Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery feels like a stripped-down version of a TellTale game like The Walking Dead. You’ll be moved from location to location, will have dialogue trees that allow you to make friends or enemies, and you’ll also be stuck in class, wishing you could unleash your wand.
You can visit the common rooms of the various houses, all recreated with loving detail. It gives Potter fans a sense of identity, and a look at locales they’ve never seen before in the movies, like the Hufflepuff common room, which looks delightful.
Warner Bros./Jam City
In an interview with EW, Jam City senior narrative designer Matt London explained how the game mirrors the books:
“In each book, Harry has smaller problems he has to solve and then there’s the greater arc as well,” London says. “We’re doing something very similar here, where as the game opens everyone at Hogwarts is buzzing about these mysterious rooms that have appeared in different areas of Hogwarts. What’s inside of them? We don’t know, we can’t find out. They’re sealed with powerful curses that threaten everyone who’s inside of Hogwarts. Then your own personal journey is your brother knew these rooms existed and was investigating them himself, but then got expelled and vanished under mysterious circumstances. So not only do you have to pick up his search and find these vaults, but unravel what happened to him at the same time.”
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The game does a good job of putting you into the world with a relatively interesting story (for a mobile game) to push you along, but that doesn’t change the fact that most of the gameplay is just tapping away mindlessly at the screen. As you shuffle from class to class and learn about potions or spellcasting, you’ll be wrapped up in a mystery that truly does mean something for the average Potter fan, but ultimately, there’s just more tapping away, and it gets dull. It would almost be better as a non-interactive cartoon perhaps, but that seems less monetizable.
Yes, when you run out of “energy” (that can be earned through finishing certain actions around school), you can always buy more. And you’re likely to run out of energy, because this is a mobile game, and like Animal Crossing before it, the game is absolutely meant to make money. It’s the latest in a long line of titles that I wish would just charge a premium rather than make the pacing and gameplay awkward because monetization was shoe-horned in.
WARNER BROS./JAM CITY
So it’s certainly not a Triple-A experience that will give you non-stop, deep and meaningful entertainment, but for a game that can be played in bed with pleasant music and clean graphics in the Potterverse, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is definitely worth the hard drive space on your phone.
Even if you don’t give in to the Slytherin-esque microtransactions, you can still have an enjoyable time walking around Hogwarts in the first proper Harry Potter game in years.