Live Out Your Wizarding Dreams in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery (Free) by Jam City is the hot new mobile Harry Potter RPG that many of us Potterheads have been waiting for. Even though the main Harry Potter series of books and movies is long over, there's the new Fantastic Beasts series of films coming up, but in the meantime, we still need our Potter fix. That's where Hogwarts Mystery comes in.
Throughout my middle and high school years, I was a huge Harry Potter fan. I remember waiting eagerly for each new book release, and then reading the entire thing in a day because that's all I would do. However, I never quite got through the last book, I'm honestly not sure why, and I still haven't finished it to this day. I also only saw the first part of the Deathly Hallows movie, and I'm quite proud of myself for not having the ending of the original Harry Potter series ruined for me to this day. I'll get around to it one of these days (been saying that for years). Still, I'm a big fan of the series as a whole, and get merchandise and other stuff when I can. I've been awaiting a good Harry Potter game to play on-the-go, and Hogwarts Mystery is a good contender, though I'm not big on the freemium aspect.
App Feels Like
App Feels Like
Visually, Hogwarts Mystery is pretty decent. Everything is rendered in 3D, but it's more like last-gen graphics, similar to what you'd expect from PlayStation 3. The character model renderings look alright with their aesthetics and texture details, but they're a tad more blocky than I'd like. The world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley are pretty true-to-life with the movies, and overall a nice representation of the Harry Potter world. There is quite a bit of dialogue and text to read through, as you'll be making choices, but the typefaces are easily legible. Animations are smooth and fluid, so there isn't any issue with lag or choppy frame rates on my iPhone 8 Plus. The music is whimsical (as expected) and the sound is pretty spot-on. If you're a Harry Potter fan, then this game does a good job in terms of visual and sound design.
Since Hogwarts Mystery is a role-playing game that takes place before Harry Potter attends Hogwarts, there's a standalone story to go along with the adventure. You are a young witch or wizard who's received their Hogwarts letter to attend the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry. You start out as just any other kid, then you're whisked away to Diagon Alley to get your materials for the school year, and then finally Hogwarts Castle.
Even though this is a role-playing game, it's fairly on-rails. What I mean is the fact that you're guided through a lot of the scenarios, and there's not much free-range exploration to do, as you can quickly jump to where you need to go to advance the story. As you interact with other characters, you'll be asked to make decisions that affect your character's attributes, friendships and rivalries, and the ending. You'll need to be careful about who you build relationships with, since you'll want to work together with your House to earn points for the House Cup.
Speaking of houses, I was a little disappointed with how the Sorting Hat worked here. I was expecting the Hat to ask you questions and then judge your house sorting based on the answers you provide. Instead, the Sorting Hat merely asks you what house you hope for and then you pick the one you want. That's it — the Sorting Hat throws you in to the house you picked and calls it a day. Even though I like that it gives you the freedom to choose your favorite house (Slytherin is best), I thought the process could have been more personalized and true. So I was a tad disappointed with the Sorting Hat.
As you embark on your journey as a student at Hogwarts, you'll go into scenarios that have timers attached to them. These include things like taking classes, learning spells and potions, and getting out of hairy situations. To clear these scenes, you need to earn two stars on them. Each scene features objects in the environment that you can interact with through taps, and it fills up the gauge. However, sometimes these activities require energy for each tap, which I thought was dumb and annoying. You only start out with so much energy, and if you're out, you must purchase more with the purple crystals (premium currency).
Because of this, I'm stuck in a room trapped with Devil's Snare for eight hours because I'm out of energy to perform taps and don't have enough crystals to get more. This is the first paywall and I'm surprised that it came so early on. It's rather annoying, to say the least.
I did enjoy other activities, such as learning spells and making potions. These usually consist of mini-games, like tapping the screen at the right time, or tracing out lines and shapes for spell casting.
In the beginning of the game, you're able to customize the look of your character. If you made a mistake, you can change anything at any time, but you'll also unlock more items as you progress in the game and level up from completing chapters. However, you'll need coins and purple gems to buy the "cooler" looking hairstyles, clothing, and accessories, and they're pretty pricey.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery lets anyone play out their wizarding dreams on-the-go.
Hogwarts Mystery is a decent addition for Harry Potter fans. The graphics look a tad dated, but are fine for a mobile game. Music and sound is well done, and falls in line with expectations. There's a lot of activities to do during your time at Hogwarts, and the interactions with other characters is an important part of the game. The mini-games are not too difficult, and being able to cast spells and partake in duels is what every Potter fan has dreamed of for years.
While I want to like Hogwarts Mystery, there are some aspects of it that leave a sour taste in my mouth. For one, the energy system and timers are pretty dumb. I get that it's a free game, but really, a tap costs one energy in certain situations? It's the fastest energy burning time sink I've seen so far, and having to wait to complete a scenario is just annoying. Plus, you can't leave until it's done, so you're stuck waiting around. Another thing that bothered me a bit was how expensive the character customization can be. It's more like nickel-and-diming you for every little thing. Plus, I'm a bit disappointed that I can't just freely roam and explore Hogwarts to my heart's content.
As a big Harry Potter fan, I'm still enjoying the fact that Hogwarts Mystery lets me live out my Hogwarts dreams. The visuals are okay, and the sound is great. The on-rails experience means you aren't going to get lost or confused, and always know where to go or what to do next. I like the mini-games for casting spells, making potions, and dueling since they have intuitive controls. Tough choices are going to be made, and I like that it affects the dynamic storyline. I just wish that the timers and energy system weren't the way they are, and that customization options were a bit cheaper.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is available on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for free. There are in-app purchases.