Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince First Impressions

We check out what Harry has learned so far as he enters his sixth year at Hogwarts.


Electronic Arts should be very familiar with Hogwarts by now with the sixth movie about to hit theaters. It wouldn't be a blockbuster movie if it didn't have a video game to go along with it, and at EA's Studio Showcase in Redwood City, California, we had a chance to take a quick look at Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on the Nintendo DS.

Similar to the Harry Potter games of the past, the main game is mostly about doing fetch quests for the students at Hogwarts to progress the story. We saw Harry run around the school, casting spells on different parts of the environment to collect currency and cards that can be used later. Minigames also came up quite frequently depending on who you talked to.

Quidditch, Gobstones, Snap, and Wizard Skittles are available under minigames from the menu, but you can also access them if you talk to certain people in the main game. In the fast-paced game of Quidditch, you have a top-down view of the field and you use the stylus to control your chasers and try to get the quaffle (ball) and score. Tapping on your teammates will pass the ball to them, and you can do this until the timer runs out. The timer is on the top screen, which is represented by a separated snitch. When the snitch comes together, that's when you'll play as a seeker and try to get the elusive snitch. The screen will go black, save for one small circular area lit like a flashlight, which you use to track down the snitch by keeping your stylus on it.

Gobstones is similar to marbles, which we've seen in previous Harry Potter games, and Exploding Snap, where you try to match up cards in pairs, also returns. Wizard Skittles is set up like a pinball machine, where you try to launch a ball to hit the targets. There are bumpers that get in your way, so it can take a few tries to get all the possible points.

Dueling is available if you're not in the mood to help others. You can choose to duel your classmates in a tournament in which you challenge students one at a time until you face Draco Malfoy. The action happens on the top screen and the touch screen is used to defend and attack. Four circles show up in the corners of the touch screen and you tap the top left to defend high and tap the bottom left to defend low. It works the same way on the right side where you tap the upper right to attack high and bottom right to attack low. Scribbling on the right will cast levicorpus so that your opponent will dangle upside down in midair while you bombard them with offensive spells.

Mixing potions is a key portion of the story and a great way to pass the time. You are given instructions on how to put your concoction together, but because you're being timed, it looks like it could take a bit of practice before you're shaking and stirring like a pro. You use the stylus to carefully measure ingredients, shake potions, and stir the cauldron, but you have to be quick and precise.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince may not look as majestic and flashy as its console counterpart, but it's been scaled down so that younger players can enjoy it in smaller doses. Stay tuned for more Harry Potter coverage.

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