the Nintendo DS. Anyone over the age of 12 will tire of this game within a few hours of playing, and will swiftly return to watching the films or reading the books.