E3 2008: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Hands-On Impressions

We shoot up the place with some wand dueling, practice a little amateur alchemy, and be the seeker in the latest Harry Potter game.

It was only natural that the runaway success of the Harry Potter book series would see the concept adapted to film, especially after it turned on a generation of children to reading. What better way, then, to capitalise further on its success than by releasing a swathe of Harry Potter-themed video games? We caught up with a member of the development team from EA Bright Light and got wand in hand with the Wii version to experience the latest game and some of the unique gameplay that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will feature.

Half-Blood Prince comprises several modes beyond a simple single-player story campaign. Although the meat of the game wasn't on show, we had a chance to check out the two-player wand duels, Be the Seeker broom racing, and potion creation. Half-Blood Prince is the first time that Harry Potter fans have been able to battle their friends on the same console via the duel mode, and though it may appear simple, it's actually quite nuanced for advanced players. Like all Nintendo Wii games, it's heavily driven by gestures. Both players appear onscreen, where you'll go head-to-head in a third-person view by making specific attack and defence motions. Holding the Wii Remote directly up in the air charges your wand, and jerking both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk forward unleashes a heavy attack. Quickly flicking your wrist up and down with the remote rapidly launches fireballs at your opponent. They're quite easy to dodge--you simply hit the A button and hold the analog stick on the Nunchuk in a safe direction--but a volley of these attacks can easily knock down a player, at which point he or she becomes easy prey. Crossing your wrists with controllers in hand quickly enough will launch a defensive halo, protecting you from attacks. This move can also be used with great success as a knock-back defensive spell if your foe charges your character. Fret not if you don't have a friend to duel with; though the game doesn't feature any online play, there is a single-player option with adaptive AI capable of ramping up or lowering game difficulty depending on whether you prove yourself a worthy competitor or fail miserably. In this mode you'll also unlock advanced spells by defeating bosses, and these spells can also be used in the single-player story.

Be the Seeker is an on-rails racing mode that puts you in the hot seat of broom-riding Harry. Here you'll need to use the Wii Remote to point your way through star-shaped checkpoints. It's an odd crossover between any time-attack racing game and Afterburner. You complete the time extension by successfully flying through the obstacles as you fight off attackers around you. There are no weapons available to protect you on your intended path, but you can use the Nunchuk's analog stick to bump system-controlled characters out of the way. This becomes a crucial tactic in the ravine part of the level that we saw, where there's barely enough room for one character to skim through small gaps. In these instances it was better to fly offensively than defensively, shutting them down before they could strike at you. Checkpoint shapes change colour depending on your performance, and as they flash red, you'll know that it's time to speed up or stick more goals. Harry will turn back and glare at you menacingly every time you miss one, so there's no excuse for not knowing when you're doing badly. There were no onscreen menus or counters to see in our demo build, but we were told that the dev team is looking at including a full, running commentary to inform you of how you're doing as you fly around.

Potion creation was the third and final mode on display at EA's booth, and it's not unlike Cooking Mama. Here you'll need to pick up and drop ingredients into a cauldron, shake the Wii controller to stoke flames, and stir to make the right mix. Adding extra items will see the room fill with think plumes of smoke, which you'll then need to fan away with the Nunchuk before you can continue. You'll be racing the clock to complete the potion in the fastest time possible, but wastage is also factored into your final score; moving things quickly may seem like a viable strategy, but you need to ensure that you're not missing the pot and slopping it all over the floor along the way. Advanced potions work the same way but require more complex maneuvers such as picking up and depositing multiples of the same item in succession, and shaking flasks with dangerous active ingredients.

The EA Bright Light rep on hand also confirmed that the game would support Nintendo's MotionPlus 3D Wii Remote attachment, which was unveiled at this year's E3 show. It will be used to better track user movement and perform 1:1 motions onscreen.

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Discussion

65 comments
Gammet25
Gammet25

Will they ever make a great harry potter game. *sigh*

menusilect
menusilect

Be waiting for this game and movie since I finished books

menusilect
menusilect

Reads book-->playing game--.watch movie :))

Jak_Napier
Jak_Napier

I agree with SelPen on the terms that the books where phenominal and the movie tie ins where great. But i own the first harry potter game on for the gameboy colour, and for its time, it was really fun. Ive played the chamber of secrets on xbox and then only saw the bow cover for the prisoner of azkaban. I own the Goblet of fire on PS2 and i really like the use of co-op. I have the Order of the Phoenix on PSP and i love the whole element of free roam. As for the Half blood Prince i plan to maybe rent this game, get some trophies and play the game on a bigger screen and free roam through the castle once more. On another note, im really looking forward to seeing Half blood prince movie, and cant wait to play the lego game adaptation of the first 4 years @ hogwarts. Which comes out sometime in 2010.

145bobby
145bobby

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

SelPen
SelPen

I'm reading these comments and I occasionally come across "I loved all games and hope this one is good too" yada yada blah blah I can't believe you people are capable of such... such... irresponsible praise! Every single HP game to date has been an Epic Fail including Order of the Phoenix. Who cares about packing suitcases and fixing broken dishes? I can understand if it's a training mission to help teach you the controls but to continue with the same thing over and over throughout the entire game!? You might aswell just play the first 10min over and over! I have serious doubts if any of you actually played the game. The books were amazing and the films are more than spectacular but the video games are a huge let down, I can only hope they will finally do right by JK Rowling and make a game worth playing.

Vasot
Vasot

Actually this looks promising. There are numerous improvements and additions compared to Order of the Phoenix...

