reviews\ Aug 20, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer

The first day at a new school can be a little rough – but rough doesn’t even begin to describe the first day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a Game Boy Advance release from Electronic Arts, is a puzzle-filled romp through a school where the macabre is merely mundane.

The game simulates three-dimensional game play, with arcade-style action, and wonderfully illustrated cutscenes to propel the storyline along. This is Harry Potter’s first-year at Hogwarts, and players will be challenged to work through the year, and eventually defeat “You Know Who.”

The first tasks are rather easy, and involve maze puzzles, and a memory game. Harry meets up with Ron Weasley and it’s off to Defense Against the Dark Arts class with Professor Quirrell. There Harry learns his first spell, which has a repelling effect. To test it, he must enter a maze-like room and collect six stars. Of course there are obstacles to overcome – obstacles which require using the spell. After accomplishing that task, and earning house points for Gryffindor (for those who aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter adventures, each student at Hogwarts is assigned to one of four houses, which are like co-ed fraternities; Harry’s house is Gryffindor), Harry then meets up with Hermione Granger to attend Professor Snape’s Potions class.

Of course, Harry arrives a wee bit tardy to the class, so Snape sends the lad down into the depths of the dungeons to collect glass vials. This presents more opportunities to use the spell you (as Harry) have learned. However, don’t expect Snape to be as kind as Quirrell. He is, after all, a “foe” of the Potter lad, and will do what he can to make Harry’s life miserable. (If you want to know why – again, assuming you are not familiar with the books – then you will have to put down your GBA, and pick up the novels because most secrets will not be revealed here.)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a charming little game. There are floating books spread throughout the game boards, which allow players to save a game in progress. Harry can also collect Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (which seem to come in every flavor), Chocolate Frogs, and Pumpkin Pasties will increase stamina, folio magi and health. There are many other items to collect, hidden in barrels, jars, bookcases and other items on the playing board.

The graphics of this game are well done. The cutscenes are portrayed in single panel style, wonderfully illustrated with the text of the scene displayed below. The animation is well done, and the game emulates a three-dimensional look.

The control elements are a little more involved than some GBA games. In action mode, the D-pad highlights the option, the A button selects it, and the B button backs up to the previous screen. In general gameplay, the D-pad controls direction, the A button is for talking, the R control selects a spell, the B button casts the spell, the L control plays the flute (after it is found – those who know the book will know why you need a flute).

Want a chance to fly? You’ll get it. Again, the D-pad controls direction, the A is for accelerate, B is for dodging, and the L/R controls perform stunts. The A button also will help you catch something if you need to (can you say Quidditch?).

The sound elements of the game, though well done, are average for the format.

If you enjoyed the J.K. Rowling’s series of Potter books, then it is quite likely you will enjoy this program. It is rather delightful, with increasing challenges as you progress through the game, and wonderful graphical elements. This is a solid, enjoyable product.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
The game boards are large, and though there is a slight pause in transition from the various levels in Hogwarts, the game does flow smoothly. It also does a reasonably nice job of following the original book’s storyline (with some elements advanced for purposes of the game, but those moments don’t really detract).

Graphics: 8.8
The cutscenes are very well illustrated, the action does a nice job of emulating a three-dimensional feel, and the puzzles are well designed.

Sound: 7
Though solid, this element of the game is average for the console format.

Difficulty: 8
The controls for various facets of the game have a slight learning curve, but fans of the books will pick them up quickly.

Concept: 9
An excellent job has been done of translating this game to the Game Boy Advance format.

Overall: 8.9
Yes, it is hard to be objective about a game based on books which I have enjoyed. The game will either live up to expectations or fail miserably. In this instance, the game succeeds. However, the game must also be looked at from the perspective of one who has no knowledge of the books. Does the game succeed for a gamer who comes into it with no expectations other than looking for a solid game? Again it does, but while well above average, it is does have a few drawbacks. The initial puzzles can be too simple for a veteran game player, and the animation can be predictable. For example, in the early going, when Harry is being attacked, the monsters march in predictable patterns – which means the AI could have been tweaked up a notch or two. Still, this is an enjoyable game, and worth the time to play.  


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