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Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix only had to get one thing right: Hogwarts. The wizard politics and teen growing pains that dominate the book were too subtle for the game's designers, so they opted instead for a scavenger hunt: You have to scour the school grounds, tracking down classmates and doing their homework for them. Had EA captured any of the magic of a virtual Hogwarts—where centuries of wizarding history and intrigue lie behind secret passages and fiendish puzzles—it could have made an engrossing adventure.

But no magic went into this cash-in. Hogwarts is as grey and empty as a church basement or a bankrupt gymnasium. The only things you'll uncover are busted statues and cheap wall hangings, and the designers made every mistake in the book: incessant hints and back-seat driving, hanging plot points, pointless errands, chaotic fight scenes, and character faces that look like they were carved out of wax by crazy people. Whole scenes barge in with no explanation—the "Christmas at Grimmauld Place" interlude is Pinter-esque—and the only time you'll likely feel challenged is when you run into a bug.

Beyond the game: Sure, everyone this side of England has read Harry Potter, but it's wrong to expect players to already know the story and the characters. Hollywood has lately taken greater interest in using games to extend their franchises and build richer worlds. But Order Of The Phoenix falls in the same strata of emblematic junk as a Harry Potter lunchbox.

Worth playing for: On the Wii, waving the remote around like a wand is an easy sell. But it takes practice, and poor targeting makes each spell a crapshoot.

Frustration sets in when: Harry Potter comes off as a glum little wanker, but his hangers-on Ron and Hermione are the worst: They constantly nag you about what to do next, and there's no trapus shutyerfuckingus! spell to stop them.

Final judgment: Pay attention, kids: This is what boarding school's really like.