I love adventure games. It makes me happy to know that I shouldn’t eat the blueberry pie in King’s Quest V. It wouldn’t have shown up in my inventory if I was supposed to eat it. Figuring out which item to present to which character is oddly satisfying and solving puzzles without the constant threat of being sniped and tea-bagged is a treat that we gamers don’t savor near often enough. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (OotP) is an adventure game at heart. There is magical combat, but it takes a back seat to the puzzles, character interaction, and massive visual scope of the game.
The lion’s share of OotP boils down to Harry, Ron, and Hermione running around Hogwarts and recruiting students to join their Defense Against the Dark Arts study club, Dumbledore’s Army (DA). In the book and the film, Harry’s friends are eager to join. They all want to fight Voldemort and feel as though their current instructor is holding important lessons back from them. None of these feelings shine through in the game. More often than not, Harry has to bribe his classmates to join the DA by assisting them with their homework, hiding their contraband from the faculty, or retrieving their stolen property.
Fortunately, the exploration is wonderful. Hogwarts is designed from J.K. Rowling’s own sketches and blueprints used in the movies. And it shows. The school is massive, and many of the areas accessible to players are never seen in the films. Fans of the books and movies that just want to wander around Hogwarts at their own pace will fall in love with the detailed environments. They’ll also have a good time earning discovery points by mopping up spills, sweeping leaves, uncovering hidden plaques, meeting house ghosts, lighting torches, and searching for hidden statues. Console gamers can also try their hand at Wizard Chess, three variations of Gobstones, and two variations of Exploding Snap. There’s a lot to do in Order of the Phoenix that is secondary to the plot, and all of them are fun.
Aside from exploration, you’re probably considering OotP for spell casting. The Wii version is the most fun in this regard as the Wii remote takes the place of Harry’s wand. Motions are responsive, and it’s difficult not to get into things when you’re actually moving a wand around (and if you’re anything like me – shouting A