reviews\ Jun 28, 2004 at 8:00 pm

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - PC - Review

With five out of seven planned books written and selling like hotcakes, three films destroying box office records, and a ton of toys and other merchandising, there seems to be no stopping the pop culture behemoth that is Harry Potter. Now, with the release of the film based on the third book in the series, the PC game version of the Prisoner of Azkaban is hitting store shelves. Unfortunately, the PC game doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the Harry Potter empire, offering little in the way of gameplay or any real challenge. In fact, most players will be able to complete the game in one night. Very short and simple, the Prisoner of Azkaban won’t hold your attention for very long.

As I’m sure everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past few years knows, the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series, taking Harry and his crew through their third year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sirius Black, a prisoner from the wizard prison Azkaban (and one who has been implemented in the deaths of Harry’s parents) has escaped and is rumored to be heading straight to Harry. On his tail are the frightening Dementors, the guards of Azkaban whose presence has some pretty troublesome effects on Harry himself. Controlling Harry, Ron and Hermione, you must uncover the mystery of Sirius Black’s escape and the presence of the Dementors, as well as discover some secrets concerning Harry’s parents and their deaths.

The gameplay in the Prisoner of Azkaban is pretty simplistic. You control your character casting spells that react against enemies and the environment, allowing you to break locks, push enemies, pull yourself to unreachable heights, and a variety of other activities. The game will automatically select the spell that is most appropriate to the situation. It also will automatically switch between the three main characters when necessary. The simplicity of the gameplay is good for younger fans of the Harry Potter franchise, as the game is extremely easy to pick up and play.

However, in this lies the fundamental fallacy of the Prisoner of Azkaban; the game is just too darn easy. The game simply does not present enough of a challenge, even for young inexperienced gamers. The puzzles are extremely simple and require little to no thought, and the game is very short. The whole game basically feels like a tutorial, holding your hand throughout the entire journey. Given this, there really is no incentive for someone to replay the game once they’ve finished it, even though you can go through and collect all of the extras (since you don’t really get any kind of special reward for doing this, then you probably won’t feel the need to).

The graphics are an improvement over its predecessors, and look very good on the PC. The game features dynamic lighting effects and much improved character models. The environments look great, too, with great textures and impressive effects.

The sound presentation is also very good. The voice acting is well done (although not by the film actors), and the music is very atmospheric and represents the story’s theme very well.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban does a good job of retaining the atmosphere from both the film and the book from which it’s based. However, the overly simplistic gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Harry Potter completists should want to check this out, but everyone else will do just fine without it.


Gameplay: 5.0
The gameplay is extremely simplistic, and the game’s tutorial-like presentation will undoubtedly annoy seasoned gamers. Everything is pretty much done for you, eliminating all challenge.

Graphics: 8.5
The graphics are a noticeable improvement over the first two games in the series, with cool features like dynamic lighting and great looking character models and animation.

Sound: 8.5
The music is very dark and moody, in line with the film and book. The voice effects are very well done and the actors sound a lot like their movie counterparts. All in all, a very solid sound presentation.

Difficulty: Easy

Concept: 8.0
The game does a fine job of capturing the look and feel of the film. However, the gameplay leaves much to be desired.

Overall: 6.5
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban presents an improved aesthetic for the series, with great looking characters and environments. However, the gameplay is too simplistic for even the most inexperienced gamer. Only hardcore Potter fans need.

Above Average

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