Potter fever returnsI've tried to fight it, for fear of ridicule from Potter-hating friends, but for the sake of this review I'll have to come clean; I'm a Harry Potter fan. I've read all the books, watched all the films, bought all the games and I've come to the conclusion that, although Electronic Arts haven't really created a thrilling title in this popular series, I think they've done a fairly decent job to date in producing four movie spin-offs that are better than many developer's half-arsed efforts. They've always managed to create the Potter Universe well enough, but have fallen short on creating the definitive Potter experience. Has EA learned from past mistakes and improved on the series in their latest title, Harry Potter Order of The Phoenix?
Harry Potter: OOTP follows the film more closely than any of EA's previous efforts. 22 cast members from the film lend their voices to the game's characters, the artwork is modelled impeccably on the Hogwarts that you'll see on-screen and a number of scenes are taken from the movie and translated into animated cut-scenes, adding impressively to the dark story-line. Of course, neither the film nor the videogame could possibly cover all elements and crucial parts of this unfolding Potter tale and strangely both include areas that are factually inaccurate when it comes to J.K Rowling's text, but in the videogame the developers have had more time to play around with and therefore there are, commendably, far more snippets of information and relevant tasks in comparison to the film. In fact, I've enjoyed playing the game far more than watching the film.
The game continues from Harry's last Voldemort encounter in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire and once again he's just spent a miserable summer at Privet Drive. When Harry and his cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors in Little Whinging (your first introduction to the simplistic wand-waving controls), Harry repels them with a Patronus Charm. An owl letter soon arrives stating Harry has been expelled from Hogwarts for performing magic outside school and a subsequent letter orders him to appear at a hearing at the Ministry of Magic to decide his fate.