Review by EdeaHighwind

"This could have been a good game, but they just didn't care"

The title of today's review is They Just Didn't Care. To me, the worst part about this game is that it could have been good. There are little sparkly patches of goodness that show what a decent Harry Potter platformer would be like; sadly, this is not a decent Harry Potter platformer. It's barely a decent game...and only as a rental. Waving forty bucks in front of this monster is useless, as your money, in a final act of sacrifice, will simply burst into flames.

Example 1: Graphics (1/10)
Deliver us from 1995! This looks like a launch title. The environments are simple (forests = walls with leafy textures), the characters look like Lego people, and the lines are so jagged that it's sometimes hard to tell where you are. Clipping errors abound, making the ugly graphics even uglier, and the cutscenes are swimmy. Yet, considering the total lack of graphical flair, the slowdown is amazing. The game has particular trouble showing Harry, a peacock, and some crates from a top-down view. It also has major problems with Quidditch. Fortunately, it's nearly impossible to lose at Quidditch. In any case, I never did, and I don't care to play again to see if I can. Which brings me to....

Example 2: Gameplay (5/10)
Actually, the gameplay isn't horrible. It's kind of a knockoff Zelda 64 style, the difference being that Zelda is fun. This game, on the other hand, oscillates wildly between mind-numbingly simple tasks (make puffskeins eat stuff) to sadistically difficult ones (the Gringotts bank vault mini-''games''). The camera angles are often not ideal, and you can only sometimes change them. For that matter, you can only sometimes target enemies, which is extremely irritating when taken in combination with the brilliant camera angles.

They did do a good job approximating wand swishes with the button pad, but the collision detection here - as in the rest of the game - is laughable, so casting more complicated spells is half dumb luck. The Quidditch controls are opposite every other flying game in existence (pushing down on the control pad makes you go down, and up makes you go up), but you do have the option to change them. In any case, the controls don't render the game unplayable...just unfun. So 5 of 10.

Example 3: Story (1/10)
Ow, it hurts. Clearly, whoever cobbled together this ''plot'' assumed that everyone playing the game had seen the movie or read the book. Which is why it's so puzzling that only certain elements have been retained. Key scenes are shown, but they're strung together by fetch quest after random fetch quest, none of which has anything to do with the Stone. For some reason, Hagrid seems to want you dead, so he sends you to 1) collect some seeds from a plant that grows in the middle of a lava river, and 2) go through hell to collect ingredients for a potion to help baby Norbert while he drinks Butterbeer in a pub. What? Then again, why pick on Hagrid, when none of the characters behaves remotely like themselves, or like actual people at all - except when they're replaying scenes from the movie?

As if that weren't bad enough, there is no sense whatsoever of accomplishing anything - no levels to be gained, no bosses to beat, no upgrades to be had except the four items that Fred & George Weasly let you have in exchange for Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. What kept me playing was the only point of intrigue in the whole game: would they screw up and make Snape the villain? Not to ruin the surprise, but he's just suspicious for a minute, then disappears completely. The real villain is the same as in the book/movie, which is fine except that in the game, he doesn't appear until the very end (unless you count the three minutes class time in which he teaches you a spell). Anyone who hasn't seen the movie or read the book will be utterly lost. Those who have will be merely confused.

Counterexample: Sound (8/10)
Well, okay, the sound isn't spectacular. The music is fine, but you can't hear it. The sound effects are also fine. What really stands out is the voice acting. By video game standards, it's superb. The voice acting here is better than Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Persona 2, and the entire Resident Evil series - and, by all other standards, each of those games is worth 50 of this one.

Summary: They Just Didn't Care (4/10)
Three of those four points are for the voice acting. The other is for the fact that the game isn't totally unplayable. If you're a Harry Potter fanatic and starting to get jittery from withdrawal, give this game a rent and finish in less than 10 hours. Spend the next ten hours basking in the glow of realization that you didn't buy it. If you're not a Potter fan, don't even bother renting it. In fact, you might want to take a vial of holy water with you to Blockbuster just in case....


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/02, Updated 01/10/02


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