reviews\ Nov 23, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - PC - Review

The wand comes up, blue sparklers flying from its tip. The target comes into view and with a simple utterance of “flippendo,” the fire crab is effortlessly knocked into the waiting pit. The trap door swings back up into place and the boy wizard continues his quest.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, a PC release from EA Games and Know Wonder, is fraught with necessary cutscenes that move the linear game along the tracks. Of course Harry can either unravel the puzzles that lie ahead, or he can fail – which means he passes out and revives at the last save point. The game is certainly charming, and it looks good. However this is a game that is clearly for younger players or fans of J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Veteran game players will scoot through this land in no time, finding the challenges easily overcome.

For those who may not know the storyline, Harry is returning for his second year at Hogwarts, the private school for wizards and witches. He is managing to dodge a few mishaps, learn some lessons when he begins hearing a strange voice that no one else can hear. Then Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat, is found petrified and hanging from her tail from a torch. An ominous message proclaims, “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.”

Draco Malfoy, Harry’s enemy at Hogwarts, takes up the cry and adds, “you’ll be next, Mudbloods!” (Mudbloods are those wizards or witches whose parents are Muggles or non-magical people.)

Professor Binns, the teacher of the History of Magic, is gently prodded into giving some background into the matter. Hogwarts was established more than a thousand years ago by four of the greatest witches and wizards – Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin. The latter wanted to be selective about the kind of students admitted to Hogwarts, which caused a falling out of the quartet. Unbeknownst to the others, Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in the school, and place something horrific inside before sealing it. The legend states that the chamber would remain so until Slytherin’s true heir arrived to unseal it, release the horror within, which would purge the school.

Guess who has to unlock the mystery and save the day? Therein lies the key to the game. Harry must weave his way through classes, learning spells, then unlock the secret of the chamber and combat what lies within.

Along the way he will collect Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, which are used as a trading system to purchase items. He can also take part in Quidditch matches (this is not a wide-open affair, but it does look good and is fun), and earn points for his school house.

The game’s magic system is quite elementary. Harry lifts his wand (a left-click on the mouse) and then targets the object he can interact with (which can include beasts, chests, gargoyles, et cetera) and the appropriate spell is cast. Nothing could be easier.

The games controls very simple to use, and should take little time to learn.

Graphically this is a wonderful game. The environments are lush and colorful, the animation is very clean and lifelike and the special effects are also very well done. The game does include arcade-like power-ups, with floating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Wizard cards and an assortment of other objects that Harry must walk through in order to collect and use as the game progresses.

One problem did occur upon exiting the initial game session. The settings apparently crashed the video card and left one-inch icons on a greatly diminished screen view. The video card drivers had to be removed and the system restarted in order to restore the preferences. It is not known whether this was something caused by the game, or just a system error.

The audio elements also had a few minor problems. While the voice acting is very good, some of the narration had a stutter in it. Other systems may not experience the same effect, but the host system did, thus it is mentioned. (The Audigy Gamer sound card was purchased within the last six months, and no driver upgrade is available as of yet.)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is an elementary adventure RPG with arcade elements that is overloaded with necessary cutscenes and information. As such, it is doubtful that this is the type of game that will appeal to the serious gamer. Young players and fans of the series will likely find this an entertaining romp through Rowling’s fantastic world.

This game is rated for Everyone.

Gameplay: 7
While a necessary evil to advance the storyline, there are still way too many cutscenes and load times. During the initial phases of the game, actual playing time and cutscene time were almost equal. The game is also very linear in nature.

Graphics: 8.5
The animation, characters, environments and special effects are all very well done. Some scenes are repeated for the cutscene narration.

Sound: 8
The musical background and effects are nice. The movie actors were not used to voice this game and those who do provide the vocal characterizations do a very good job of almost sounding like the movie actors while giving a bit of their own style to the characters they portray.

Difficulty: Easy
This is definitely a game for younger players or fans of the series. The player interface is very simple to use and the puzzles are easily accomplished by veteran players.

Concept: 7.2
The player interface is designed so even novice players can work through it without problems. The game does follow the book and may trigger some wonderful memories of J.K. Rowling’s amazing work. The good news is that the game follows the story. Like The Fellowship of the Ring (a Vivendi Universal release) that is also somewhat limiting to the overall game play.

Overall: 7.5
This is a game that will appeal to younger players. It looks good and plays well. There may be a few stumbling blocks along the way, but Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets manages to capture the essence of the book in a manner that fans will likely enjoy. Whether roaming the halls of Hogwarts, or stepping into the options to play a Quidditch match, the game does have entertainment at its heart.


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