By Justin Hoeger
McClatchy Newspapers

1 1/2 stars
The release of a new “Harry Potter” film wouldn’t be complete without the arrival of a new video game. But “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” feels like a step down from the game based on “Order of the Phoenix.” Spells are still cast with flicks and waves of the Wii Remote, but the controls don’t feel sensitive or accurate enough – it can take several upward flicks to pull off a casting of the “Wingardium Leviosa” levitation spell, and just try throwing a pot at a hard-to-reach Hogwarts crest.
Wizard duels are entertaining, however, as Harry flings spells at his opponents while dodging their attacks. It can also be fun to brew potions by mixing specific ingredients and boiling them the right amount – though running out of time halfway through and being forced to start over is frustrating. Quidditch matches are simple checkpoint exercises as Harry chases the Snitch through a series of stars.
But while the three games are decent fun and players are still free to roam the grounds of Hogwarts, there just isn’t much else to do besides collecting a bunch of crests, and the main plot is cut down to an outline illustrated by awkward scenes using the stiff in-game models.
Nintendo Wii, also for Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, PS2, PSP, Nintendo DS, PC; $49.99 ($29.99 to $49.99 for other versions)
Age rating: 10-plus

3 1/2 stars
A horde of zombies is about to cross the lawn, and the only way to stop them is with an array of flowers, fruits, vegetables and other plants in “Plants Vs. Zombies,” a charming and habit-forming variety of the tower-defense genre.
The lawn fills most of the screen, with the zombies approaching from the right. Plants can be placed anywhere on the lawn by spending sunshine, which falls from above or pops out of sunflowers.
The plants include several kinds of pea-firing pods, explosive cherry bombs, wall-nuts (which delay zombies), delayed-activation potato mines, a piranha plant that swallows zombies whole, and many more perennial favorites for fighting the undead.
As the player’s arsenal grows, the zombies get tougher and smarter they put on helmets, use poles to vault over wall-nuts and so on. The trick is to bring a flexible arsenal to each stage and employ it wisely to fend off the shambling hordes. The game also features several alternate modes, including survival mode, puzzles and mini-games.
PC, also for Mac OS; $19.95 ( download)Age rating: Everyone

(c) 2009, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).
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