It's the start of another year at Hogwarts, the world's premier school of witchcraft and wizardry, and once again things are looking bad for Harry Potter. Attacked by Dementors during the holidays, Harry only narrowly escapes being expelled from Hogwarts for using magic outside the school grounds. Now the Ministry of magic has put the grotesque Dolores Umbrage in charge of the school, and she's making things very tough for the students. So it's up to Harry and his friends to form Dumbledore's Army, a coalition of students united against Umbrage's regime, and the evil Lord Voldemort.
School's in for summer
Hogwarts is totally free for you to explore, and the game does a great job of recreating the sprawling, magical castle from the books and movies. Portraits talk, staircases constantly shift and suits of armour come to life as you wander the hallowed corridors - you might even spot Nearly Headless Nick or Moaning Myrtle floating around. Much like Rockstar's excellent Canis Canem Edit, you can wander around the school's halls, visit the forests, dungeons and Great Hall, undertake tasks for other students, discover secret passages and generally make a nuisance of yourself. In fact, Hogwarts is so massive, you'll need your Marauders Map to get around, a magical map that shows you the location of everyone in Hogwarts, and leaves you a trail of footprints telling you which way to go to find them. Ron and Hermione are constantly by your side and will help you out in puzzles, as well as giving you hints on what to do next.
Being a wizard, magic plays a big role in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The right analogue stick controls your wand arm, and you have to move it in certain ways to cast spells. For example, pushing the stick straight up then moving it from side to side casts Wingardium Leviosa, a levitation spell, while rotating the stick rapidly anti-clockwise lets you cast Reparo to repair the objects that you broke using Reducto (rotate clockwise). You learn new spells as the game progresses, from friends and teachers, and before long you learn how to duel so you can fight other wizards, as well as the dark creatures under Voldemort's control.
All of the major cast from the film reprise their roles here, including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Katie Leung. The graphics are excellently modelled on their real-life counterparts, and the sweeping orchestral soundtrack gives you the feeling that you are playing an interactive version of one of the films. You also get to explore things only talked about in the books and films, like mini-games where you can play Exploding Snap and Wizard Chess, as well as unlocking bonuses in the Room of Rewards, which include dozens of video clips giving you a behind-the-scenes look at development process, complete with interviews with the developers and the actors from the movie themselves.
Potter fans will relish the opportunity to explore Hogwarts to their heart's extent and newcomers will love the magical gameplay, exciting action and wealth of secrets to discover. There's something for everyone here, so book a ticket on the Hogwarts Express and prepare for some magical, mystical fun.