Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Infinite Cashcow?
Xbox 360, ALL
It's unfortunate this has taken so long to write, as I initially had the spectacular revelation of calling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 'Grand Theft Potter', or something equally Oscar Wilde-esque on the wit scale. Unfortunately it would seem most every reviewer in the world has the same 'How To Be Witty" book that I do, so this description has been thrown around liberally. Damn. Don't be fooled though, it's just a lazy comparison - you can't stove a hooker's face off with magic or anything. Shame, really, but I suppose that wouldn't really be keeping in line with JK's mega franchise.
The Harry Potter games rising from the thousand books and films have all been pretty dross, and have sold in the millions - it doesn't take the master of unlocking to realise that this game will do exactly that, and my opinion on it - as important to everyone as it clearly is - really doesn't matter too much here. For all the consumer whores know the game could simply be an exercise in counting JKR's vast fortunes amassed from the Potter franchise. At least it would have longevity if that were the case. Fear not though, rabid purchaser of corporate wares, as there has been some effort put into this latest tale of magic and overacting children.
Players take Harry through Smogflorts or whatever it's called, bumping into kids from Shovelpipe, Flurrysnuffle and Rectalcancer, exploring the grounds and unravelling the story about some bad magician or something. Look: I'm not up to speed on the Harry Potter stories. The films are awful and the books are - wait for it - for kids! Bukowski this ain't. Anyway, the game sees players doing things with magic - tidying up, lifting things, hitting that ginger one in the head with benches (note: not a mission), basically all that stuff that seems so great. Magic is controlled with the right stick (or, as a genius/obvious masterstroke on the Wii, using the Wiimote), and different motions set Harry's witching arm spazzing out and concocting all kinds of spells the God-fearing public dislike so much - Force Pull, Force Push, Force Crush, Force Lighten... Oh wait. You get the point.
The game itself is short - within about 40 minutes of play I was told I had finished 10 percent of the game. There is a fair bit in the way of secrets etc. strewn through the halls of Gogborts and a rudimentary rewards system is in place to provide the intrepid explorer (i.e. anyone who plays the game, it would seem) with some nifty extras.
It's not the greatest thing in the world, and seems a bit lazy at times, but it's still a thousand times better than any of the previous Potter games - settling on the old run-n-magic formula could have been easy enough, but at least there's something different here for 'Da Kidz', and everything is presented fabulously well - it doesn't look perfect, but it's a decent looker for the aged PS2 (slightly better on 360, Wii and PS3 of course) - voices are provided by people, and a quick look on IMDB makes it seem like it's mostly the real ones off the films. Great. Can't fault the production at least, but what does one expect from the mighty EA?
As a game for a cynical arse like me, it's avoidable. Looking at it from something of an objective viewpoint, it is half decent - EA haven't simply spat on a DVD and called it a game. Which with the Potter licence they could very, very easily do. Companies taking advantage of the gullibility of children is something of a pet hate, and whilst I was on course to bring down the Potter Empire single-handedly it's pretty impossible to have genuine qualms with the effort shown here. It's different to the previous ones, it's well-presented and it has some decent ideas (on the Wii it's also damn funny to do the magic spells. For a while, at least). In the grand scheme of things, Order of the Phoenix won't change the world, but it isn't the sickening cash-in most would expect.