Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii | DS
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince box art
System: DS, PC, PS3, X360, PS2, Wii, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: EA Bright Light 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 29, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
A Matter of Muggles
by Tony Capri

Harry Potter once again comes to the Nintendo DS, and the good news is, EA has delivered a better game than the handheld version of the Order of the Phoenix. But does this latest run around Hogwarts cast an enchanting spell, or do Harry and his pals still have some studying to catch up on?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for DS is something of a point-and-click adventure. All of the controls are mapped to the touch screen, and you’ll be leading Harry around Phantom Hourglass-style. To actually call this latest portable Potter an adventure is something of a stretch, though, since most of the gameplay is comprised of a long series of fetch quests. Along the way you’ll play a few mini-games and dip into the prose, but the game follows a very predictable formula throughout that can easily grow tiresome.

Your journey begins with a train ride back to Hogwarts, and it is here you’ll get your first glimpse of how the progression of the game works. There’s a bit of dialogue exchanged between you, Ron, and Hermione, but before long you’ll be tasked with acquiring your first set of items. Someone’s lost their magic spectacles; you need to find them. You’ll then come across someone who has the glasses, but they’ll only relinquish them if you have a particular item to trade. You’ll then have to play through a mini-game in order to win the desired item, trade for the spectacles, return them to the character in need… and that pretty much sums up how gameplay works in The Half-Blood Prince.

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Most of the actual game takes place within the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, and it’s an impressively big sandbox to run around in. It can also be quite difficult to find your way at times, since you don’t have constant access to an overworld map. By tapping on Harry, you can open up a menu of options, ranging from an inventory of items, to a list of current objectives. You can also take a gander at your potions and the ingredients required, as well as get hints on how to find those ingredients.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

Unfortunately, there’s no option to call up the overworld map, though you will occasionally catch a glimpse of it when clicking on highlighted names and locations in your objectives list. Since Hogwarts twists and turns and is constructed in some non-traditional ways, it can get frustrating running around in circles trying to find your next objective.

After several hours of hunting items, however, you will eventually learn the ins and outs of the school, and the Hall of Portraits makes getting around a little easier. Each portrait in the Hall of Portraits acts as a portal to another location of the school, but even with these shortcuts, there’s still plenty of tedious noodling around.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince screenshot

In spite of the game’s obvious simplicity and tedium, Half-Blood Prince has a formula that’s embarrassingly addictive. There are seven specific items in the game that act as a sort of currency, allowing you to trade for other key items that are integral to completing your objectives. Magic cards are the first of the inventory items you’ll come across, and you can acquire them by casting Accio on books and bookcases around the school. As you delve deeper into the story, the charms teacher, Flitwick, will teach you additional spells, which will allow you to get at other items hidden throughout Hogwarts.

Screenshots / Images
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