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01-18-20 12:17 PM

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10-18-14 07:32 PM
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Harry's back to an even more deadly Hogwarts!

 
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10-18-14 07:32 PM
Boxia is Offline
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This here is a movie-game. Now before you go running off in horror, let me fill you in on this title. It's the third installment in a game series based off of the smash hit series of films, which in turn were based off even more popular novels by J.K. Rowling. Like the films and books, the games revolved around Harry Potters' adventures in attempting to stop the evil dark lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, all while dealing with the rest of his life, like his studies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Like many movie-games, the Harry Potter games are mostly garbage, especially the new ones. This has led to the earlier installments largely being forgotten. While not so much a pity for the first two titles, the third game is more of a loss, since it has many decent qualities that made it pretty decent for a game of its time. Let's stroll right in!


There's a killer on the loose, and deadly measures run rampant.



Harry Potter is heading back to Hogwarts for his third year. He meets up with his friends Ron and Hermione and they hop on the train together. En route, the train is stopped and Potter is attacked by a dark being known as a Dementor. Dementors are normally only found at the top-secret wizard prison of Azkaban, but have been ordered by the Ministry of Magic to scour the land for an escapee, Sirius Black, who was imprisoned for several horrific crimes. Harry is saved only by the intervention of the peculiar new professor, Remus Lupin. Harry then develops a crippling fear of Dementors. Progressing through the school year, Harry is taught by Lupin a spell that can defeat Dementors (as well as training on how to combat them) after the former is attacked during a Quidditch match. Potter also learns that Black was the one who betrayed his family to Voldemort, and sets out to kill him. Along the way, Harry discovers the truth about many aspects of his life, including Lupins' true nature, and whether or not Black really committed any crime.


This instalment's story marks the continuation of a full shift towards a darker realm. Just about every game prior had balanced dark bits with quirky and cute bits (like the immature way romance is handled in earlier works). This is pretty much the final HP epithet to balance the two, and it does so very well. The dark bits (like Dementors) are common, but there are always a plethora of twists to keep things fresh, and the quirky bits (the relationship between Rons' rat and Hermione's cat) always serve as great comedy relief to moments that would be a bit too serious otherwise. My only beef is with one particular twist towards the end of the game. I find that twist to be way too far-fetched and ludicrous for me to take it seriously, and it helps ruin the intimacy of the scene preceding it.


Magic, cards, and beans, of course......with other stuff.



Like every HP game, magic is the key element. There are a total of ten spells:

-Alohomora: Opens locked doors and chests. You start with it.

-Depulso: Pushes certain objects. You start with it.

-Rictusempra: Knocks down or kills enemies. You start with it.

-Lumos: Lights up passages, hidden walls, and your wand. You start with it.

-Spongify: Activate certain tiles that allow you to jump high. You start with it.

-Carpe Retractum: Pulls you towards certain objects and vice versa. Must be learned in Defence against the Dark Arts, and can only be used by Ron.

-Lapifors: Transforms statues of Rabbits into real rabbits that you can control. Must be learned in Transfiguration, and can only be used by Hermione.

-Draconifors: Turns statues of dragons into real dragons you can control. Must be learned in Transfiguration, and can only be used by Hermione.

-Glacius. Turns water and certain enemies into solid ice and douses fires. Must be learned in Charms, and can only be used by Harry.

-Expecto Patronum: Destroys Dementors. Learned from Lupin half-way through the game, and can only be used by Harry.

No one spell is too similar to each other, and they all fill a specific niche. They're also highly satisfying when you get the chance to use them. For example, tearing a flaming salamander to bits with a combo of Glacius and Rictusempra. The sound and the feeling is unrivalled by anything other in the game.


Unlike previous installments where the only tender were beans, this title has multiple currencies that all receive a proportional amount of use. All of this tender is used at Fred and Georges' shop, run by Rons' brothers.

-Beans: These are the most common currency. You can find them just about everywhere, and it's easy to amass hundreds. You can exchange them for pretty much everything, including wizard cards, other tender, and much more.

-Pumpkin Pasties:  These are much less common than beans, but can still be found in some quantity in any area. You can exchange these for higher-value wizard cards and other tender, as well as Chocolate Frogs, which will restore your health.

-Cauldron Cakes: The most valuable currency of all. These are only found in small quantities in certain areas. They can be exchanged for passwords to secret areas in Hogwarts from the shop. In these secret areas, you can find loads of Beans, Pumpkin Pasties, and Cauldron Cakes.

I love how all these currencies were implemented, and it feels truly satisfying not to just use them but to collect them, as well. The same feeling of getting something new and amassing a fortune in real life is comparable to the feel here, and that's hardly an exaggeration. However, that's not a difficult feeling to extract, especially from this games target demographic of young children, so no bonus points here.


