Review by Darkside721

"Harry Potter fails in his first term at Hogwarts. . ."

My Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. . .

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is an action/adventure game w/ some platforming elements. It was developed by Argonaut and published by Electronic Arts in 2001. It is the first game in the Harry Potter game series, and is based on the 1st Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling (also titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and the movie (which holds the same title as the game and book).

Graphics
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was made in 2001, however, many games made during that time, as well as before it, have much, much better graphics than anything Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone seems to be even capable of dreaming of. First of all, there is no CG cinema. Argonaut decided on having the story progress through means of a picture book (the gamer is presented w/ the turning pages of a story book, no doubt trying to tie in w/ its book origins). When you are not presented w/ the turning pages of the dreaded book, then you are presented w/ animations and scenes done w/ the real-time engine (which is really bad, and I’ll tell you why next). So, there are no spectacular CG scenes to watch. . .but what about the graphics in the game? One word may describe the in-game graphics: outdated. Much of what is done in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone appears to have been done years before it. The backdrops for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone are horribly done. For the most part they are pretty much bland textures pasted in the background. However, I did notice (while I was in the air in the Quiddich arena) that the ‘forest’ surrounding the Quiddich arena was solid green!!! They didn’t even bother to use a forest texture for the background there!!! However, I cannot complain about the storm that I also saw raging the background of that very same area (I found the storm quite cool to look at; yea, I’m a dork). The environments in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone seem to just have been pasted on there. There is no real depth to your surroundings, which becomes sorely noticeable in areas such as the forest where you would expect for trees and leaves to pop out at you. . .but they don’t. The environments were a total disappointment. . .well, except for in Gringotts bank. I liked the Gringotts bank environment (so they were almost a total disappointment). Anyways, on to the characters. . .horrible. Harry Potter was one of the best looking ones. . .and he only looked like an average character in a 1999 PSX game!!! It seems that the designers paid more attention to your enemies then to the other character ‘allies’ in the game. The character ‘allies’ were horrible from Ron w/ his wobbly head and non-existent neck to the ghosts and their blockiness to Hagrid and his just plain horrible ugliness. However, I found the knights (an enemy) to look okay. So, to sum it up, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has outdated graphics w/ no CG cinemas (or any real movies for that matter) to refresh you from the ugliness of the game.
Total Graphics Rating: 3/10 (bad)

Sound
Music
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s music was. . .absent for the most part. During the majority of your travels your ears will be presented with musical silence. When the music is present, it is entirely too soft and you will have to strain to hear it (or just turn the TV volume up. . .whichever). Like Tomb Raider, the gamer will be presented w/ music at certain important occasions. . .but the combination of the softness of the music as well as the overall unpleasant quality of the music will leave you wondering why they even included any music at all!!! At other times, when the music is present (and you are straining to hear it) you will find that the music is nothing special. In fact, you might as well turn on your fav CD b/c chances are, you will not like the music and, add to that the fact that you have to consciously pay attention to it to notice that it is there, and you will find yourself wondering what the developers were thinking. However, not all is lost. I found the 30 sec musical piece whenever you won the prize from the password paintings to be wonderful. I also liked the title song alright. . .unfortunately that is not enough. So, I give Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a 3/10 (bad) for music.
Sound FX
Ahhh. . .I would have to say that this is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s best category. It is not that the game sound FX are anything real special. . .they are all average and will not thrill you at all. However, I found the voiceovers to be right on. Many people complain about the voiceovers being ‘cheesy British’ accents. . .but that is what Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is all about (just watch the movie if you don’t believe me). I was honestly impressed and enthralled by almost all of the character’s voices (Hagrid’s in particular). There were some ‘iffy’ voices in there (such as Professor Quirrell’s. . .who’s voice was quite annoying), but that is okay as the other great voices more then made up for them. Also, some people complained about hearing Harry say the spell’s name every time he had to cast it. . .but that is how it is done in the book, so (in order to properly follow the novel) it is really necessary for him to. Overall, I give Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a 7.5/10 (good) for sound FX.
Total Sound Rating: 5/10 (mediocre)

Storyline
Noooo!!! Easily the worst part of the game (and that is saying something). It is hard to imagine how they could take a great storyline (from the book and movie) and totally mess it up. For those of you that have seen the movie or read the book (or both) you will be able to follow the story. . .but you will also wonder why they messed it up so badly. For those of you who haven’t had anything to do w/ Harry Potter before the game. . .you probably won’t have a good grasp of what is going on. One of the reasons why the story is so horrendous is the lack of character development. You never really get attached to Harry or any of the other characters. You also never really get to dislike any of the antagonists (such as Draco and Snape). Not only that, but you never really see the relationship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron develop. You are simply introduced to those characters, and afterward they guide you along or provide you w/ information. . .but never do you really get the sense of a strong relationship between them. Another reason why the story is so bad is the amazing amount of content that they left out. Most of the important events are in the game. . .but they are usually either altered, shortened, or just plain misrepresented. Smaller events are just plain left out for the most part. Overall, I was totally disappointed in the storyline. Having read the book and seen the movie, I knew what was going on (I’m not sure that anyone who has not read the book or seen the movie could clearly understand what was happening), but they also made me realize how much Argonaut totally butchered the Harry Potter storyline.
Total Storyline Rating: 1.5/10 (abysmal)

