Review by cjpidgeon9
Disappointing for a game with so much potential...
Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is the next generation version of the PS1 game. It is based on the book By J.K Rowling, and also on the movie, released in 2001.
Game-Play: 4/10 - The game-play here is extremely similar to that on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The environments are practically the same, and you do pretty much the same tasks. The game is set out in days and nights - a sort of level system. Each day, you attend classes to acquire spells for use in the game by going through spell challenges. This is pretty pointless, as the game never really lets you use the spells in any situation other than in these classes. These become boring and repetitive.
The game is set out in a non-linear way, meaning the player can go pretty much anywhere. Secrets are scattered around Hogwarts, and you can collect famous witches and wizards cards to boost your health. However, you are discouraged from exploring by Ron and Hermione, who, at the end of each day, say how there's nothing more to do, and its time to go to bed. As this is a 3+ game, a younger audience may not know what they can do, and follow the characters advice, ending the day, and missing out on opportunities that could expand their gaming experience.
The controls are OK, so long as you don't expect too much from them. I found myself in a few boss fights where I would tap a button only for nothing to happen, meaning I lost a lot of health. The targeting system is also pretty annoying - you press L1, only to find yourself aiming at something far away from you, rather than what is right in front of you. The games camera doesn't help either - is often gets stuck, meaning you can't see anything.
Other problems include the sneak missions - these appear when you complete each day, and you encounter one during a night mission. The basic idea is that you sneak past prefects to get a prize, or to get to another room. While an original idea, unlike in the Chamber of Secrets video game, the prefects hear almost everything, and if you're wearing an invisibility cloak, it does not hinder them in the slightest. In fact, the prefects seem to see you even with the cloak on, unless you are against a wall. These areas are frustrating, and may lead you to give up after the 30th attempt.
Story: 4/10 - The game is loosely based on the story by J.K Rowling. However, this game (like many of the others in the Harry Potter video game series) expects you to have read the book or to have seen the film. If you have not done either, you may be lost from the moment the game starts. You get the gist of it, but there is a serious lack of detail when it comes to major events.
Most of the story happens in the night missions - as said earlier, during the day, you are running around doing classes etc. The story is not explored in much detail, however, and only a few events from the book are relived in the video game. Most of the story is conveyed by passing comments by the characters (like I said, if you haven;t read the book or seen the film, you will probably lose the thread a bit).
The characters lines are almost always direct quotes from the books or movie - often, these are dis-jointed. Characters will often say a line from the movie, then a line from the book, jumping from one point to another without any explanation.
Graphics/Sound: 7/10 - This is where the game shines most. As I have already stated, the game uses the same environments as the Chamber of Secrets game, however the game designers have added new areas, and improved upon those that were already there. Many would remember that the halls were often abandoned, with nobody around. Students have now been scattered all over Hogwarts, with many in the grounds, corridors, and other areas. They will often have something to say - even if it is the same line a few times over.
The character models for Harry, Ron and Hermione are detailed and clear. The characters seem much more lifelike than those in other games, as they have facial expressions (even if they are over the top) and good voice acting as well. The same can be said for most other characters in the game - however, voice acting is an issue with most characters.
There seems to be two voice actors for the students, and one for the female teachers (they all have a Scottish accent). Snape, Dumbledore, Quirrell and Hagrid all sound different though, and even though many sound the same, the voice acting throughout the game is good and realistic.
The game graphics are good - environments are crisp and clear, with a lot of detail going into some areas. However, some areas are very dark, and even the Lumos spell failed to illuminate the area properly.
The game uses Jeremy Soule's award-winning score from the Chamber of Secrets, as well as from the original Philosophers Stone game. The music is very appropriate when played, and unlike previous games, it cuts off when it starts to get repetitive.
There are several glitches though - I often found myself running of the spot, or seeing outside of the playing environment. In several cases, I could repeat these glitches, but none of them froze my game.
Play Time/Replay Ability 2/10 - The play time for this game is about 10-15 hours. It is a long, arduous journey from one end of the time line to the other, and there is absolutely no point in replaying the game after you have it 100% complete (or should I say 88%? Even after doing everything, the game menu will only display 88% complete). When replaying, no new areas are unlocked, there are no new spells or bonuses, you just play exactly the same thing again. Nothing is to be gained from replaying this game, except a reminder of the past.
Rent or Buy? - To be honest, I can't really recommend either way on this. If you are expecting an interesting gaming experience with lots of variety and challenges, I recommend renting, as you can probably complete it in a night. However, if you are a Harry Potter fan, and absolutely have to have the game, you can buy it, and take your time going through it.
Overall, this game had good potential, however it was let down by its lack of variety, and many other factors.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (EU, 12/12/03)
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