Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review
As I start to write this review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix big things are happening in the "real" world for Harry. Order of the Phoenix has just been released as a movie and the even bigger event is that the final Potter book, Deathly Hallows, has also just been released and has become the fastest selling book in history. Being the curious type, I headed down to a local bookstore around midnight for the release of the book and it was madness I tell you! Madness! There were hundreds of people dressed up and having a blast counting down the moment until they could buy the book. So, needless to say, a new Harry Potter anything is pretty big news. Does, or even can, the Order of the Phoenix video game live up to the general Harry Potter hype that is going on? Well I don't want to give out any spoilers up front so please read on to find out...
I have not read the book or seen the movie before I started playing. Big mistake. The game assumes that you are pretty familiar with the Potter legend and if you're not then prepare to be confused. Things were so bad that I gave up trying to figure out what was going on, stopped playing, and went to see the movie. I thought that would help me understand the game better. It did, but jeez, should it be a requirement to have read the book or watched the movie to enjoy the game? Hmm, I wonder if that was the plan all along.
The game does indeed follow the path of the movie, just at a much slower pace and with a lot more janitorial duties. Each Potter game has done more and more to help you feel like you're in the Potter world and, in that respect, Order of the Phoenix does the best job yet. This is the best looking of the Potter games and offers by far the most to explore. There are, however, problems with some clipping here and there and at times the camera can be very irritating. Naturally the music is straight from the movie and fits in well. Many of the actual actors from the film lend their voices to the game for an added level of immersion.
The highlight to this game that will make Potter fans happy is Hogwarts itself. The school is laid out just as you've seen and read about and this time you can roam around all you want. This is pretty neat and small touches like having moving portraits on the walls, active stairs, secret passages, and other Hogwarts staples make this roaming around fun. At least for a little while. Problem is that there just isn't a heck of a lot to do that isn't directly related to the story, no real side quests to speak of. Oh sure, you can cast a bunch of Reparo and Leviosa spells to tidy up the school but that gets old after the third or fourth time. Just to be clear, this is not GTA type of freedom but it is a big step up from the previous games in the series. One bit of magic that I really liked was the Marauder's Map, this thing rocked. You open the map and find either a student you want or a location and set it as your destination. When you close the map a little set of footprints materialize in front of you showing you the way to your target. Just brilliant in its simplicity and usefulness.