Gameplay
Controls
Hmmm. . .I will start w/ the Quiddich controls. Many, many people complain about the horrible Quiddich controls. I will tell you that they are not that bad. The default controls are not good at all (with up meaning up and down meaning down). . .but what many of those people don’t realize is that you can change the controls to the reverse setting (up means down and down means up). . .those controls are not that bad at all. I just found them a little too sensitive. . .but other then that I thought they were fine. Now for the regular game controls. . .not good. Harry himself seemed to be quite responsive when it came to running around. . .but when you got to a targeting situation or a jumping situation. . .that is where it all falls apart. First the jumping. . .in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Harry automatically jumps. . .much like the Zelda system on the N64. However, this Zelda jumping system was done to take the focus away from platforming and put more focus on the action. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, however, seems to focus on platforming in several parts of the game. Frankly, the auto jump system does not work in this game and great decreases the enjoyment value that it has. Not only does it take jumping out of your hands for the most part. . .but sometimes the jumping is quite shaky and unresponsive, causing you to fall into a pit or into bubbling lava or whatnot. Now the targeting, basically the targeting is shaky. It isn’t too bad w/ only one enemy on the screen, but when there were several enemies on the screen, I found the targeting frustrating as I tried to make it lock-on to the certain enemy that I wanted to fire at. Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone gets a 4.5/10 (poor) for controls.
Challenge
I felt as if the challenge was totally unbalanced. I am not a younger gamer. . .I am actually quite experienced. Seeing as how this game was intended for a younger audience I was not surprised for the lack in difficulty (actually for most of the game I feel as if a younger gamer will have no problems w/ it). For most of the game I found myself running through everything w/ relative ease. In fact, everything was so easy that I was actually quite bored w/ playing the game. The puzzles were easy, the enemies were easy, the game was easy. That was until I hit Gringotts Bank. There was the most enjoyable and fustrating part of the game. Until then I could have done everything half asleep. However, when trying to collect coins (and jewels if you are trying for the Wizard’s Cards) I found it both challenging and enjoyable. This was a complete turnaround from the rest of the game. In this section, I feel as if an experienced gamer would actually have to make several runs through the mines in order to collect everything (I am especially referring to the hidden jewels). This was totally out of the box for everything that came before and after this part. So, for the unbalanced challenge in the game I give Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a 4/10 (poor) for challenge.
Play Time
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an extremely short game. On my first run through I spent about 6 hrs. completing it and collecting everything. On my second run I was down to 4 hrs. If the numbers don’t speak for themselves, then I don’t know what will. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone gets a 3.5/10 (bad) for play time.
Hogwarts/Lvl Design
Hogwarts is supposed to be a magical castle where anything and everything can happen. There are supposed to be several hidden passageways and secrets to be found. The corridors and painting are supposed to be alive and are supposed to change quite often. The Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. . .fails to illustrate the magical world of Hogwarts. . .instead the game just seems to address it. There is no changing of passageways or paintings. . .but that is understandable as if they included this, the gamer may get easily lost. There are some odd happenings in the castle (such as animated suits of armor and floating objects), they just seem to be cosmetic. . .not actually awe inspiring. There are hidden areas in the game and passwords to be found out to access some of these areas. But they don’t really seem to be ‘magical’. . .rather they were just put there to reward the gamer for finding them out (such as secret areas in Doom and other games). Also, there were not nearly as many hidden areas as one would expect from Hogwarts. I feel as if the platforming sections in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone should have been redone or taken out. The control scheme just really takes the fun and sense out of any platforming sections in the game. There is also no real sense of freedom. Gamers will find themselves following a set, linear path, instead of wondering around a magically mysterious castle. The bosses in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone are just ridiculously easy and provide no real challenge for the gamer. The various mini-games are tedious (for the most part. . .there are a few that are fun). Quiddich. . .should just have been left out, they did a horrible representation of Quiddich. There is no sense of the team. You don’t have to actually search out the snitch. . .just chase it. The bludgers just seem to wonder aimlessly around. . .not actually chase you. It is just not fun. Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone gets a 3.5/10 (bad) for Hogwarts/lvl design.
Total Gameplay Rating: 3.5/10 (bad)

Fun Factor
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was not extremely fun to play. The prevalent errors in its gameplay and storyline just prevent you from ever really getting into the game. There were spots where it was kind of fun to play. . .but most of the time I found myself just going through the motions. I was just running through the game to end it and complete it and get it behind me. There is no multi-player. . .so there you will also be alone in your boredom as well.
Total Fun Factor Rating: 3/10 (bad)

Replay Value
The only reason why someone would want to play through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone again would be if they missed something. But everything is not hidden in an extremely hard place to find, so it is quite likely that you will find everything on your first run through. Once you access Quiddich in the main game, you can play in a separate, 6-match tournament. . .but seeing as how Quiddich is boring I don’t know why you would (or why I did for that matter). Overall, there is no reason to play this game more then once, as you will probably not like it and find everything on your first run through (if not then your second).
Replay Value: Extremely Low

Recommendation
I recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to nobody. I think that everyone should stay away from this game. . .as there are much better games out there. However, if you are not deterred, then I suggest that you be a young Harry Potter maniac. This way the game may not be so dreadfully easy for you. Also, you will be able to fully understand what in going on in the game.
Recommendation: Stay Away!!!

Overall
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was not a good game. It was not very fun. It has no replay value. It does not have good controls. It made Quiddich a chore. Most importantly, it butchered the original storyline. Simply put, more time should have been spent on it (it is obvious that they rushed the game as there is a room in the game which is impossible to use. . .among other glitches). One of the only good things about the game is that there are several mini-games. Unfortunately, most of these are easy and/or tedious. The voiceovers are classic though. Easily the best part about the game, the voiceovers are quite nice.
Overall Rating: 3/10 (bad)


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 02/11/03, Updated 02/11/03


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