reviews\ Nov 22, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - XB - Review

Imagine attending an unusual looking school where instead of tackling fractions and run-on sentences, you’re learning how to cast complex magical spells or how to properly hop on a flying broomstick.  Welcome to the fantasy world of Harry Potter, the creation of best selling author J K Rowling and the subject of two blockbuster movies.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second installment, not only made it to the big screen but it also made it on the Xbox.  Does Harry have the same magical touch to make this game as memorable as the movie?  Read on, Potter fans. 


The game is not directly associated with the film, meaning you won’t be playing the movie scene by scene.  Rather, this is a game that is inspired more by the books in the same way Vivendi Universal‘s Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings was inspired by Tolkien’s books.  The story unfolds like this: an unusual creature pays Harry a visit in his bedroom with a grim warning--if he returns to Hogwarts for the second term, a great disaster will strike. Dismissing the warning, Harry returns to Hogwarts only to find the prediction is coming true and he is smack-dab in the middle of it, thus being accused of being behind the terrible events.  Determined to solve this mystery, Harry sets out to clear his name with the occasional aid of his good friends Ron and Hermione.


You take control of Harry, who has already mastered a spell or two, and set off on this quest that puts you directly into the Harry Potter universe.  Thankfully the controls are easy to manage because along the way you will be performing several different tasks as well as participating in various mini-games (but more on that later).  Harry moves around fluidly with the thumbstick with the ability to go into first-person view, dodge to the right or left or even sneak around while pressed against a wall. 


The interface is also simple and accessible since the button scheme is conveniently located on the upper right hand corner of the screen.  You can assign spells to the X, Y and B buttons while the A button will tell you if that treasure chest can be opened or that person could be spoken to.  Sounds simple, right?  It is, and thanks to the smooth frame rate, the game hardly ever slows down except when it stops to load frequently when you’re entering parts of each location.  This is hardly an annoyance, though, since the load times are pretty quick.  Really the only visible problem with the controls are the lock-on feature that doesn’t quite lock-on as neatly as it should.


Harry starts with a spell or two but can learn upper level spells along the way.  This is the beauty of the game, there is so much to see and do here and learning spells such as Flipendo (it knocks back creatures and objects) to spells that can illuminate dark areas is just one of the many things you get to do.  While the game sets you on a particular path, you can venture off and participate in the various mini-games.  You can go gnome tossing or lead your team to victory in the Quidditch Cup.  Yet the part the will have fans ecstatic is the fact that you can hop on your racing broom, the Nimbus Two Thousand and explore the massive surrounding hovering over Hogwarts.


And speaking of brilliant, the graphics in Chamber of Secrets are just one of those rare treats that so brilliantly brings all the locales and characters from both the books and the movies to life.  You’ll find yourself enthralled by the vastness of Hogwarts and its heavily detailed corridors and room (many of which have been described in the books but not seen in the films).  In fact, everything found in this game is heavily detailed including the characters themselves.  Harry moves around smoothly and looks exactly as you expect him to look without being modeled after the actor that portrayed him or the other known characters. The game also features the best lighting and special effects that will surely please all.


And if you think the graphics are a delight, wait till you hear the game’s score, sound effects and voice acting.  The score is very cinematic and it does a great job of representing the magical as well as the creepiness of the story’s theme.  The voice acting is also top-notch here.  Mixed in with some really detailed environmental noises, such as the crackling of a fire in a fireplace or the constant ticking of a grandfather clock followed by a stifled cough somewhere in the back, the sound in this game is definitely worthy of a Surround Sound system.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will not only please the fans of the books and movies but also satisfy those gamers looking for an outstanding adventure game.  With its well-crafted story, great characters and nearly perfect controls, this is a game that is just too fun to ignore.  If you’re looking for the perfect game in the Harry Potter universe, this is most definitely the game to buy. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.4
Thanks to the near perfect controls (nearly perfect because the targeting system does not accurately lock on to a moving creature even when it’s pretty close to you), you can easily perform and improve your magic spells.  This also makes things such as sneaking past characters that are looking for you or dodging the deadly limbs of the Whomping Willow.


There is just so much to do in this game and as a Hogwarts student, Harry finds himself either going to class to learn new spells or is involved in challenging game of Quidditch.  The passage of time in this game allows for different things to happen.   You can just as easily forget what it is you were suppose to do because of all these things but every task is listed in the Remembrall which you can consult by pressing the Back button.


Graphics: 8.6
The gorgeously detailed locations will not fail to impress any gamer that happens to catch a glimpse of the massive environments found in this game.  Stepping out into the crooked streets of Diagon Alley you can see the details of every shop from all the wondrous trinkets in the window display of Mister Mullpepper’s Apothecary to the mist coming from a vent in the ground.  The effect looks even better due to the perfect lighting effects that make gloomy areas look more gloomier and colorful places more colorful.


The characters are also done wonderfully during the cut scenes and during the game itself--although sometimes the faces of the more unfamiliar characters are duplicated throughout the game.  Still main characters such as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and many of the other known characters are simply remarkable.  Their movements are just as fluid as Harry’s movements.


Sound: 9.5
This game’s sound is quite possible one of the best heard in a game since Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  If you think I’m exaggerating, all you have to do is put up the volume to hear the amazingly rich score and the extremely detailed ambient sounds.  Step inside the Leaky Cauldron and you’ll hear the voices of its patrons all around you and if you listen carefully you can pick up a sneeze or a mug slamming down on a table.  Amazing!


The voice acting is also great, although you won’t find the voices of the actors that portray each character in the movie.  The dialogue is performed nicely enough and, to top things off; you can even play the game in four different languages (Spanish, French, Italian and German).


Difficulty: Medium
As an adventure game, there are plenty of puzzles to solve and many of them can be quite a challenge.  However, since the game will attract young gamers, the puzzles are not overwhelmingly difficult to figure out.  In one instance, all you have to do is use the Lumos spell to conjure up a light at the end of your wand to give you an indication where to push the wall.


Concept: 8.7
For Harry Potter fans the fun will be in exploring the same areas they read about in the books or seen in the movies and luckily The Chamber of Secrets manages to faithfully present all the elements fans are familiar with and then some.  As an adventure game, there is just so much to do such as purchase goods and items in shops familiar to the movie and book such as The Magical Menagerie.


There are also items to search for such as the Witches and Wizard cards you can collect and trade with other Hogwarts students.  Harry can use Flipendo to knock down certain items for currency or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans you can use to trade in for useful items in a certain shop.


Overall: 8.8
A well-crafted adventure game with plenty of spirit, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a highly satisfying game that will be loved by gamers of all ages.  With a great story and plenty to do, the replay value makes this a game worthy of a purchase.


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