Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – PSP

Not the PSP version, sadly

Not the PSP version, sadly

I consider myself to be a pretty big Harry Potter fan. A skeptic at first, J.K. Rowling’s fantasy tale of The Boy Who Lived grew on me after reading the first few chapters of Book 1.

As far as the video games go, the only one I played was Order of the Phoenix on the Playstation 3. While it was a decent enough attempt at capturing the feel of the school, it wasn’t as engaging on the gameplay front.

Now, here we are, a year or so later, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Book 6 of the story is making it’s way to us in the form of a film, and of course, a video game tie in. I’ve recently gotten my hands on the PSP version of the title, and after spending quite a few hours in this pint-sized Hogwarts, I can lay in.

Right off the bat, the first thing you’ll notice is the game differs from it’s console counterparts in terms of presentation. The game features 2D Isometric backgrounds, with Polygonal character models. This allows for the game to have detailed backgrounds without having to tax the system by attempting to render it in full 3D. This also allows the character models to have more detail as well. In theory. In reality, the character models are rather bland, with blocky bodies, and flat faces.

I never expected much from the visual presentation, and overall, it’s not horrible, but I admit to preferring a 3D representation of Hogwarts.

The biggest problem with The Half Blood Prince, however, is not it’s visuals, but it’s gameplay. In short, the game is basically fetch quest after fetch quest, with characters supplying Harry with what seems to be an infinite amount of boring, tedious tasks to perform for them before they give him the item that he desperately needs.

Around this point, I’d go into detail about the games mechanics, but they are rather simple: Use the map to highlight a destination, use the arrow guide to go to destination, talk to person, get task, go to map and highlight task, follow arrow to task, complete task, return to person, recieve reward. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if Harry didn’t run so damn slow, making covering the grounds of Hogwarts a longer task than it should be, even when using portraits to warp from location to location.

Beyond the tedium of the main missions, the mini-games presented in the game just aren’t that fun. You can play Gobstones, which is like marbles, where players use their marble to knock others out of a circle. There is exploding snap, where players are challenged with pairing up cards to their identical partner before they explode, and then there is Quidditch, which is presented in a top down game where players spastically try and control Harry on a broomstick and score or protect goals.

Combat is also a joke, which is presented in 2D sidescrolling fashion, with Harry and an opponent facing each other Street Fighter style on the static background. The players cast spells at each other in an attempt to deplete the other’s health bar. Various combinations of the analong stick and face buttons executes your spells, but they all have the same visual effect (barring a color palette swap), and the battles are very easy to win. Overall, combat is as boring and tedious as the rest of the game.

I’m sure you’re thinking, well, it doesn’t matter what the gameplay is, because Harry Potter is all about the story, which can’t be bad in the game, right? Well, not so much, folks. The biggest travesty of this game is that the story is more of an uber condensed, cliff notes version of The Half Blood Prince. Details and plot connections are glossed over, and making matters worse is the fact that the “cutscenes” in the story are little more than the character models standing on the background with word bubbles popping up for you to read a la a Playstation 1 RPG. All of the emotional resonance in the story is lost due to this poor presentation.

There isn’t much else to say about this title other than my final verdict.

VERDICT: PASS – Even being a die hard HP fan won’t make up for the boring gameplay, and complete butchering of the story of The Half Blood Prince. This title isn’t even worth a rent, and it’s probably better to check out the console version, or wait for the Lego version next year.

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