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Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban Package Art
†GENRE
††Adventure
†DEVELOPER
††EA Games
†PUBLISHER
††EA Games
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1
†CONNECTIVITY
††yes
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Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

First we got Shrek 2 and now the next video game based off a summer blockbuster to hit the GameCube is the long awaited Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This sequel to a string of Harry Potter titles is primarily based off of the third year of Harryís stay at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harryís third trip to the school is a much more different than his past visits. Sorcererís Stone and Chamber of Secrets focused mostly on puzzles rather than actual magical combat. Prisoner of Azkaban reverses these roles. Youíll fight lots and lots of magical baddies but still take the time to solve some rather immense puzzles. Itís fun and some may even agree that itís better than the last two adventures. However, there are still a lot of problems and the untapped potential is beginning to wear thin and become rather frustrating for Harry Potter fans everywhere.

visuals

While not as smooth and fluid as Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban still looks great. The character models are probably the gameís best feature but they arenít even as polished as they should be. The original character design found in this game is very different from previous Harry Potter titles. Harry and his friends will run into all sorts of animals, goblins and boss characters. Theyíre all done well and look as if theyíd fit into the universe, even though they technically donít.

One problem the game has going for it is that the frame rate tends to stutter too much. Obviously, this is a shame but itís mostly because detail has been taken out of the environments in order to improve it. It doesnít help terribly much and having stale, unremarkable levels is a hard price to pay for a frame rate that dips and dives every couple of minutes.

Thankfully, the outdoor recreation of Hogwarts is amazing and is probably the best weíve seen in the gaming community.

audio

The orchestrated soundtrack is easily one of the greater things showcased in Prisoner of Azkaban. It conveys the overall feel of the Harry Potter universe and keeps the adventure flowing like it as in past installments.

The voice overs are once again sound-alikes, but they still work fairly well within the characters. However, Ron seems a bit too nasally for some reason. Perhaps the actor had a case of hay fever during the recording sessions and they couldnít afford another actor -- sometimes he sounds downright congested. Itís a little funny at times, really.

The sound effects are okay and are produced well, but are noticebly just a little compressed. There isnít anything groundbreaking here, just like the game itself.

gameplay

Prisoner of Azkaban takes a much different approach to the play mechanics generally found in the series. Instead of controlling Harry through his adventures within Hogwarts, youíll command a three-unit team of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Much like in Shrek 2, each character has different abilities and in this case, different spells. When it comes to solving certain puzzles, you may have to rely on a specific character to solve it because they have an exclusive spell thatís only available through them. Itís a worthwhile effort and the team-based gameplay really works for the series. After all, it isnít just always about Harry.

Unfortunately, the moronic artificial intelligence can get a little bothersome. Youíll be in the middle of an intense battle, usually against a group of pixies or a boss and the two other characters in your adventuring party go nuts and start running around anywhere they darn well please. Sometimes this includes the other side of the map. It can be a little irritating at times, but generally doesnít hinder the gameplay all that much. Thatís mostly due to the incredibly low difficulty. Thatís not generally a complaint since it is targeted at a wide range of demographics. The difficulty is well balanced, but any casual gamer can whip through it in a mere 10 hours or so.

Overall, Azkaban is a fun Harry Potter experience, but it isnít without its problems, as usual.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

While Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is quite possibly the best Harry Potter game Iíve played, it still leaves a vast amount of potential that hasnít yet to be even touched. Itís depressing from my standpoint and given EAís efforts with the past three games, itís hard to see if this series is going anywhere. While gamers can link-up to the GBA version of PoA for a cool virtual pet kit, it doesnít have a whole lot of replay value. Once you complete the main quest once, you may look back on it a couple of times but itíll simply gather dust. To put it simply, fans will love it, kids will love it and someone looking for a good diversion will love it. However, I canít recommend this game to everyone. Please be gentle with it.

final score 7.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Austin Starr
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"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"


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