Dueling, potions and Quidditch: at any given time you’re probably involved in one of these three tasks. The first is almost a carbon copy of Order of the Phoenix’s scraps (though dodging buttons replace the speedy sidestepping of before), the second is a cumbersome mixing game that suffers from imprecise controls and confusing depth perception, and the third is a lengthy and disappointing on-rails glide to snatch the snitch. In any other title, each minigame would be little more than a side-quest. Unfortunately in Half-Blood Prince there’s no real main adventure to speak of, only brief ‘run-here’, ‘go-there’ quests to link these three activities together.
Hogwarts itself is superbly recreated, in part because it was already believable in the last game. There are subtle differences but liberal use of copy and paste has helped to churn this one out quickly. As a result, navigation is easy enough for anybody familiar with the series. Newcomers, however, will struggle endlessly to accept the convoluted corridors.
In lieu of the retired Marauder’s Map breadcrumb footsteps, you can instead call upon a (tragically voiced) Nearly Headless Nick for guidance, but to extend the time between the bland minigames Harry can search for the Hogwarts badges. Sometimes this involves repairing broken emblems or hurling heavy objects into walls with Wingardium Leviosa, butmostly it’s simply a case of prodding random objects with a push spell. Glowing lamp post? Push it for pickups. Boulder? Push it. Sign? Why not... push it?
Order of the Phoenix’s diversionary puzzles were a fun way to extend longevity but here the push-everything tasks are lacking focus, much like the rest of the game and its pitifully butchered plotline. A real shame, especially given the promise shown in Order of the Phoenix. Fingers crossed for Deathly Hallows: Part One.
Jul 1, 2009