Yet another core mechanic is also one that returns from the predecessors. That is, Wizard Cards! There are 80 cards total, with a whopping ten categories of cards, each different from one other. For example, one category may be about fauna in the wizarding world, while another category may have to do with prominent trolls (no, the OTHER kind of trolls). A category will have 5-15 cards. Usually the categories with 5 cards will be in lessons or special areas, while ones with 15 cards can be found scattered all throughout the map. Sadly, the only reward for collecting all of the available cards is the opportunity to head to an area where all cards but the final one resides. The reward for completing that? The final card. It's a shame, as there could have been several areas accessible with cards with rewards other than MORE FREAKING CARDS, like beans or other tender.


The final key mechanic is the three-character system. In normal open-world mode, you can control Ron, Hermione, or Harry, and all of them move together. This allows them to work together in defeating enemies, firing spells at rapid speeds. Believe me, this is a life-saver in the final missions, where difficult foes run rampant. Not to mention how much fun it is tearing through enemies, especially bosses. However, there are times when you'll have to go without a member of the group or two, but in these cases it's always easy to manage alone. Bonus points for putting group-fights at the right time.


Alright, how does the game play?



The map for this game is very large. You have Hogwarts, with 8 floors (not including the ground floor and basement) and loads of stuff to do on each floor including secret areas, vendors, locked chests, lessons, and challenges. The most expansive floors should take you about 10 minutes to get through, but that's quite a while in proportion to the rest of the game (missions take an average of 15 minutes to complete). It would be a time-tester to get from point a to b if it wasn't for the portrait system. Access to the system can be obtained by defeating an irksome poltergeist early-game. The system will shave minutes off of your "commute" by providing instant access to any floor via a special room on the ground floor, and is a huge convenience. Besides the school, there are also the grounds. Though not as oppressively massive as the castle, the grounds have as much to do in it, and more. You have more challenges, and more stuff to explore. There's no fast-travel system like Hogwarts, but you'll never have to travel too far here, anyways. Bonus points for convenience and (reasonable) ease of movement.


Missions revolve either around lessons, either where you learn spells or activate challenges, or adventures in battling the Dementor menace and searching for Sirius Black.


1a) Spell Lessons, as I will call them, involve navigating a stage full of obstacles to practise a newly-learned spell. The vast majority of obstacles and encounters with foes will involve use of the learned spell to handle. For example, the Carpe Retractum lesson will contain many large bottomless pits that require you to pull a platform towards you so you can cross it. Scattered throughout the lesson will be hidden areas with about anything you can think of, like tender, cards, etc. The ultimate goal of these stages is to collect all 10 shields strewn throughout the area. Shields can be found in your path or concealed in plain sight, like behind a suit of armour. Should you collect all of the shields, including the massive final one, you can head to the Bean Bonus Room. Initially, you can collect a plethora of beans but in later lessons you can also pick up loads of Pumpkin Pasties and Cauldron Cakes, which can help you out when dealing with vendors. The lessons are certainly fun, but in some cases obstacles are repeated one too many times and it wears away at the experience. Thankfully, that's never too common, though.


1b) There may be only one Challenge Lesson, but it's rather prominent. It involves a Care of Magical Creatures lesson taught by groundskeeper Hagrid. Harry is given command of a large bird-like creature called a Hippogriff. Potter must fly through a series of rings, and must get a certain number to complete the lesson. It's really nothing to call home about - a standard flying sequence with little to talk about, as is the challenge it activates.


2) Proper Missions are true adventures. They involve large stages in which all spells that you know so far are used extensively. They also involve obstacles you became acquainted with in the lessons. Usually they involve retrieving something, like a book of law, from a closed off locations. However, there's a large range of objectives. For example, in one mission you must pick up a book from a closed off section of the library and in another mission you must navigate a vast complex of monster-filled tunnels and rooms underneath the grounds to chase a wolf. The latter is certainly the most impressive of the stages in this game. Here, you must use all of your spells loads of times and fill run into obstacles requiring good expertise with platforming. As a whole, these missions really are the ones that showcase the game and all it’s got, and they do it pretty well. They're rare, but they're put in at just the right times so as not to feel too boring or new.


Finally, if you're bored of all that stuff, you have the three challenges. They all involve a certain task that must be done five times to be fully completed. You get a wizard card for one category every time you do it successfully, and it also gets harder each time you do it.


1) The Pixie Challenge Evil Pixies have invaded a disused well and are attacking people from it. Your task is to destroy the well and the Pixies with it. Every round you complete, you get a wizard card for the Giants category. Every round, more Pixies will pop out of the well to attack you. It gets cluttered after a bit, so aim your spells wisely to disband huge masses. After five rounds the well will collapse and you will complete the Giants’ category
.

2) The Hippogriff Challenge Riding a Hippogriff, you must fly through a certain number of rings to complete a round and earn a card for the Quidditch category. For each passing round, the number of rings you must fly through will get closer and closer to the number of rings total, so you must make sure to fly through as many rings as possible, and try never to sacrifice an opportunity.


