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
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
This game is rated for Everyone.
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.
The animation, characters, environments
and special effects are all very well done. Some scenes are repeated for the
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.
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.
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
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.