Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince DS Review

Do you like fetch quests? If you answered yes, good, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is basically built up by them, if it’s a big no, then, unless you really want a holiday in Hogwarts and to play as J.K. Rowling’s famous creation, this game may not be for you.

Exploring Hogwarts will perhaps be enough for many fans, not forgetting to mention that the DS’ stylus makes for a very good wizards wand. Those seeking a copy of the book/film story, though, won’t find it here: the plot is told fairly badly and I was shocked when it came to an abrupt end, with little really happening throughout.

Controlling Harry with the stylus or the D-Pad, you’ll be doing a lot of walking around, exploring, playing mini games and completing tasks set by other students or teachers. You’ll also find yourself in wand duels, where chucking spells at your opponent with the stylus and avoiding theirs is the order of the day, although the game is mostly played at a leisurely pace.

You’ll learn spells throughout the game, which can be used to gather helpful items (Accio can be cast on bookcases to find wizard cards, whilst Reducto can be cast on suits of armour to find stink pellets, and so on). As mentioned above, the stylus is your magic wand, working almost as well as any magic wand should, although sometimes it wouldn’t recognise that I was casting certain spells. Movement and magic spells aren‘t the only manner in which the stylus is utilised, though.

Gobstones, Exploding Snap, Wizard Skittles and Quidditch make up the mini games. Gobstones brings back memories of childhood marbles, in which involves flicking gobstones with the stylus to knock other balls out of a circle (variations include Snake Pit and Jack Gobstones, in which getting your Gobstones closest to the hole or Jack stone is the objective). Exploding Snap basically has you aiming to match pairs as the cards are turned over (there’s variations but all have you matching cards), the more you match at once the more points you get. Wizard Skittles, like Gobstones, requires the stylus to send the ball into motion, scoring by knocking down pins. Finally, Quidditch may not be a sport that is familiar to everyone, although Harry Potter fans will know exactly what to expect from this fictional boomstick-riding game, here it’s entirely touch screen controlled, is top down and is decent fun. In fact all the mini games are fun, and success will win you helpful items and collectibles.

You’ll also get to brew potions, though you’ll need to find the ingredients before you’re able to start putting together each one. You’ll have to be quick with the stylus when brewing potions, though, as each attempt is timed, and you’ll also be rated when you manage to finish each one. Potions can be used to give Harry enhancements during duels or can be swapped for other items (in fact, you’ll be doing a lot of swapping).

Whilst much of the above is fun and the game is never truly offensive to play, it does become tedious quite quickly. There’s quite a bit to do, though the constant fetch quests do begin to grate, particularly when told to find a certain item and then to be told by the item holder that they require yet another item to swap it with. It’s a cycle that has you covering a lot of ground in Hogwart’s, though it’s the fans that will be much more accepting of this.

The game itself is very short as well, but aiming to find all the secrets and to complete all the side quests, does extend the playing time. This will have you playing mini games over and over again, oh and more of those fetch quests as well. It just depends on how long you want to stay at Hogwarts, completing these repetitive tasks.

Graphically, the game is rather mixed: the character models are 3D and the backgrounds are pre-rendered. The character models are cel-shaded and look decent enough, although it’s the backgrounds that really let things down, looking rather low in quality and, at times, even tearing as you move. Aurally, the game fairs better, with fan-pleasing music, although there’s not a line of spoken dialogue to be heard.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince isn’t the most exciting game in the world, nor is it the prettiest, although it’s not completely without its fun. True, the amount of fetch quests is way overdone and the story feels like it has been put together from scraps, though the mini games and casting spells with the stylus are enjoyable activities, whilst exploring Hogwarts will be delightful for fans. It’s the repetition that doesn’t do the Half-Blood Prince any real favours though, resulting in a mostly average game.