3) The Monstrous Book of Monster Challenge This challenge is similar to the Pixie challenge, instead with a different monster and different location. The Book will toss pages at you. They require two "shots" to kill, one to stun, and another to destroy it in its kamikaze-like mode before it hits you. The pages will toss dust frequently, so make sure to strafe often and fire whenever you get the chance. Completing one round gets you a card for the Hags category. Completing all five rounds will finish the category and kill the book.


These challenges are fun for the first round or two, but they become EXTREMLY repetitive after that, especially the Pixie and Monstrous Book challenges. All you're doing is running and shooting in a tight space. It'll be hard to keep from eating the screen by the end. The Hippogriff Challenge is more engaging, but you can eventually fall into a pattern with that one as well, it just takes a bit longer.


Average music and even more average graphics.



The graphics are a vast improvement from the eye-bleeding inducing mess of the predecessor, but they aren't much to call home about. Sprites move fluidly and without any glitches, but they don't possess much detail besides facial and uniform details, which are pretty easy to pull off. Textures for solid objects and backgrounds are generic, but are receptive to the eyes. For example, the dullness of Hogwarts' facade is ugly, but not in an overt way. Really, there's nothing to say here but....... average!


Something a bit less bland is the soundtrack. The tunes from the film have returned, including the best ones. Music matches their assigned areas quite well, and I could never find anywhere where they didn't fit. Well, if i could nitpick, there is one area where you are fighting skeletons. The music here is serious, but also rather playful. I know many people view skeletons as cute, but these are bone-throwing, near-unstoppable skeletons bent on ending you. I doubt they're interested in dancing and singing to electronic beats. Picking apart the tunes themselves, they do set the mood, but they don't do anything besides that. Really, truly awesome music sets the mood and affects your emotion, but that's not what this soundtrack will do for anyone. But again, it is much better than the tracks from other HP games.


Final Verdict:



Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a vast improvement on its predecessors, and easily the best installment of its series. It's got loads to do, as well as a good story, but it's plagued by average graphics and music as well as repetition. Despite those flaws, it's definitely a game you want to play if you're up for a good PC game from years gone by.


Final Score: 7.6/10
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10-19-14 12:30 AM
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A very informative review on a very good game. Nice work.

I personally love this game to no end, unlike most of the Harry Potter games I've played (the first two are far too small, lack in content and fail to deliver on what this series is capable of. The one after is extremely linear). The three person system was genius, and the huge world (especially the outdoors with the grounds, Buckbeak, and rooftops) made this one feel extremely open-world, which was something I missed dreadfully when I took a step back to the previous installments (I played this one first). Plus there is so much to explore and so many secrets to find by just looking carefully at the world around you...and maybe turning things into rats and the like.


As for the review itself, it's massive, which is both good and bad. Good in that it gives a ton of insight into what this game is like, and lets the reader know if it should appeal or not. Bad in that it can tire you out before you're anywhere near finished.

My only real complaint would be that you gave away a lot of the story in the opening bit, then revealed almost all of the spells (I think you may have left at least one optional spell out, but I may have also overlooked it in the list), and finding the spells that you'll use and seeing what they do is part of the fun in the game, really.


And as I said, this review may actually have a bit too much detail since it's so large and can be tiring (not that it isn't good; it IS very good), as most people can't sit through that much uninterrupted text in one sitting without losing interest, which is a shame since there's so much quality to be had here. And unfortunately, not being allowed to use images only shortens readers attention spans further.


Long story short, this was a great, and very professional review. Keep up the great work, and keep developing your skills. No matter how good you are, there will always be room for improvement.
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10-19-14 03:03 PM
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Good review Boxia, if I would want to know what I can do in this game I'd be sure to look in this thread.

Like Eirinn said, it's on the long side. That isn't a problem if there are lots of small parts or when things differ a lot from each other but otherwise it gets boring. Luckily, I didn't find it boring to read all of it.

As for the graphics, you said they were the worst aspect of the game, but how were they compared to the prequels? I suggest almost the same, but sometimes graphics in games for gamecomputers with less advanced graphics look actually better than its sequels.

Keep up the good work, I hope you'll keep writing reviews
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10-19-14 03:10 PM
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Eirinn :
juuldude :

Thanks! The main reason this review was so long was because, unlike other titles I've done, there's quite a bit to do, though i suppose i could condense it.

Regarding the spells, i really don't think that's spoiling anything.  Sure, the Patronus charm is important to the story, but i figure it's an arc everyone knows nowadays, so i doubt there's much point in trying too hard to conceal it.
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10-19-14 03:16 PM
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Boxia : Well, it sure sounds like a big game, so I understand it.

Yeah, if you've read the books or have seen the movies I'm pretty sure you know Expecto Patronum by now. 
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10-19-14 10:11 PM
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Well for fans of the books or films, no. I however have never read or watched either. I just play the games. lol But since the games probably don't utilize every spell from the stories, it's a bit of a guess as to what will be there still.

However, as you and I both suggested, it's far from being a review breaker. This is still a good review.
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10-19-14 11:06 PM
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I have played the first two, but this one sounds far more interesting. I will try it sometime.
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