A survey was recently carried out in Japan to discover what they consider most symbolic of good old England. The top three answers were fairly predictable: The Beatles, fish and chips, and Harry Potter. When English people were asked the same question about Japan their answers were Godzilla, Hello Kitty and vending machines selling used school girl knickers. Although this might not actually be true.
New term, new angst ridden Harry; new hardware, new â€˜fully interactiveâ€™ Hogwarts. EAâ€™s definition of ‘fully interactive’ is pushing it a bit, however; experience points are gained by lighting torches, fixing broken statues and hanging fallen pictures back on the wall, using spells that are gained early on in the game. Youâ€™re free to do what you fancy though – the school timetable has been thrown out of the window, leaving you to recruit the 26-strong Dumbledoreâ€™s Army and explore Hogwarts at your own leisure.
You can have more than one task on the go at once, while the map system is nicely done – simply select a place you want to visit and a set of ghostlike footprints will appear on the floor to lead you to your destination. Even so, there is an awful lot of backtracking – never mind being ‘the boy who lived’, in this game heâ€™s ‘the boy who ran down lots and lots of corridors’. The talking paintings provide a few shortcuts as long as you have the right password, and itâ€™s not as if the corridors are bland – even though itâ€™s a multiformat release, it looks quite fancy in places and thereâ€™s a decent atmosphere, mostly provided by the random students nattering in corridors. â€œYou belong in St. Mungo’s!â€ Cheers mate!
To get fellow wizards to join your secret army, most require you to carry out a favour, like find five talking gargoyle statues or shimmy along ledges and down drainpipes to retrieve a lost pair of binoculars. Later missions, particularly the ones that involve causing chaos in the school, are somewhat more inventive, such as re-arranging giant cogs on a clock to make it run backwards. Lessons only appear once youâ€™ve carried out a sub-quest for a teacher, and even then theyâ€™re optional. Mini-games are present too, including Potter-ified variants of chess and patience.
The fact that not much happens in either the book or film has worked in EAâ€™s favour – without any storyline constraints, the developers (who have a blatant love for all things Potter) have been able to create the ultimate Hogwarts experience. Itâ€™s without doubt the best movie tie-in to be released this year, although when you consider that the competition is made up of Rise of the Silver Surfer, Shrek the Third and Surfâ€™s Up, itâ€™s not that amazingly high praise.