Once thing that always get to me when it comes to bad licensed game - which Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 certainly is - is how bad they usually are at telling stories. You pay a huge amount of money for the license, more than you'd ever consider spending on developing the actual game, and don't have to both with coming up with plotlines or anything complicated like that. And then you screw it up basic storytelling 101, haphazardly connecting scenes and dialogues without any form of coherency. It's fascinating.
Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows - Part 1 does just that, and more. "We need to find our way into the Ministry of Magic," Hermione explains. To do that we need to scout out possible routes into it and find out which is the safest. And boom, I'm alone in a forest fighting off death eaters, or deep inside a dragon's lair that I now need to escape from. How did this happen? How did I end up here? And when it's all said and done, we still sneak in through the front bloody entrance. What gives?
Sure, I can accept that - this is a movie tie-in and the people that are supposed to play this are also supposed to be familiar with the source material. I haven't seen the movie yet, and it's been a while since I read the books; perhaps there is a scene where Harry mysteriously teleports from the center of London to a dragon's lair? I'll live and let live, and instead try to focus on enjoying the actual game.
Which is hard, since the gameplay lives up the licensed garbage cliche as well. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, a title I will never grow tired of typing, is a cover-based shooter where the cover mechanics are so worthless you'll be better off not using them at all - actually using them seem to be more dangerous than just rushing your enemies. Also, enemies' shots seem to easily pass through cover anyway, so I'm not sure there's a point to it at all. Once I was shot through the floor. Through the floor. Add sluggish controls and a camera that seems to hate me, and you got a recipe for a total mess.
There's also some sneaking sequences, where Happy puts on his trusty invisibility cloak, but they are usually nothing more than annoying diversions from the wand-waving parts. Most of the time, this is more a game about a young wizard that waves his wand around and yells "stupefy!" at everything. Two minutes into the game and you just want to gag him and everyone around him. Or bring a machine gun - if wizards are this ineffective when fighting each other, why haven't the muggles enslaved them by now? Stupefy! Stupefy! Stupefy!
There are other spells than stupefy, but you don't really need to use them. You also find various potions you can throw at your enemies, but similar to the cover mechanics you are better off not using them in the first place. Just stupefy your way through the levels and you'll be fine. The protective spell is a prime example, since you have a better chance of survival if you don't bother using it and constantly stay on the offensive instead.
During most of the levels you have your dear friends with you. Good old Ron, how I love you when you run straight in front of the camera and get me killed. And sweet Hermione, how fun you look when you stand blindly firing into a wall. With friends like these, who needs death eaters and You-Know-Whos to get you killed, eh?
I don't blame the actual developers for any of this. This is all just par for the course. We've seen it before, we'll see it again - big movie is released, a lazy game is launched so that parents unwittingly can buy it for their kids for the holidays. And I've said it before as well: parents, don't buy this for your kids. Tell their grandparents to not buy it for them, just in case. No matter how much they beg and cry, just stay away. There's always Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, or several other child-friendly games, out there.
The Xbox 360 version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 includes special challenges for Kinect. While I didn't play these challenges myself (and thus they are not part of this review) I did ask one of our Danish editors if they were any good. His only reply was to wave his arms around and shout "stupefy!" over and over. I suppose that's a 'no'.