Review by MaxH
"The potential is there, but it's hidden under an invisibility cloak of mediocrity"
No-one was expecting this to be good, and it isn't. It's quite varied, just a little fun and wholesomely average. But of course who is this Harry Potter I speak of? Well I'm sure you all know that. He's a little boy with glasses who suddenly finds out he is a wizard and goes to a school for wizards: Hogwarts.
The lazily produced introduction sequence (In the form of a book with turning pages *yawn*) is even more vague than I've been, so don't expect any story satisfaction from this game, despite the potential. Instead, expect mindless wandering around for two and a half hours, with a lot of save points and automatic jumping *Yawn again*.
Now there's nothing wrong with automatic jumping, as demonstrated by Zelda 64. But when most of the game is based on jumping from platform it feels a little pointless. I am not fooled by your attempt to make me think pushing forward on the controller is a gaming challenge, EA. And it goes on like this.
You know something is wrong when having to kill an enemy is a highlight of the game, but it really is. And it's damn easy too. Just press R1 to target them and then X to hit them, then they'll die and you'll be awarded a thousand house points for your efforts. Otherwise it's mostly block pushing puzzles except - you'll like this - The blocks can only be moved in one direction! Succeed in moving the blocks and you'll have more house points thrown at you. It doesn't get much easier than this.
But it's not all bad, the structure of the game is quite pleasant. Go to magic lessons, meet your friends and help them out, it's quite like in the book and Harry potter fans should get the odd kick out of it. I mean it's EXTREMELY unlikely that any non-HP fans will play this game, so it's target audience has been catered for.
There are certain highlights of the game that show quite a lot of effort has been put in for a rush developed product. The Gringott's bank mine-cart riding section where you must swerve to gather coins (Or sickles as they are in Harry's world) and avoid dangers is fiendishly designed and handles well. It's a lot of fun and is by far the most intense part of the game. And the mix of action and puzzle sequences that make up the final part of the game are also quite challenging and compelling. The wizard chess section is actually VERY difficult, and took me a few tries to beat. The game is also aesthetically sound. Controls are responsive and easy to master, so nothing is a pain in that area.
But despite the undeniably novel atmosphere and the fun moments on offer, this game is overbearingly retarded. You will be asked to play FOUR mini-games where you push cauldrons onto grates, the cauldrons are near the grates you just have to push, there are a lot of cauldrons, it takes a while. You have to do this FOUR times, even small children aren't having any fun by the second. Also the game features a ridiculous amount of platform jumping sections. I assumed the auto-jump was used so these sections would be of minimal frustration and so the game could concentrate on bigger things. Not so, it seems this feature is in place so gamers need have no talent whatsoever. Running away from a giant troll? Just press down and you'll jump over the gaps. You'll be done in five minutes!
The plot is integrated disgracefully in embarrassingly ropey two second cut scenes and lazily cobbled together page turning bores. Hermione only appears halfway through to annoy you and then a couple more times before the end, she seems to have no significance to the actual plot, whereas in the book and the film she was immensely important. Developers Argonaut also desperately rush the character development within two seconds. 'Hello Harry' says Ron, your best friend 'this is Hermione a real book worm, she's so annoying!'. And that's about it. Total crap. And the story of the ACTUAL Philosopher's stone (That's sorcerer's stone for you Americans who had the title changed for them because they DIDN'T KNOW WHAT A PHILOSOPHER WAS. No wonder the game's so easy) isn't introduced until about ten minutes before the end.
Graphically, the game is a bit dreary but technically up to scratch. Areas are nicely detailed and some places look quite impressive. The developers have failed to bring about the majesty and charm of Hogwarts that the film had, but you can at least see they've tried. Character models are relentlessly ugly. No sooner have I got rid of the ginger ugly one than the deformed ugly one with a broomstick attacks me with his friendship. EURGH! Go away! Ron is quite disheveled looking which fits in with his poor image, he has reasons to skip EVERY ONE of the classes in the game because he can't afford something.
And yet he still witters on at me during the rest of the game. It's absolutely ridiculous the amount of explanation you have to wade through to actually GET to the playable part. Out of the two and a half hour play time, at least half an hour must be Ron talking about 'not walking into the enemies' or how poor he is. I have no tolerance for ugly ginger peasants who hinder my playing experience.
Sound wise the game is absolutely pathetic. There is no music, except at intervals where you pick up something magical. Sound effects are functional at best. But it's the voices that get me. I've heard people praise the soundalikes for their voice work but I think they've done an awful job. Harry is an absolute idiot, he doesn't say much, he just reads signs and such, but his over-dramatic 'I'm a twee english lad' accent gets on my nerves. Then again Harry was a twat in the film as well so maybe it's more accurate than I think. Dumbledore has been reduced to an old pervert from Somerset and Professor Mcgonogall a constipated old twig. The most annoying voice of all though is Draco Malfoy. He speaks constantly as if his cheeks are being stretched in and out by a pair of invisible hands, and is quite the miserable sod for it. Hagrid's voice is very good though.
So was I glad I received Harry Potter to own? No, was I glad that I played it? Yes. It may sound bizarre but despite the easy tasks and, well, more easy tasks I had quite a bit of fun with it. It has a good Potter atmosphere and a slightly non-linear structure which is appealing. It also just has such a lot to do, and it's all so Potterish. So HP fans should lap this up for two or so hours despite it's faults. Those who aren't fans shouldn't consider playing this at all, make the score a four for you. It's fun and varied, but it ain't good.
Potty about Potter! *SLAP*
+ Lots to do
+ Satisfying Harry Potter ambience
+ Good fun in places
+ Being able to pick and choose certain tasks whenever you like gives a pleasing, if limited, sense of freedom
+ Good graphics
+ Solid controls
Harry Rotter! Did you see what I did there? There's an R instead of a P!
- Gameplay for the mentally incapacitated
- No really, it's extremely dumbed down
- Very short
- Sloppy integration of story
- Poor to dire voice acting
- No music?
- Everything is basically done for you
- Repetitive at times
- Dodgy framerate in places
If you like this....
Harry Potter - GBA: Actually it's even worse than this average effort, avoid
Harry Potter - PC: I don't have this one, my friend says it's good, but they know nothing. Probably similar to this.
Harry Potter - GBC: I haven't played it much but it seems like the best of the lot and a decent RPG with the most Potterish experience on offer.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/02, Updated 01/04/02
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