Despite being way too short, it's hard to put an Expelliarmus on the fun this game offers!!
Once you get in to your game you are brought to what I consider to be the game's true main menu. From here you have six choices, the first one is "Continue". Selecting this will take you right in to the game, at the last point you left off at. The second choice is "Clubs". While you make your way through the events that unfold in the game you will be asked by other students to join various types of clubs. There are six different clubs including the Gryffindor Dueling Club, the Slytherin Dueling Club, the Hufflepuff Dueling Club, the Ravenclaw Dueling Club, the Flying Club, and Potions Club. If you want to go directly to one of these clubs you can highlight it in this menu and press A to go straight to it, without having to head in to the game and navigate your way through the castle/castle grounds to get to it. This option is a shortcut of sorts.
The third choice from this menu is "Two-Player Dueling". This is the only multi-player function this game contains and it is one on one dueling, just like in the Dueling Clubs. Each person chooses his or her character, then pick the location, and it's off for a best of 3 fight to the finish.
The fourth choice from this menu is "Rewards". Each type of club activity (Dueling, Quidditch and Potions) has two sets of badges associated with them. Each activity has a set of silver badges and a set of gold badges you can try to unlock. These silver and gold sets of badges contain 5 badges each, so for each activity there are 10 badges you can unlock, in total then there are 30 badges in the game for you to try and achieve. The gold badges are supposed to be harder to achieve but I actually found them a bit easier than the silvers. Each badge has it's own unique name and specifications you need to accomplish in order to unlock it. For example you need to win a duel without taking any damage, participate in all Flying Club challenges, brew a potion in under 35 seconds, etc. This menu option is where you go to view what badges you've earned as well as view the requirements you need to accomplish to unlock the ones you haven't achieved yet.
The fifth choice is "Options", where you can toggle the subtitles on/off or invert both the x and y camera axis's. The last option from this menu is "Exit", which will take you back out to the game's title screen.
Once you get in to the game and start exploring you will want to make use of the game's pause menu. From here you have six choices, the first of which is "Continue", which once again takes you back to the action. The second choice is "Where Is . . .?". This is a really handy option, actually. When you select it a list of a number of locations in and around the castle will pull up. You select which place you want to go to and Nearly Headless Nick will pop up out of nowhere to take you there via the quickest possible route. This is a great feature as the castle and castle grounds in this game is a pretty big place with lots of various short cuts and what not, it's easy to get lost and confused . . . Nick can be a life saver!!
The third choice is called "Spell List". Here you can view a list of all the spells you've learned in the game as well as the directions for casting them. There are two categories of spells to choose from: Charms (includes Wingardium Leviosa, Reparo and Incendio) and Dueling (includes Stupefy, Protego, Expelliarmus, Petrificus Totalus, Levicorpus and Charging).
The fourth choice is "Badges" and the fifth choice is "Options", each of these options are exactly the same as I described above from the game's main menu. And the sixth and final choice is "Save and Quit". When you are shutting down for the night this is how you save your progress and exit the game.
As for the game itself once you get moving around the castle the game will lead you from objective to objective but there isn't any hurry to finish each objective, you can take as much time to explore between tasks as you wish, which is nice. The transition from objective to objective is pretty seamless, usually a student or teacher will ask you to do something for them via a cutscene and you will then head out with your new instructions. Along the way you will need to perform tasks, solve puzzles, attend classes, compete in duels (both friendly and unfriendly), play in Quidditch matches, and take part in the various student clubs around the castle. As you progress through the game you will learn spells as you need them, usually related to a task you need to perform for your current objective.
There are only a few things you need to watch out for as you make your way through the game. First are Hogwarts Crests, medium sized silver shields that you will find strewn about the environment. Some of them are just lying around the castle and castle grounds, in off the beaten track types of places, but most of them are incorporated in to the environment somehow, usually located somewhere up high, and you may need to use a spell, foreign object, or perform a specific task in order to dislodge them for collection. There are 150 of these Crests total in the game. As you fill out your Crest collection you will unlock different sets of characters and locations for the "Two-Player Dueling" option of the game. Another thing you need to watch out for are Mini-Crests. You will notice that certain objects around the castle (usually lights, lamps, light posts, etc.) have a glowing yellow circle around them that will turn more to a rainbow hue as you get closer to them. Flick your Wii remote pointer at these glowing circles as you get close to them and you will unleash a small horde of Mini-Crests. Once you collect enough Mini-Crests you will unlock another Hogwarts Crest. Of the 150 total Hogwarts Crests I think about 25 of them can be achieved via the Mini-Crest route.
