Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Wii Impressions

I made a name for myself in video games by savaging Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on DS. It was the most awful, most painful, most broken game I've ever endured and it's my tendency to sneer at most movie-based video games anyway.

So what did I expect from Half-Blood Prince on the Wii? Certainly not all the fun I had.

The events demoed at EA's Showcase were Potions class, Quidditch and Duelling. Before we got to try the game ourselves, we got to watch two cute EA kids go at it in Duelling. They shook the Remotes and mashed the A buttons and bobbed and weaved their heads in time with the motions on screen. Harry dodges Malfoy's Stupify, Malfoy gets off a freezing spell that knocks Harry off his feet. Back and forth went the magic spells until Malfoy ran out of health icons and the Duel ended with Harry winning best two out of three.

I got spanked at it when I tried it myself, but I was pleased that the controls handled pretty well. Dodging was what I did most, mashing A while moving the control stick in the direction I wanted to go. I was really getting killed until Executive Producer Jonathan Bunney finally bailed me out by showing me how to block, which also reflects spells. I redeemed myself in Potions - but that's easy to do with such simple controls. The cauldron already has a potion in it and your job is to follow the instructions icons that hover to the right of it. Fan the mixture by moving the Wii Remote and Nunchuk up and down until it turns the right colour. The control vibrates in your hand when you've nailed the right shade. Point at an ingredient and hold A to pick it up and hold it over the cauldron; tilt your wrist to pour it in.

"The controls are very smooth," said Mr. Bunney. "We don't want to break anybody's wrists."

I completed the potion and got an A ranking, stepping back to let someone else go at it in Quidditch. Playing as Harry means you've got to play as the Seeker and find the Snitch - but there was a hint that you could unlock other characters to play (probably just for the Duelling, though). To win at Quidditch, you've got to fly after the Snitch, going through star-shaped hoops to gain speed bonuses as you hurtle along. Like the Potion and Duelling controls, Quidditch looked pretty smooth - with no frantic flailing or extreme flicking to get the on-screen action to occur.

While that was going on, Bunney informed me that this Harry Potter game was built around the Wii instead of the PS2 (like the last one). The Wii Remote looks like a wand, so it was a logical choice; and now that they've got the technology of the Wii down, things are looking a lot better for the Potter series.

Let's hope it works out well for the other consoles.


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