J.K. Rowling's boy wizard may be retiring from movie stardom with a box office bang, but he adds another less than satisfying adventure to his video-game exploits in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (Electronic Arts, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated: Teen, $49.99).
Adapted from the final movie, sans pesky dialogue and any emotion or tension (warning, see the film before playing the game), this dark, third-person shooter finds a single player in control of Harry Potter and his pals as they use wands to blast away at evil Lord Voldemort and his minions.
Many of the previous Potter video games offered more of an expansive, well-rounded world adventure with many objectives, potions to create, Quidditch matches to conquer and wondrous places to explore.
In this case, it's all about a fight that clocks in around four hours, as the action often requires a test of will between player and his index fingers and thumbs.
It's a guaranteed cramping situation (with future bouts of arthritis in the cards) as the fingers must constantly press the trigger buttons to load spells and take down arriving hordes of Death Eaters, spiders, Slitherin hooligans, giants and Snatchers.
Near constantly caught in a firefight while searching for Horcruxes in areas ranging from Gringotts Wizarding Bank to Hogwarts lower regions, characters take cover and attack while hit enemies recoil in pain, fall and disappear in puffs of black smoke in this violent experience.
Much like any soldier in the heat of battle, replace wands for guns, a player will feel overwhelmed by the odds. So always make sure your Expelliarmus charm targets the right guy, then follow up with liberal amount of Stupefy.
The developers do try hard to capture moments of the movie (I think the giants actually look better in the game than film) and the likeness of all actors involved such as Draco Malfoy, Seamus, most of the Weasleys, Harry, Severus Snape and a bad [watch your mouth] Professor McGonagall.
Unfortunately, grizzled gamers will find the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 experience a light weight, much too short ode to more mega-popular shooters that “shall not be named,” and will quickly dismiss the silliness, especially with a lack of any type of multiplayer battles and weak replayability (levels can be repeated as stand-alone challenges).
Although, I'll admit to some guilty pleasure controlling Hermione Granger as she wielded her wand like a gatling gun and shot villains using the Expulso spell with bursts of bullet-sized beams.
Or, even better, how about Neville Longbottom picking off foes from a long distance with Petrificus Totalus? He was much more of a sniper, complete with a zoom feature to use that wand shot, than the mild mannered wizard we all admire.
Overall, I think the average Potter fan will feel much more at home with the current and upcoming Lego video games that build upon the traditions, culture and humor in the universe rather than being part of an exercise in obliterating the bad guys.
On an odd side note, the coolest part of the game has nothing to do with the game or the disk it came on. Hidden on the game box is a three-dimensional version of Lord Voldemort. He's ready to come to life with some help from a PC or Mac equipped with an onboard web camera and a piece of, free-to-download, augmented reality software.
With the box cover pointed toward the camera, the villain stands tall, in 3D, and on the box while viewed on the computer screen. Old snake face is waving his wand and shooting bolts of energy in perpetuity. Now, there's some magic, Mr. Potter.
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