Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review
This is the game of the fifth novel in JK Rowling’s best-selling Harry Potter series. It’s one of six titles recently published for the Mac by giant game developer, Electronic Arts, and one of the first to be developed in-house using the Intel Mac-only Cider games engine.
The storyline involves solving puzzles and dealing with beautifully rendered set piece challenges. Most action takes place in the huge world of Hogwarts College, which you can explore as you like. EA worked to the same blueprints as those used for the film, so the environment will feel familiar.
Rather than being a linear adventure, this game is designed as a sandbox world: you lead your young wizard on a free-form exploration of the place, followed by his friends (and sometimes frustrated by the game’s automated camera angles, which sometimes trap you in corners). A ‘Marauder’s Map’ helps you find and get to the places you need to be to play the game, handy footprints appear on the floor of the college to help you reach where you’re going.
Visually, this is a rich and immersive virtual world, beautifully detailed with lots of little random elements to add a sense of being in a living place. There are also many side adventures: take on others in magical duels, take over other characters; and entertaining side-games (Wizard Chess or Gobstoners, anyone?) and puzzles. You’ll learn how to cast spells using your wand, growing better at them as you gain experience. You also gain bonuses by winning at the side-games.
One gripe. The game eats 4GB of drive space, but requires the DVD be installed. Why can’t the game load data it needs from the DVD during play?
It’s not the most taxing plot, but if you like the books you’ll enjoy the adventure, and the existing challenges are just compelling enough to bring out your stubborn ‘got to beat a challenge’ streak. Overall, this is a rich and rewarding adventure. No cult classic, but fun all the same.