I am on record (in this very publication, no less) for enjoying the early Harry Potter games, on PC at least. The Philosopher’s Stone had a few design issues, but also had a nice mix of exploration, puzzles, combat, and side-stuff. The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban went from strength to strength. The Goblet of Fire did… well, I suppose you could say it did its own thing - it wasn’t bad per se, just a bit of a lurch from previous titles. Then Elder Scrolls: IV Oblivion and Civilization IV came out and I lost interest in the Harry Potter games.
Then, a couple of years ago, I got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II for Christmas. “Oh wow”, I thought, “I haven’t played a new one of these games for years, let’s see what it’s like!” Of course, I didn’t notice the EA logo on the box, which was a seal of quality back in 2002 but nowadays serves as a warning, like a pustule full of worms.
The game is bad. Not only that, it’s the competently-designed but utterly unimaginative kind of bad. I reviewed Duke Nukem Forever once upon a time – that game is also bad, but at least it had enough variety and nonsense to keep me pushing through to see what garbage was going to come next.
This game doesn’t have that. Every level (bar one fun section when you’re running down an exploding bridge) has waves of enemies and nothing else. No exploration, no collectables worth anything, just cover-based shooting that isn’t even particularly good.
I’m not really one to complain about games circumventing established canon; you need to make some sacrifices to a world as complex as Harry Potter’s so you can put in some decent gameplay elements. In the first four games you could guess what some of the spells would do based off the books, and the rest were just made-up spells.
Yeah, maybe “Lumos” conjuring up platforms of hardened light was a bit out there, but it made sense from a game design perspective. Here, instead of having one or two offensive spells and a whole bunch for exploration, you have… seven offensive spells that thought “established canon” is a church song.
The game is bad. Not only that, it’s the competently-designed but utterly unimaginative kind of bad
“Stupefy” damages enemies and “Protego” shields you. Fair enough. But… “Expelliarmus” breaks shields? When it was supposed to disarm instead? Wasn’t “Expulso” supposed to be explosive, rather than some kind of assault rifle? And who thought “Impedimenta” should be repurposed as A HOMING MISSILE BARRAGE?!
I stopped playing when I was near the end of the game and I still could not give two squits about finishing it. Instead of a fun return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it was a dip in the Hogwash Pool of Shit, Crap, and Dysentery.