It was shorter than I'd hoped and saddled with a few objectionably brainless mini-games, otherwise I rather enjoyed Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix. Indeed, I spent six or seven hours steering a taller, svelter, edgier Daniel Radcliffe down the torch-lit halls and byways of the entire Warner Bros Hogwarts set, here for the first time reproduced in full from the studio's blueprints.
That's the treat if you're a Harry Potter fan: nearly complete and unfettered access to the entirety of Azkaban (Harry Potter 3) director Alfonso Cuaron's gorgeously bleak Hogwarts, with some 85 locations including everything from Hagrid's hut and the Owlery to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and Snape's dungeon Potions classroom.
But while you'll experience most of the film's main events including a dash of training at Grimmauld Place, what you'll mostly get up to in HP5 is jogging between areas to suss out "discovery points". In sufficient quantities, these level up the puissance of familiar spells like Incendio, Wingardium Leviosa, Expelliarmus, and Stupefy, effectively allowing you to cast each faster.
Casting spells and occasionally dueling is intuitive and in essence true to the Harry Potter books in that, instead of thumbing a button, you twirl the right thumbstick (in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions) to paint a shape in the air and trigger the corresponding energy release.
There's a pleasurable physicality to the game world as well, so that "Depulsing" askew suits of armour, igniting torches, straightening pictures, dusting shelves, shaking out carpets and repairing miscellaneous objects never quite grows old courtesy of the Harry Potter environment's distinctive layers of interactivity.
Like the Grand Theft Auto games, your progress in Harry Potter is numerically tabulated in dozens of satisfying "meta" categories, from "total explored" to "number of defensive spells cast in a single duel".
It's also worth noting the achievements, which tally quickly since progress on "normal" difficulty is positively breezy (it's also possible to finish the main story with most of the meta stuff unfinished). Fortunately the game deposits you back at Hogwarts post-finale to polish things off if you like, and with the seventh book due in just four days, I'm not really spoiling anything by revealing that in number five, Harry Potter (at least) survives.
While most of the mini-games such as Exploding Snap, Wizard Chess, and Gobstones are well conceived and diverting enough, a few are just plain silly. Occlumency, the art of defending against mental invasion, is a simple matter of repeatedly whipping the right thumbstick to force your opponent's wand back to the center of the screen, a mindlessly dull "challenge". The bits of Harry Potter where you play as Sirius, Fred, George, and Dumbledore are also more or less staged and minimally interactive, hijacking both the film and book's most poignant moments and rendering them as rigidly, crudely anticlimactic.