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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Review: Harry's older, the story is darker and the execution is sloppier. Click here to find out if there's any magic left at Hogwarts.

- It's another year at the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and you know what that means: Harry, Ron and Hermione are up to no good. The group, which always seems to find trouble, has stumbled directly into it again -- and on a grander scale. In his third year at the peculiar school, Harry finds himself the muse of threatening menace. No, we don't mean Professor Snape, although the head of potions does once more prove to be a thorn in the trio's collective side. Potter's real problem, though, is the Prisoner of Azkaban -- commonly known as Sirius Black -- an allegedly dark and twisted wizard who has escaped from the infamous prison with one goal: to kill Harry. Or so we think.

And so is the setup for the third chapter in J.K. Rowling's phenomenally successful Harry Potter franchise. Prisoner of Azkaban for GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox is based on the book and movie of the same name and it follows the plot points closely, Dementors and all. The game also adheres to the 3D adventure formula that helped make first the Eurocom co-developed Chamber of Secrets and then the Electronic Arts-created Sorcerer's Stone "Boy Wizard" games hits. If the design were a potion in Snape's class, the always-moody teacher might ask his students to mix a splash of Zelda-like play mechanics into a boiling pot of Harry Potter for the end result.

Prisoner of Azkaban seems to have all the right ingredients for a fun and entertaining adventure romp through Potter's universe. The potter license has been utilized in full. There is a wide range of spells to use against in enemies and to complete challenges. Potter, Ron and Hermione must make their way through a hefty plate of environmental puzzles, some of which are real brainteasers. Hedwig and Buckbeak are flyable characters in the game. And you can control Harry, Ron and Hermione together or separately depending on the situation or puzzle.

And yet, this game lacks polish. It feels sluggish and clumsy at points. And there are some notable artificial intelligence and collision detection glitches that will yank you out of the interactive universe altogether.

The Facts

  • 3D adventure based on the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban book and movie
  • Take part in a new quest to discover why the allegedly dark wizard Sirius Black is after Harry
  • For the first time ever, play as Harry, Ron, or Hermione to defeat enemies and puzzles; switch between the characters at almost an time
  • Fly Hedwig and Buckbeak to collect items and complete challenges
  • Fight off the guards of Azkaban Prison, the Dementors
  • Use a wide range of spells to defeat foes and advance through environments
  • Explore the ins and outs of a fully-modeled 3D Hogwarts
  • Features in-game cut-scenes complete with voice-acted dialogue to advance the storyline
  • Harry, Ron and Hermione are one year older and it shows; the graphics in the game have been enhanced to reflect the aged kids and darker storyline

The Prisoner of Azkaban represents a dramatic turning point in the Potter franchise. It's with this book, movie and (now) videogame, that the kids really start to mature. It's also here that the storyline turns darker. The enemy becomes a real threat and there are evil things that go bump in the night. The game successfully capitalizes on this change by updating the look of the characters so that they appear to have grown and by focusing on a nasty key nemesis in the story: the Dementors. These dark, Wraith-inspired creatures are a persistent challenge in Prisoner of Azkaban, as we learn in the very beginning of the adventure. In an atmospheric cut-scene, the Dementors attack Harry as he rides aboard the Hogwart's Express and as his best friend Ron you must drag Potter's body safely away from the Dementors before they can suck his soul from him. It's an intriguing idea and simultaneously a clever way to introduce the multi-character system.

Once Harry and the gang arrive at Hogwarts, though, it's back to the familiar routine, which wouldn't be a negative except that the routine is worsened over the predecessor games by sluggish controls and a flawed lock-on system. In traditional third-person form, Harry, Ron and Hermione go to classes, explore Hogwarts, collect items such as spells and notes, and complete objectives. The game moves along at a very linear pace despite the wide-openness of the world in which you can explore. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry controlled smoothly and precisely. In Prisoner of Azkaban he moves clumsily and with too much momentum, which makes the simple task of running him to an object so that he can climb it more difficult than it needs to be, especially if we are to go on thinking of this title as compatible with (if not geared toward) younger players.

May 12, 2004
Magic tricks ensue.

May 12, 2004
Harry's all grown up, but the build's still the same.

May 12, 2004
Magical screens to dazzle and amaze you.

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Most recent posts on the Harry Potter board:

the movie was a awful
- posted by: matthewrotherham2003- last activity (PST): 6/4 02:47am
In HP Chamber, where/how do you get wizard card #101?
- posted by: moonbear2- last activity (PST): 6/4 02:25am
Hermoine stuck with a ice block
- posted by: cabo4- last activity (PST): 6/4 02:22am
Saving Sirius by the lake using the Patronus
- posted by: willowwand1- last activity (PST): 6/4 02:19am
Calling Hedwig in COS
- posted by: Wailord- last activity (PST): 6/4 02:15am

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  6.0  9.0 
based on average user scores

Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts UK
Third-Person Action Adventure
Origin: U.K.
Number of Players: 2
Release Date
June 2, 2004
Click for game specs

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