I'm sat in a small, dark room, lit only by a flickering spotlight. Will Porter stalks determinedly round my chair. Suddenly he leans in close and whispers menacingly in my ear: "Have you read the books? Seen the films?" At last he crumples, defeated, into a nearby chair and, with a sigh of resignation, agrees to hand over the review.
Despite always enjoying the films, I've never transcended into Porter-like levels of devotion or participated in debates over which side Severus Snape is really on. So it was with some surprise that I found myself strangely captivated by the game. OOTP is a vast improvement on the other Harry Potter titles, and perhaps the first one to really do the franchise justice.
Set in a free-roaming Hogwarts, the game features all of the locations fans have grown to love in glorious detail, from the animated paintings on the Grand Staircase to the pumpkin patch at Hagrid's Hut.
The cast are all present and correct too, with accurate likenesses of the on-screen actors and official voice-overs featured. Plus, there's more than a hint of GTA influence as you discover some of the many side-quests, collecting missions, secret passages and mini-games dotted around the wizard's school.
As such, there's plenty to do beyond the main storyline, and the experience of exploring Hogwarts is made thoroughly enjoyable by the attention to detail EA have lavished upon this episode.
You'll also get hands-on experience with spells, as casting them is accomplished
by moving the mouse in patterns while holding down one of the mouse buttons. Obviously inspired by the Wii controller, unfortunately the success rate of spell-casting on PC differs from great (when you initially learn the spell) to disastrous (when you actually really need it).
OOTP has some minor issues, most noticeably the Marauder's Map that annoyingly doesn't store any quest details, and the fact that Ron and Hermione can block you into tight spaces, leading me to call them names that I'm pretty sure don't crop up in Potter's vocabulary.
But overall, EA seem to have worked their magic to make OOTP an instantly likeable, captivating and lengthy game for kids and fans alike. Even if you're too old to be caught reading the book.
Top of the Potters
- Excellent recreation of Hogwarts
- Official character likenesses and voice-overs
- Great attention to detail
- Plenty to keep you amused
- Spell-casting doesn't always work
- Ron and Hermione - get out of the way!