Review: Harry Potter on the Wii Makes for Hogwarts' Heaven

Calling all muggle-born Harry Potter fans. Grab your wands -- I mean your Wii remote controllers -- because you are about to enter Hogwarts' heaven.

The Nintendo Wii version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix puts the magic of Harry Potter into your hands as you cast your way through this magnificent video game.

By holding the Wii remote controller in your hand as a wand, you move your arm in different ways to cast spells, and watch as the Harry you see on the screen mimics your motions. With this Wii version, you truly feel a part of the game. You become Harry Potter.

While this video game is also available on Sony's PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, the PC and Microsoft's Xbox 360, it is best played on the Nintendo Wii system because casting spells is so much a part of the gameplay. This Wii gaming experience is so compelling that if you have been thinking about getting a Wii but haven't yet, buy it now.

While each of the past four Harry Potter games has been great, this one far exceeds those built-up expectations. It closely follows the story of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book and is based on the movie version, which is due out on July 11.

Most of the time, you play as Harry Potter; but you also get to play as the Weasley twins as they fly out of the school on their brooms, Sirius Black as he fights the Death Eater Bellatrix, and even Headmaster Dumbledore in his duel with Voldemort.

The game cleverly incorporates a series of missions (tasks) into the storyline, which is moved forward at various times by video sequences. But this is not a linear game. You are free to explore the massive castle and grounds of Hogwarts and pick up or change tasks at will.

This is the Hogwarts the previous games made us long for.

The castle is built from the blueprints of the movie set, and it looks like the world presented in the movie. The portraits on the walls all talk and move about, the staircases rotate, and there are magical surprises sprinkled throughout.

If you discover the passwords, you can use the secret passageways hiding behind many of the animated portraits. But what is even better is that you can go anywhere and talk with anyone you meet. You can run down to Hagrid's cottage, up to the Owlery, and everywhere in-between. And all of this is possible with no load times as you move around this enormous game.

The game will also take you to other locations including Grimmauld Place and the Ministry of Magic.

The game cleverly adopts Harry's Marauder's Map as a way for you to find people inside the castle and its grounds. Once you select the person or destination inside the map and then close it, when you start to walk around, black footprints appear on the floor showing you the direction to head.

The first part of the game is spent finding and helping the 28 students who signed up to take a secret class from Harry about defense against the dark arts. The group, known as Dumbledore's Army (DA), meets in the hidden Room of Requirement. Helping DA could send you searching for the five talking gargoyles in the castle, using magic to repair the trophy room, or fighting a group of Slytherins in a duel.

Other mini-quests involve talking to teachers, the ghosts, and the portraits. Some require you to win the popular wizard games of Wizard Chess, Gobstones and Exploding Snap. Only when you have helped and assembled all 28 members of the DA can you move on in the game.

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