The new Harry Potter movie has earned top reviews for being, as Variety critic Todd McCarthy wrote, "quite grown up" with "heavy issues of mortality, memory and loss," and "dazzlingly well made."
In the movie, "Kids' stuff is a thing of the past," McCarthy declared.
The video game, on the other hand - despite its nice, big sets and faithfulness to the main characters - is too simplistic to hold interest (perhaps even for little kids), and not dazzling in any way.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is actually kind of maddening because it does one big thing right and one big thing wrong, and the half that stinks squanders the half that's inspired.
What's inspired: the broad setting. Here is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in all its glory. Staircases shimmy just as they do in the movie. You speak secret codes to living wall paintings to gain passage into mysterious hallways. You can literally run from the tip of the castle all the way to the forest and to Quidditch pitch. Fantastic.
What stinks: the game play, which just happens to be the most important thing about any game. If it's no fun to play, it's no fun to play.
I mean, seriously, here are the three main things you do in Half-Blood Prince while portraying Harry:
1) You fly on your broom above the stadium of the Quidditch pitch. But you don't even play Quidditch matches as much as you merely fly overhead, zipping through yellow stars that float magically in the air.
This is insultingly easy. You just point your broom to the center of the TV, and the game moves your broom for you, toward the next star. You would have to be the daftest daffy of all daffodils to fail this challenge, as it basically requires you to stare at your TV for three minutes at a time.
2) You get into magic wand duels with cruel students and central villains. To win these duels, you simply shake your wand at them constantly, overpowering them with rapid magic attacks. Duh.
3) You spend a lot of time in potion rooms. You pick up one potion, pour it into a pot until the pot turns green or red or blue. Then you shake the pot until it turns green or red or blue. This goes on interminably. For what purpose? I have no idea.
This potion bit really ruins one of the joys of exploring Potter books and games, which is this: The movies don't make you feel like you're in school. Mixing potions? Seems just like a classroom chore.
And that's that. That's the game right there. There is nothing more for you to know, except diehard Potter fans might like that there are cinematic cut scenes based on the movie.
And if you fail to finish a potion in an allotted time, your potion teacher says, "Ready or not, that's all the time you've got. Please, stop." To which I responded, "Aye-aye, cap'n," and turned off the game.