Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Retro Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone


Yes the Sorcerers stone, I really don’t give a fuck okay?

I feel a bit of context is relevant here as I despise it when reviewers don’t reveal anything about a hugely personal relationship they happen to have with the game, so I’ll tell you that as a kid this used to be one of my favourite games, what this means is that I enjoy it thoroughly without trying because around every corner and with every sound effect is a bounce of joyful nostalgia. However this game is interesting in the way that it fits the lore, setting and storyline into a video game package, so I’m going to try to review it in an unbiased way with an honest look at how it plays.

The first thing you should know about this playstation adaption is that you should not play it for the story, this ain’t Final Fantasy, and just because it’s adapted from one of the greatest stories of modern times doesn’t mean that it makes any effort to live up to it. In fact the game basically assumes you know the original plot (I mean if you don’t and this is the way you choose to approach the franchise that’s a little sad isn’t it? Even if you’re ten years old I don’t care, get a life and buy the book) and doesn’t make barely any effort to get you emerged into the world, it just hopes you already are and that little nods to the outline of the book is enough for you to be able to appreciate the gameplay in the context of the story.

Hp1           hp4

The character models actually look pretty good for the time, although why they chose to grant Hermione light hair I’ll never know. But you’ll recognize everyone, and the voice acting is very good considering the circumstance, it looks like they couldn’t hire the original actors but most of them are so convincing that you won’t care, the best thing about it is that they have used actual child voice actors for all of the students including the main characters, adults voicing children isn’t uncommon but when it’s genuinely they kids recording themselves there is a real authenticity to the whimsical nature of their voices that grown-ups just can’t emulate, so I really appreciated that.

The game lets you roam around Hogwarts of your own free will, you are always being directed to go somewhere in particular, and until the very end there will be a ton of locked doors around the school which quickly breaks the illusion of free-roaming, but there are always secrets hidden behind bookcases and in secret doors anyway so you’ll never really feel like you’re being tricked into a linear experience. Some of these secrets are simple collectables and some are mini-games, the mini-games are very short but surprisingly fun, they mostly just involve running around collecting things whilst avoiding being hit by flying balls and stuff like that, but it’s a nice little distraction for a while and gives you some cool rewards. Collectibles are well done too, you can find ‘Wizard Cards’ which are sort of like trading cards that have a picture and a description of a historical wizard on it, the descriptions are usually very short but it’s actually a very nice way to incorporate wider lore in a way that doesn’t feel pushy. There are also collectible beans which you can trade to Fred and George for a password to get a special item, of which there are four in the game, these four unlockables are actually extremely exciting and useful so I’ll leave you to go find them out!

hp3         hp2

One thing I really didn’t appreciate was the fake house points, throughout the game you are awarded house points mostly for optional activities, you feel really proud and you think you’re doing a good job in the game, but in the end it turns out that no matter how many you score you automatically win anyway! It just feels so cheap, they could have made it feel like a real competition between the houses, and I guess they did, but it turned out to be a lie.

The general gameplay is very simple, you run and jump (the game automatically jumps for you) to different areas, basic platforming and basic combat to follow through, the combat consists almost entirely of simply casting ‘Flipendo’ at any enemy enough times before it kills you. I suppose the real aspect that kept me gripped was the exploration, there was always something you were searching for and always side-things that I felt clever for pursuing, but other than that the gameplay simply varies a huge amount all the time which is really fun. Going to class to learn spells was always great and casting them can result in some interesting puzzles, often you’ll have completely unique scenarios like when you have to lull Fluffy to sleep or trick the chess pieces into killing each other. This stuff isn’t exactly hard but it’s not easy either, you will feel challenged commonly just because the gameplay has so many elements to it but it never lasts too long, it simply isn’t a game that is going to be any problem at all to beat.

It’s not that long either, I one hundred percented in a single day, although I remember as a kid that shit took me a week.

hp5          hp6

It has it’s fair share of negatives, one thing I found extremely irritating throughout the experience was that the SFX was completely lazy, Harry made the exact same noises every single time he did the actions. Every time he jumped and landed it was the exact same loud grunt, and I was just damn sick of it. Another thing is that although most of the ‘Mini-games’ are a lot of fun, every so often you get one that is just far too arbitrary to be enjoyable, I remember randomly being took to Diagon Alley by Hagrid in the middle of the story so that I could pluck a peacock feather at the pet shop to use for a potion that would make Norbert the dragon feel better because he was sick. It’s just… that didn’t happen in the book and that was just a waste of my time, and that mini-game was so badly put together, often it feels like it’s just trying desperately to drag you out of the snore-fest that is the regular run and jump gameplay.

Having said that you will genuinely enjoy Quidditch and even broomstick training, I even found racing Peeves around the attic to be a lot of fun, the best parts of this game are just the very simple concepts that are nice to indulge in.


Although the general gameplay is dull and the paraphrasing of the classic story is unsatisfying, the exploration and variety of distractions including genuinely engrossing mini-games is enough to make the entire game something I don’t regret playing. It’s a short experience but in a way it doesn’t feel it, after playing I really feel like I have done a lot. If you’re looking for a short game that isn’t going to be a challenge, but isn’t going to bore you, I would definitely recommend Harry Potter for Playstation 1. Just don’t question Hermione’s hair.


Chalgyr Vokel said...

I remember this game. My family has been pretty big into Harry Potter since it came out. I didn't spent much time with this one, but my oldest kid did. She enjoyed it at the time - I'm pretty sure I still have it floating around someplace.

Josef Burn said...

It's definitely a great game for kids, but I think it's also good just for a casual gamer to fill in an afternoon. I'm often in the mood for something retro and lite. Thanks for the comment Chalgyr! :)