Summary Harry Potter discovers he's a wizard, and is about to attend his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Help him complete lessons, fight bullies, collect objects, learn spells, and face a dark foe.
Description Type: Adventure
Platform: Playstation 1, Playstation 2, PC, Xbox, Mac, Gameboy, GameCube
Players: 1 player
Game Time: 20 hrs
Developer or Designer: Argonaut
Lots of collectables
Earn house points
Doesn't follow exact storyline
Starts halfway through plot
Can't re-do challenges
With seven books and eight movies, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has a wealth of material to draw on for video games. Over the years each episode in the saga has evolved to suit different consoles and has improved in terms of gameplay and graphics.
Starting at the beginning, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 2001 for a number of platforms, including the PlayStation One, PC, and Gameboy, all of which had very different gameplay. The version I have is for the PS1, and the graphics do not reveal its age. Unfortunately this is not a good thing because it looks like it was made about a decade earlier. The characters have been created using face scans of the actors, which were copied and pasted onto 3D models. This makes them look flat, squashed up, and pixelated.
The environment, on the other hand, is pretty decent, although anything used as a boundary line, such as trees, still looks flat. Saying that, Hogwarts grounds is impressive in terms of how much you get to explore. It may not be as immersive as the later games, where you can freely roam the entire castle, but for its time, EA made a good recreation.
Some areas only open up once you have progressed a certain way through the game, while others become blocked after completing a task. In some instances this rigidly linear format can be annoying, particularly when it comes to collecting items. There are many fun collectibles to find throughout the game, including wizard cards and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Beans have two functions. The main reason for collecting Every Flavour Beans is so you can give them to Fred and George, who will exchange them for portrait passwords that give you access to new areas.
The second reason is simply for 100% of the game. The problem is if you miss one during a level, you can’t replay that section to obtain them. A prime example is during lessons. Before each lesson you are put on a timer to get to the classroom on time. To do this you must complete a magical obstacle course. Along the way there will be beans, but you might not collect them all in order to get to the finish line in time. Unfortunately once that class is over, you can’t repeat the course, and that bean is lost forever, making 100% impossible.
The Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone video game may be linear, but it is not fully comprehensive, and takes several liberties with the storyline. The game begins with a storybook introduction, with Stephen Fry narrating how Harry arrived at the Dursley’s, discovered he was a Wizard, and arrived at Hogwarts for his first day of school. I would have loved to have played levels where you have to catch Harry’s letter, practice wand waving at Olivander’s, ride the Hogwarts Express, and get sorted into Gryffindor, but all this is skipped. Consequently, Harry is introduced to all the characters in very different ways from the book. You first meet Draco after he steals Harry's owl, Hedwig, who you have to rescue, and you don’t meet Hermione until after your first flying lesson.
Flying is the most enjoyable part of the game, and the one area you can revisit multiple times. After your first lesson, you can then attend quiddich practice and take part in matches against the other three teams. To play quiddich you have to fly through rings created by the snitch, and then catch the snitch by pressing X at the right moment. Other fun flying tasks include chasing Draco on a broomstick.
You encounter Draco on several occasions as a kind of ‘mini-boss’ level, in which you have to defeat him three times. Each time it becomes more difficult because he calls for back from his henchmen, Crabbe and Goyle.
More challenging are the obstacles Voldermort puts in you way. He often is seen lurking in the shadows, casting some kind of spell to stop Harry, such as bringing gargoyles to life.
Other missions not in the books include rescuing a kitten that’s fallen down a well, and finding fire eggs for Hagrid in the forest.
Every task has the potential to earn you house points, which are counted at various intervals throughout the game. What I like is that even upon finishing the game, there is no guarantee Gryffindor will win the house cup. It all depends how well you do on tasks. For example, getting to class early will get you more points than simply getting there on time, and flying through all the rings in the time limit gets you more points than simply meeting the quota.
When Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first released, it received mixed reviews. While the general audience loved it, the critics were not so easily pleased. And I understand why. As an eleven-year old Harry Potter fan, I lapped this game up when it came out. I had just seen the movie, and was entranced by the idea that I could go to Hogwarts, take magic lessons, and be Harry Potter. I also found the levels reasonably challenging to keep myself occupied. Thirteen years on, I look at it with a more objective point of view and can see all the places the game could have been improved upon. Saying that, I still consider Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone a good game. Not a great one, but a good one. It may not take you long to complete, and you may not wish to replay it, but you will definitely be entertained the first time round.