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The moving staircase and hidden passages behind paintings are the central corridors of the game.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix earns high grades with creative spellcasting and exploration, but most of the time you feel like you’re like an errand-running intern in the world of wizards - the game is mostly about performing chores tangential to the story line. This magical hoop-jumping prevents the game from being as entertaining as the book and movie.
You play Harry, and you’re back at Hogwarts for another year. With the help of friends Hermione and Ron, you uncover false accusations and work against obtrusive teachers. The best parts of the game are learning and casting spells. Clicking the mouse and moving it in a certain gesture starts a fire, levitates objects, and stuns opponents (Harry’s hand even moves with your wrist). The world is full of items that react to these spells, although these optional tricks can grow repetitive. How many stone statues can be broken at Hogwarts - waiting for your repair - before someone finally calls the maintenance crew?
The game guides players through strict tasks. A map helps lead to the objectives, but too much of Phoenix feels like a long-distance race, artificially inflating the length of the game. The battle sequences should be a nice break from the travel, but the controls feel random and not related enough to players’ actions.
Several bugs and interface inconsistencies will frustrate impatient players. Certain menus use mouse-control, while some require the keyboard. We had trouble launching the game several times, although retrying usually got it running.
The bottom line. The game’s dialogue uses much of the original cast, although Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry) is absent. These voices and the sharp graphics transport fans to Hogwarts. But for the rest of us, it feels like summer school.
COMPANY: Electronic Arts
REQUIREMENTS: 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo or faster, Mac OS 10.4.9 or later, 1GB RAM, ATI X1600 or nVidia GeForce 7300 or later
Spellcasting gestures feel fun. Detailed world and authentic voice acting add polish.
Errand-running and chores bore. Magical combat is chaotic and hard to control. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) not in the voice cast. Intel Macs only - the game doesn’t work with PowerPC Macs.