Generation Gap: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
It was seven years ago this week that EA and Bright Light Studios released “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” – a game that has few fans among the gaming media. While the Lego Harry Potter games are the easy choice for HP fans, that doesn’t mean that the less well thought of games are without merit, and HBP is case in point.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Publisher: EA
- Developer: Bright Light Studios
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PC
- Release Date: June 30, 2009
- Worldwide Sales: 2.2 Million Units
- Metacritic Rating: 64
There is so much that is wrong with EA and Bright Light’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that you are likely surprised that I am even bothering to discuss it at all. The gameplay is repetitive. The voice acting is spotty, with the young woman voicing Hermione Granger being particularly irritating. In the attempt to (loosely) follow the film’s plot, the game’s pacing becomes stilted and unintentionally comical. And, in spite of relying on the source material, there are holes in the plot that shatter the narrative to pieces.
So… why is it my favorite (non-Lego) Harry Potter game? Because the one thing that the developer got right, they got very right – Hogwarts Castle itself. If you can manage to ignore the rinse-and-repeat nature of the dueling, potion making and Snitch chasing, and instead focus on exploring Hogwarts and making use of the various Charms at your command to secure the 150 Hogwarts Shields scattered throughout the castle, and accomplish the various tasks that require you to trod across the hallowed grounds, you can have a very good time based solely on the sense of discovery.
While Bright Light did make an attempt at building Hogwarts in their previous HP game – “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” it was incomplete and featured a camera that failed to immerse you in your surroundings, but that instead made you feel detached from them. In HBP, the third-person camera effectively tracks Harry (and Ron and Ginny, as you play as each of them for a short time) as you hold down the right trigger while manipulating your controller’s right stick (all console versions with the exception of the Wii.) There is no loading as you navigate the castle and it is beautifully rendered. While the story has been altered to allow for the idea that Aurors have closed access to certain parts of the castle when the game begins, eventually all areas become accessible and the whole of it is as big and meandering as you have been lead to believe by the films and books (neither of which ever had to actually build the fictional castle in its entirety, BTW.)
If you are a gamer (of course you are – why else would you be here?) and a fan of all things HP, I encourage you to seek out any of the Gen 7 console versions of the game, or the PC version (all available on disc only) from your favorite used game dealer/eBay (Gamestop has it for 15 bucks.) While the game undoubtedly earned its 64 rating on Metacritic, there is no better place to experience the whole of Hogwarts. To me, that makes it an experience worth having.
While the Gameplay Isn’t at all Magical, Hogwarts Itself Should be Experienced by all Gaming Muggles!