This was one of the first tie-ins to the rather popular Harry Potter series, and was the first handheld version. It was pretty decent for a film tie-in, especially a film tie-in by EA.
The game very loosely follows the plot of the book and film, and starts by you receiving a brief letter inviting you to Hogwarts. You then blackout to a screen with you standing outside Gringotts Bank with Hagrid, and there the adventure starts.
Although an awful lot is cut from the book and film, I would say this is still a reasonably faithful venture, at least up until the endgame where the plot is dumped on you, and quickly. This annoyed me somewhat as a stalwart of the book, where things take longer to figure out. There is also the addition of a few new sidequests and bits of storyline which would have been a bit odd, had they been in the book.
However, considering some versions of this game (hello GBA version), I would say overall the plot is pretty faithful. Could be worse, could be better.
I have the title screen music in my head! And it won’t go away! A lot of the music in this game is of reasonable quality, although it does get repetitive after a while. There isn’t much in the way of sound effects, which is a shame, as I thought these could have been put to good use.
Some of the music can get a bit tinny, but on the whole, it fits the atmosphere of the game.
Um. Where do I start? I’m sorry, the graphics for this game, especially the character models, are embarrassing. I also found that a lot of the game was quite dark, and often found myself running into statues and things, which got annoying, in the end I had to play this on a GBA SP in order to just see the damn screen.
However, the spell animations were quite pretty, the backgrounds were quite well done, and I could identify most of the enemy creatures by their models. I just wish I could say the same for the NPC characters…
No multiplayer in this game that I know of. Maybe to swap wizarding cards or something?
There is a bit of challenge to the game, and if you’re not levelled up decently enough, bosses can be a pain to try and defeat. However, I found the constant droves of enemies to fight to be the draining and more challenging part of the game, especially when you run out of magic points and have to use the weakest, most basic spell to kill everything.
Occasionally some of the quests can be a bit difficult to complete, and some minigames (the feather raising Charms game in particular) can be near impossible to complete without a pen and paper.
However, most of the challenge in this game can be done away with simply by overlevelling, which is a bit of a shame.
So you play the game as Harry, and the game follows a basic RPG formula. You will fight enemies, often three at a time, and you can engage combat by walking into… blue puffs of smoke. Larger blue puffs usually indicate a boss. When in combat, this game becomes a turn-based fighting game, with you selecting a spell and then being attacked by the enemy. You have a selection of spells to use, all which have varying degrees of effectiveness on different enemy creatures, and these spells have the potential to level up a couple of times, through use, making them more powerful.
One problem this game does have is that outside of getting a pen and paper and doing it yourself, there is no way to tell which spells are most effective on what enemy, as the game lacks an in-game bestiary.
There is a collecting aspect to this game, which ties in quite nicely with the battle system. As you go around Hogwarts and other areas which you can explore, you can hunt for cards, and can fill up a book you get in-game with them. However, the clever part comes in when you have a set of three cards which can be used in battle for various effects, such a restoring your HP or doing damage to the enemies. The collecting aspect was something that I quite enjoyed, and you will need a few play throughs of the game before you can complete your collection of wizarding cards.
There was also a potion creating aspect to this game, where you can find recipes for different potions (protip: search the library shelves) and then go out into the Hogwarts grounds to find the ingredients for these potions. I quite enjoyed this, and making your own healing potions saves money which can then be used for buying new equipment.
Something which did annoy me was that even though Ron and Hermione follow Harry during various parts of the game, they don’t join in battle with you. That irritated me a bit, as they often join you in areas where the enemies are somewhat tougher. Ah well, it was corrected in the next game.
I can always replay this game, mainly for collecting my chocolate frog cards, but beyond that, it can be tough to think of a reason to play this game again.
Replay Value: 6
It was a fairly decent go for an RPG style Harry Potter game, so props to EA for that.
(Editors note: Game also known as Sorcerer’s Stone in the US)
Review by Karen