Unfortunately for EA, the process of moving around is fairly awkward and adopts the camera relative style so that the controls depend on where the camera is facing, not on the orientation of the character. Although this would be fine in any game, it becomes increasingly irritating due to the difficult and obstructive camera angles in Harry Potter
and Harry ends up weaving about more than a drunk Hagrid.
Navigation of Hogwarts is tiresome too, thanks to the Marauders Map. The map depicts the grounds of Hogwarts and by pressing the right arrow you can display your current quests. Pressing the left arrow selects specific areas of Hogwarts that you can endlessly roam in search of "Fred and Georges' hidden packages"
, which are the games obligatory collectible item – though we could never figure out what was in the packages, drugs or porn.
After exiting the map footprints appear in front of Harry that guide you to the current objective. I found this a rather innovative system that became essential to my navigation around the map. Unlike a minimap that most games employ, it allows for the easy navigation not only across Hogwarts but up and down the numerous levels and floating staircases too.
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However, I couldn’t help but feel that the game would have been better off borrowing the fast-travel system from Oblivion
to cut down on the needless running around.
As previously mentioned, the spell casting system is rather clumsy and not particularly responsive. It works by dividing the spells into two categories: non-damaging spells and damaging spells.
All non-damaging spells are performed by holding down the left mouse button and wiggling the mouse in a particular way and all damaging spells are performed by holding down the right mouse button and repeating a similar wiggle. As you proceed throughout the game you learn more spells, all of which are stored in a spell book for later.
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Initially you can have some fun lifting and moving about objects and pieces of furniture with certain spells, which essentially function like a clumsy physics gun, or speaking to the numerous portraits on the floating staircases but pretty quickly this becomes rather tedious. Once you have climbed all seven floors to reach the Griffindor common room, speaking to the majority of portraits on the way up, this element of gameplay becomes very annoying.
An element of the that does contribute significantly to the overall enjoyment of the game is the interaction between Harry and other students. I found myself seething at Slytherin as they make irritating jibes when you come into close proximity or try to speak to one of them. Additionally as you are running around the school several friends of Harry's will say ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ which, somehow, makes them feel more companionable and nice to be around.
One cool aspect of the game, which we touched upon earlier, is the ability to endlessly roam around Hogwarts finding various packages or hidden areas. This Oblivion
-esque approach allows you to break away from the linear storyline and take Harry and his sidekicks off on their own little adventure. Accompanying this is the lack of any loading times throughout the game, which stops the storyline from being broken up by long loading intervals and helps maintain a continuous and progressive feel, despite the too-frequent cut scenes.