The last thing you are going to want to watch out for and complete are all of the various challenges presented to you in the student clubs. In each of the four Dueling Clubs (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw) there are four duelling challenges to complete. You must win the Junior Duel, Senior Duel 1, Senior Duel 2 as well as the Champion Duel. By completing all of the challenges for each house's Dueling Club your dueling powers will increase slightly. The Flying Club has the least amount of challenges, only nine in total, including Gryffindor Tryouts, Slytherin Match Preparation, Gryffindor Practice, Hufflepuff Match Preparation, Ravenclaw Match Preparation, Quidditch vs. Slytherin, Quidditch vs. Hufflepuff, Quidditch vs. Ravenclaw and Bonus Quidditch (which I haven't been able to unlock just yet). Lastly is the Potions Club. There are three pages of potions you will have to brew over the course of the game, each successive page will only be released as you make your way further in the game. The first page contains 5 potions, the second also contains 5 potions, and the third page contains 6 potions, for a total of 16 brewable potions in this game. Completing potions challenges earns you some unlocks as well, but not that many, including doubling the amount of Mini-Crests released.
As for the game's presentation, it's quite fantastic! The depth and breadth of your surroundings, what they did with Hogwarts, was amazing. You actually feel like you're in the movie sometimes, it looked so consistent. The characters themselves were really well done, a little extra polish could have helped, but in no way were they lacking. The sound and voice actor talent were bang on, there were really no inconsistencies between the movie and this game at all. Gameplay and fun factor were also very high with this title, it really is a great game to look at and be immersed in!
Now for the controls, and this could take a while! The basic controls are pretty simple. The C stick is what moves Harry around his environment. The C button is used to reset and center the camera behind Harry's point of view. The Z button is used to make Harry sprint. When you hold the B button down and move the Wii remote up/down or side to side you can use it to adjust the camera/look around. The A button is the action button, you use it to jump and hit banners, slide, and in conjunction with the Wii remote to cast spells. The + button is used to pause the game, and the – button is used to call Nearly Headless Nick to you and have him lead you to the location of your current objective.
In terms of the specific spells, here is a brief description of their controls. To cast Wingardium Leviosa you point the Wii remote at an object and press A to latch on to it. Then you quickly do an upward swing with the remote to lift it in to the air. Once up in the air you can move said object around using the Wii remote/C stick and even throw it if need be. Press A again to drop the object.
To use Reparo you point the Wii remote at a broken object and then press A to latch on to it. Shake the Wii remote quickly from side to side until the object mends itself. As for Incendio, again use the A button to latch on to the object in question and then quickly move the Wii remote forwards and backwards to set said object ablaze.
The duelling spells are a bit different, you don't have to use A to latch on to an opponent, you are already automatically targeting them. To cast Stupefy just hold the Wii remote vertically and push it towards the screen, rinse and repeat. To cast charged Stupefy just hold your arm cocked on the backswing for a few moments while your wand charges and lights up, then fire away.
To activate the Protego spell just hold your arms up crossed in front of you, like an X. Expelliarmus can be one of the more difficult spells to cast. Hold both the Wii remote and the Nunchuk up vertically in front of you like you're going to fight somebody. Then push both arms towards the screen and down to cast the spell. Don't do it too fast or it won't register, do it in a calm but steady manner. Casting Levicorpus works in the exact same way, only opposite. You start with your hands down and then pull them up and towards you instead. This one casts a little easier than Expelliarmus. Lastly, to be honest, I don't think I ever casted Petrificus Totalus in this game so I have no idea how it works!
The pros of this game are many and the cons are few, but unfortunately the cons are a couple of big ones. What I liked about this game was, first, the look and feel of it. Like I said earlier they did a great job of capturing the essence of Hogwarts and of all the characters, it really made the game a fun experience. The cutscenes were also really well done. I also liked the variety in this game, the addition of the challenges in the Dueling, Flying and Potions Clubs really added some new and different aspects to this game that mixed things up quite a bit. The amount of bonus material was decent too. Trying to unlock the 30 badges keeps you going, and then the various upgrades to your abilities as well as character and environmental unlocks you can achieve by completing club challenges, adds to the game as well. Most importantly though, this game really does have a high fun factor, it is a joy to play.
There are only two cons like I said, but they are major ones. First of all, compared to other Harry Potter games I've played throughout the years, this one seemed quite short in comparison. It seemed like it was over really quickly and that a third of the time you weren't actually playing, events in the game were unfolding via the cutscenes that link the various segments of this game. This is a big con in my opinion, one of the worst. The other downside was that although you do get up to a lot of different stuff in this game, a lot of it is of the non-dangerous variety, there really wasn't a ton of action in the grand scheme of things.
For tips and tricks for future players of this game, I do have a few. First, find the various student clubs as soon as you can and complete all the available challenges, especially in the Dueling Club. The upgrades to your powers will make the rest of the game that much easier. Also, while you are competing in the various club challenges, before you start check on what badges you may need and what you have to do to unlock them. Gaining as many badges as you can throughout the natural course of the game means the less you'll have to go back later and try for them a second time. Lastly, collecting Hogwarts Crests can be a frustrating exercise in this game. What I would do is create an index by writing down the locations of any Crests you aren't able to obtain at the time and why, so that you can come back to them later knowing where they are and what you need in order to finally collect them.
Overall this is a very rich and well imagined game, it's just lacking in the length department. But the important part is that it's a lot of fun and stayed true to the Harry Potter ideal. Another solid entry from EA!!