God bless Harry Potter. After sitting through months of atrocious movie-to-game tie-ins and with the prospect of a few more stinkers on the way (Transformers might be okay, but Shrek 3?), it's a relief to be able to talk about a film-based videogame that's actually decent.
Yes, be surprised if you must, if only because it's a game based on what has to be the worst book in the Harry Potter series, but Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is actually fun to play. And how exactly has EA managed to pull it off? We'd suggest it was some sort of magic, but... well, that'd just be stupid now, wouldn't it?
As you'd expect from a license tie-in, Order Of The Phoenix follows the path of both the film and the book closely; perhaps more closely than other licensed games, seeing as EA hasn't seen the need to throw in much padding in the form of unrelated plot threads or other distractions.
That's not to say there isn't plenty to do though. In fact, it's fair to say there's almost too much to do, given that EA appears to have used the Harry Potter license to create the biggest collect-'em-up marathon of
all time in Order Of The Phoenix... and yes, we're completely aware that despite what we've said about how good the game is, collecting hundreds of pointless items doesn't actually sound like any fun at all. But, rather bizarrely, it is. Honest.
One of the main ways that Order Of The Phoenix manages to keep you hooked is in the way it replicates the world of Harry Potter. As Potter fans ourselves, it's amazing to see just how much detail EA has managed to squeeze into the game and, more specifically, how accurate the in-game version of Hogwarts is. Packed to the rafters as it is with rich locations, from the courtyards and clock tower, to the Owlery, Gryffindor dormitory and even the Great Hall, it's an incredibly accurate recreation of the movie version of Hogwarts. It's huge too. Given how much there is to see and explore, it's unlikely you'll have found everything even after you've been round a couple of times.
And that's probably the biggest weapon in EA's Harry Potter arsenal because, as we said, the game is literally crammed with things to find. Almost every piece of scenery can be interacted with in some way, with the art of spellcasting usually playing a big part in uncovering their secrets. Found an unlit torch? Try casting Incendio at it and watch it burn bright. Think that patch of bricks looks a little odd? Use Accio to pull them forward and reveal what's behind them. Repairing statues, destroying furniture, pulling back curtains and even making beds... the list goes
on and not surprisingly, you'll need to magically interact with every single one to unlock everything in the Room Of Rewards and find all 4,360 of the secret magical 'Discovery Point' orbs that are on offer. Yes, 4,360. Hey, we said it was a collect-'em-up of epic proportions...
Wands Out, Children
Thankfully, casting spells has been incorporated really well into the game thanks to the Wii controls (demonstrated in our boxout) and EA has done well to fine-tune them so you can perform them virtually every time. We say 'virtually every time' because you're bound to find the occasional instance when Harry ends up standing there with his wand arm flailing.
But that's because this is a game that doesn't believe in wanton vandalism. While you can interact with practically every bit of the environment, you're not meant to set the curtains on fire or smash furniture in two, so the game won't let you do it. Yes, it's perhaps slightly limiting but in the context of the game universe, only the most cynical of people (who probably shouldn't be playing the game anyway) will find it a cause for complaint.