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Producer: EA Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action/Adventure

The sixth installment of the iconic Harry Potter novel series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince aims at providing Harry Potter fans and regular gamers alike with an action-filled gaming experience which accurately depicts the story-line in the novels. The previous three installments received a disappointing feedback from all sides, and even hard-core fans found it impossible to give a thumbs-up. Will this installment finally reflect the true beauty of the Harry Potter series as found in the novel?

Gameplay (4.75/10):

Harry's planning to go back to Hogwarts but the magical world is in total chaos; numerous Death Eaters escaped from the prison at Azkaban and now roam freely, carrying out wide-spread assassinations of Muggles, destroying their property, and this is excluding the several kidnappings that have occurred simultaneously.

However, all this is confined to a cut-scene. Players start off the game at the Weasley's house on a broom-stick (yes, you'll learn to fly before even taking one physical step in the game). Soon, you arrive at Hogwarts. There, Harry and his two musketeers are suspicious of the stealthy activities of their long-time rival Draco Malfoy. Several tasks will be based on spying and uncovering the motive behind his sneaky movements.

What's Bad?

For the most part, the gameplay has little to do with the relevant events which occur in the novel. I'd estimate 60% of the objectives you receive are of a purely side-line nature, anything from doing favors for other students, to love affairs trying to win over a pretty female student.

It must also be mentioned that around half of all your playing time will be spent commuting from one place to another in order to converse and receive tasks from other characters, which makes the whole gaming experience rather dull since walking down the same corridors and routes multiple times doesn't exactly give an adrenaline rush, to say the least. As with the previous Harry Potter games, the developers have attached a lot of importance to Quiddich matches, which have been greatly relevant to the story-line and sequence of events in all Harry Potter novels, but even so, they have been blown out of proportion in the game as they are oft-occurring events which constitute a large portion of game-play.

This, gentlemen, is what you'll be doing half the time playing the game: following/stalking someone.

Playing Quiddich. Enjoyable, but over-represented in the game.

The second most frequent challenge will be duels. The nature of these may vary from being friendly, honorable duel matches, to serious ones with rival students from Slytherin and, towards the end, death eaters. However, one can safely assume that half of all duels are against those two long-time nuisances and Malfoy's associates: Crab and Goyle. Their mischief will often give you minor hurdles and interruption in your tasks. Spells are cast through various mouse movements which are learnt over-time, but I must remark that these duels are of a very easy nature, because not once have I been defeated in a duel even against tough opponents towards the end.

Yay! Payana!

Whipping up potions occupies the last remaining slot in gameplay. Again this task is accomplished via mouse movements. Yet again though, after making just a few potions, you are guaranteed to become a pro at it, and even the most difficult potion feels like a walk in the park to make. Another point which further worsens the game-play is the lack of lessons. In the second installment, Harry was obligated to attend classes of the various subjects taught at the school, spells would be taught, and then Harry would be dropped in a level where he'd have to master his skill in using that particular spell. In this installment however, the developers have omitted all lessons except potions (even with that, there are only a couple of classes). So this further restricts the nature of game-play and makes tasks all the more repetitive.

Sugar, spice and everything nice - Potion making 101

What's Good?

To be very frank, I'm having a hard-time trying to come up with aspects of gameplay which are actually appreciable. The only thing I found to be good is the ability to free-roam in and around Hogwarts. Even though you are always given a task, there usually isn't any time limit as to when you will have to accomplish it. As a result, you may freely roam and explore the vast game world. Once again however, it shouldn't be forgotten that there still isn't all that much to do while free-roaming so it isn't really a big bonus. There is a dueling club, a Quiddich club and a potions-making club; those are just about the only activities you can do while roaming about aimlessly, a far cry from popular gaming titles staged in an open-world where one can spend hours exploring and still uncover new activities at every turn.

Graphics (4.5/10):

Nothing but more disappointment in this department. As can be seen from the screen-shots, the graphics resemble a game from the 90s. While I appreciate that games should be made to run on low power machines, it doesn't mean that they sacrifice all the graphical prestige just to make the game run on a 1.6GHz Celeron. The faces look horrible, almost disfigured at times and lighting is mediocre outdoors to say the most, but the textures are down-right nasty. Even 4.5/10 is being very generous in my humble opinion.

Sound (7.5/10):

The game doesn't have any spectacular audio to offer, however it isn't exactly poor either. Background music tracks are pretty fair, conversations are easily heard and the character's tone vividly resembles that in the movies. Nice audio representation while making potions, playing Quiddich and dueling.

Replay Value (6/10):

There is only one slot to save games. Tasks and objectives successfully accomplished in the past cannot be repeated, and there is absolutely no incentive to repeat them either. The game does, however allow you to free-roam the school after the story is complete. There are small crests (155 in number) scattered around the game world in sometimes awkward places. Collecting them gives players various bonuses. As mentioned earlier, there is also are 3 clubs where you can challenge your skills. Completing the challenges gives you more badges which are added to your collection which is showcased in a separate section in the game menu, so one can still manage to kill time.

Overall (5/10):

Poor, dull and uninteresting gameplay. Lack of uniqueness, and tasks in general are of a highly repetitive nature. Graphical quality is horrible, and it alone would be enough to deter anyone from even laying their hands on this. Overall rating slightly improved by decent audio and a satisfactory replay value.

Game highly unrecommended from my side. Even a hard-core Harry Potter fan such as me found it hard to just carry on and complete the game!
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