Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – GBA – Review

It’s Harry Potter’s second year at Hogwarts, and it is shaping up to be an extremely dangerous and exciting time for him and his friends, Hermione and Ron. There’s an evil force loose on the school grounds, and the school staff doesn’t seem to quite know how to contain it, let alone stop it. It’s up to Harry, Ron and Hermione to discover who’s let loose the monster from the Chamber of Secrets and stop it before someone gets killed.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a faithful rendition of the second book of the Harry Potter series. Most of the important happenings from the novel are present in the same sequence as experienced in the book. Players will be able to explore Hogwarts to their hearts’ content, play Quidditch and practice broom riding, plus play some mini-games to win plenty of Bernie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Players can also collect chocolate frogs, money and wizard cards.

Play begins with a fairly long introduction to the story, ending with Harry’s arrival in Diagon Alley where he meets up with Hagrid. His first stop is Gringott’s Bank, which serves as a sort of tutorial for the rest of the game. This part of the game is actually somewhat boring, and is basically a dungeon crawl. Harry Potter will learn how to use basic spells, how to move objects and how to defend himself against various enemies. The object is to find five jewels, before he can leave the bank and get on to the much more interesting task of shopping in Diagon Alley. From here it’s off to Hogwarts, where Harry and Ron end up in trouble because of being late and being seen by the Muggles while en route in Ron’s dad’s enchanted car. While at Hogwarts, Harry can explore the school inside and out, with some rooms restricted at first, but as play progresses, these will become available.

Harry will be given many quests, which must be finished before moving on – this is an extremely linear game, despite the freedom of exploration. Most of these quests involve finding certain objects, or finding his way to a certain locality to meet up with a friend or classmate. There are lots of hazards which include enemies like fire crabs and some kind of goblins (the goblins are on the school grounds), plus dangerous knights in armor, fire hazards and many other things. At first, these hazards are easily avoidable and easily killed, but as the game advances, so does the power and number of these dangerous foes and other obstacles.

The interface is a little complicated at first, but this is necessary due to the extraordinary amount of information it conveys. Players can access how many frogs, stars, money and beans they’ve collected, count their wizard cards, see what potions and spells they have, read old owl messages, check on mission status and once the map is found, check on their location! Players can only save one game at a time, which means only one person can play at a time, which is unfortunate. Also, the save spots in the game are few and far between, which can mean a lot of territory to recover if the game has to be suspended before reaching the save point.

The gameplay for the most part is fairly smooth, but the collision detection could be better. Poor Harry expired tons of times when not even touching the hazard at all. But, besides from often having to laboriously retrace a long, winding route through numerous corridors, Harry doesn’t have to redo the mission challenges (which mostly consist of opening doors) and also gets all his health points back, so sometimes this is a good thing. Harry also only moves and casts spells diagonally, which can mean some time spent trying to line him up just right so the spells will land on their targets. Many times he’ll cast a spell just to the left, then when moved, cast it just to the right, never head on; he has to face the object sideways to score a hit.

Note that word “laborious”. It describes the feeling players will get when running through endless doors and tunnels, dodging teachers and enemies, and moving switches and pushing things to open doors. It’s really mostly a long, drawn out dungeon crawl, with occasional breaks to report back to friends and teachers, and gain another quest.

The graphics are very nice and are evocative of Hogwarts. Everything you would expect to be here is present, down to the moving portraits. The characters look exactly like they should, too. The music is adequate, but nothing to get excited about.

Fans of Harry Potter will definitely enjoy this game, mostly because of the chance to relive the books and movies. The sheer fun of wandering around Hogwarts and collecting things is a hoot! But, the actual mechanics of gameplay are really just a standard role-playing dungeon crawl, with uninteresting journeys through many, many corridors. Quidditch and other games are present to relieve the monotony some, but these don’t become available until certain objectives have been met during the course of the game. Because of the lengthy play in maze-like hallways, younger Harry Potter fans probably will not be very enthusiastic about this game (mine wasn’t), and parents will be better off getting them one of the other console versions of it, which by all reports are pretty exciting and not too difficult. Teens and older fans will enjoy this version, mostly because of the setting, localities and wizard cards.

Gameplay: 7.5
While the setting itself is fun, and the enjoyment of doing the same things Harry and his friends do is substantial, the endless corridor trekking while moving yet more blocks to open yet more doors can get tedious.

Graphics: 8.5 
Excellent visual rendition of Harry’s world!

Sound: 6.5
The music is thoroughly mundane.

Difficulty: Medium
The enemies aren’t too difficult until toward the end of the game, and Harry has endless opportunities to redo sections with restored health.

Concept: 7.5 
Transporting an entire world onto the GBA is no mean task and is implemented well.

Overall: 7.2
A decent enough game, but one that will probably appeal more to older fans of Harry Potter than anyone else. I enjoyed roaming around, but started getting tired of the dungeon crawling pretty quickly.