Harry Potter, a true jack of all trades. Wizard. Hero. Janitor?
If you have not read the book or seen the movie, the plot can be a bit hard to follow. If you choose this as your starting point to this world, you're just asking to be lost and confused. Anyway, the basic gist is Harry and friends take it upon themselves to secretly train in Defense Against the Dark Arts after new teacher Prof Umbridge refuses proper instructions due to her denial of Voldemort's return. Harry must also fight off Voldemort's potential influence and attempt to save his godfather, Sirius Black, all while dealing with Umbridge's takeover of Hogwarts.
In this third person sandbox game, Harry will have a list of students to recruit and it's up to you to choose who to go after first. Once you've decided, you can find them by following footprints to their location. This can be a lifesaver, as it takes a while to master your way around Hogwarts. Once you find them you'll have help them in some way for them to be able to join your training. These equate to fetch quests to be honest, but somehow it was still addicting. Being said there were some annoying gameplay issues. The camera was often wonky, not pointing where you wanted, and you had little option to fix it other than to just run around. Secondly, characters just wouldn't get the heck out of your way! Sometimes blocking doors to the point you had to pull out your wand and threaten innocent students just to get by. The controls were occasionally unresponsive when trying to do certain spells, especially in duels. Towards the end you will get to battle in a fair amount duels which unfortunately are not done well and are a cluster of characters running around while lots of pretty colors fill the screen. It was really hard to land the spell you wanted.
Phoenix does have plenty of extras to keep you occupied. It's just too bad many of them are chores. Indeed, you spend time cleaning up Hogwarts by fixing statues and raking leaves. Seriously. Almost all areas of Hogwarts has a certain number of things to do earning you "discovery points" which increase the potency of your spells and gain you access to behind the scenes videos. While these don't need to be done to finish the story, you might find yourself doing them anyway. I found my OCD kicking in and really wanted to get the 100% completion, and felt an odd sense of unwarranted pride when I did. There are also three mini games, including chess, a memory based card game, and the infuriating gobstones game which I found to be very hard to control.
While dated, the look of the game isn't bad. It didn't wow me by any means, and had some clipping, but nothing too bothersome. The cut-scenes were a huge disappointment, almost as if they were an afterthought and/or rushed. It was obvious the animators went to great lengths to make the characters look exactly like their human counterparts, but most of the time they looked like wax statues. I did like that they ditched their uniforms for regular clothes at times, something they could have gotten away with not doing. The brightest point of the game was Hogwarts. Even though you couldn't venture everywhere, it was flat out beautiful and filled with students from all houses. It felt like you were really there, and was a true joy to witness its splendor.
It goes without saying the game benefited from having John Williams amazing Harry Potter theme present. I was genuinely shocked to find out that rousing music is actually 'Hedwig's Theme'. The voice acting was okay, and it was nice that some of the actors (Rupert Grint in particular) took the time to do their own parts.
So was this game fun? Yeah, it had it's moments. It's not groundbreaking, amazing, or even very memorable. Replay value is nil and it has problems. Still I found myself looking forward to getting back to Hogwarts each time I started it up and wanted to finish the journey. Can't say that for every game.
*Full Disclosure* Order of the Phoenix was the first HP for the PS3, but not for me. I played it in 2013 and after playing HBP & both Lego offerings. Odd, I know, to play a six year old movie licensed title. I'd decided to go back and play some games I missed. This was one of the oldest.
Final Grade important only to myself: 7 / 10.