SirSpoon84
SirSpoon84

i just watched all the harry potters this past month for first time, now im looking forward to this game and the movie :D:D

mitchellt
mitchellt

i hated all the previous games but this one is it different?

skyydragonn
skyydragonn

sadly as much as I love the books and movies not a single game dirived from the series has gotten my attention. they've all to date been game developers attempts to cash in on a high grossing movie franchise. Not one of these games could stand on its own without the movie licence driving their sales.

deringeorge
deringeorge

tafferboy12 if you think harry is a load of crap then you are uuhhh i dont want to say it here.

tafferboy21
tafferboy21

Sounds like a big load of crap to me. Sorry.

ash_mohak
ash_mohak

I just hope it has some online features, like duelling & quidditch matches for the pc!!! Now that wud be great!!!!!!!!

_Samsung_
_Samsung_

Its gotta be: Free-roam Lots of spells No missing things out (I mean important scenes in films that would be great to play) You could switch between the three of them Accessible to hippogriff (It was an amazing feature in the 3rd) That'd be good :)

mazza223
mazza223

i hope it's like prisoner of azkaban. well i only say that cos it's the only one i played except 4 world cup

shadow-warlord
shadow-warlord

I hope it's like order of the phoenix and azkaban but with more objectives and not too boring like phoenix.

Fergocricket93
Fergocricket93

Cant wait to get this on PS3. Love trophies! In my opinion, philosopher's stone on PS and PS2 was great. Chamber of Secrets was awesome and Prisoner of Azkaban was pretty good. Goblet of fire was a disaster. Bad move taking away free-roam. Order of the Phoenix was great as well. Hello June, 09

Adizzle07
Adizzle07

i hope its good on pc.... and i hpe you can have freedom and do things like chose to skip class and shcedule qudditch when you want

jsgl
jsgl

i loved the last game, even though there was a bit to much walking. this one sounds good to, hopefully be a seeker is better then it sounds..

joel_chtri
joel_chtri

loved chambers of secrets n goblet of fire but hated order of phoenix(only played those)

GriffinLord602
GriffinLord602

I thought Order of the Phoenix was the thickest book :|

DeadManRollin
DeadManRollin

I hope they finally make a game worth playing multiple times.

Lisandro_v22
Lisandro_v22

@ Mosannam9696: yeah I loved the three first games too, they didn't have anything to do with the real plot though and I really didn't care cause I was a kid back thenbut now I want something better I don't know how they don't realise the great game they could make, they could make all sort of games based on HP series even not movie related

Limbopal8
Limbopal8

Can't wait for the movie and game 2 come out

Neomaniac15
Neomaniac15

like most people have said the 5th was garbage. the 4th was the worst though you didn't even get to have the free roam and it was extremely short (which is ironic considering the fact that i'm pretty sure number 4 was the thickest book). the books are great but they can't seem to do the same for the games.

ysef95
ysef95

yeh i agree order of phoenix was crap

Maidendude
Maidendude

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Maidendude
Maidendude

I Don't understand how they can make this HBP into an enjoyable video game? I mean if you have read the books you prob understand. I mean what do you do in the game, have interactive cut scenes into the peniseve.

Mosannam9696
Mosannam9696

I loved the first three games...and Goblet of Fire wasn't terrible but I'm not sure what happened with Order of the Phoenix...I did only play a demo but wow was that an awfully boring experience for me.

Np_Pro
Np_Pro

wow, look at how different everyones reactions to HP games are.

TonyIH89
TonyIH89

If this game is anything like the last one, its going to be brilliant.

TonyIH89
TonyIH89

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

SethandJeremy
SethandJeremy

i hope that this game will be better than the last one.

Lisandro_v22
Lisandro_v22

it would be nice to have a hp game with motion plus wouldn't it? a spin off cause i don't see any good game if they keep like this, the last one was one of the worst games I've ever played

Jackyll87
Jackyll87

Why cant they make a good movie based HP game like LoTR RoTK ??

leofiregod
leofiregod

sounds like the best HP game yet

shinian
shinian

I played some of HP games. No one turned out to be worthy. Definetly passing on this one

gerhardtscriven
gerhardtscriven

if only the use the same type of formula as bully... and make a *fun* game

sanim02
sanim02

ill track it.. even tho harry potter movies and games arent wat the were back in 02 and 04 tops.. if it gets nething under 7.0 as GR or even GS i wunt b getting it.. or even bother renting it.. thas wat i did with the last 1.. and im sure it'l happend again.. its just that there rnt alot of gud wii games that r coming out.. and im forced to look at 3rd parties.. wif tacked on wii motion controls .. erk

Macgyver40
Macgyver40

what is up with this harry potter craze? oh well wish them well

GordonFan92
GordonFan92

@Supermooseman Totally agree 3rd game was the best. 4th one was weird cuz u hit the "spell" button and it did what it wanted u to do, no control. They fixed that in the 5th one but all the spells were to repair Hogwarts, and there wasnt enough. Hope this one is better than the last 2

grambyte
grambyte

I'm just sick and tired of seeing that name let me tell u that. And even if the game is exceptionally good. I'll still won't ... well yea then I'll play it but I'll have a sad frown all the time playing it let me tell u. But than again, luckily the chances of that happening are very slim to not even possible.

Hungry_bunny
Hungry_bunny

VERY skeptical, probably another ea-shallow experience aimed at the die-hard fans.

WizengamotX
WizengamotX

I played the first Harry Potter game and really thought it was alright. I'd be happy to check out the game after it is finished. Broomstick riding on the Wii! They should make a Wii Harry Potter exclusive Wiistick for people to ride!