Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets
The Problem with popularity is that everyone ends up hating you. Or, if you prefer your aphorisms slightly shorter, success breeds contempt. Just look at Man Utd. And so it is with Harry Potter. Had J K Rowling's books been confined to the kiddie's section of the library and the praise for them kept in obscure journals of children's literature no one's heckles would be raised by the sight of the bespectacled, scarfaced chimp. But when the arrival of a new novel makes headline news, every trend-following moron on public transport has their faces contorted into frowns of concentration over one of the colourful books and you can't go through the check-out till of your local supermarket without knocking over a stall of bloody chocolate broomsticks, the only natural reaction is to start snarling like a rabid dog. Especially when the full force of the next film's marketing campaign rubs your nose into the whole thing and, even worse, your favourite magazine runs a two-page review of the tie-in game.
There are two reasons why the Harry Potter games matter. One is that the books are actually damn good - some of the best escapist fiction available in fact - and the games do a better job of recreating Hogwarts than the films do. The other reason is that decent PC games for kids are inexplicably rare. Granted, not many seven year-olds will get a Pentium 4 instead of a GameCube for Christmas, but does that mean PC-owning parents should have to settle for Virtual Barbie when they try to introduce their children to computers?
Last year's The Philosopher's Stone was a pleasant surprise for this reason. It was simple, short and aimed squarely at the pubeless population, while managing at the same time to be a well-crafted and entertaining game too. This year's effort is pretty much identical and follows the traditional corporate sequel formula of bigger is better. In theory, this is a good thing, since one of the flaws of last year's title was its shortness. The problem, as always, is that bigger just isn't enough.
It's obvious the developers have had more time to spend on the game with the technology and gameplay core already in place. So, instead of last year's pathetic drawn sketch opening, we're treated to a proper intro movie following the events from the book and narrated by the brilliant Stephen Fry (also responsible for the audio books). It's only his appropriately enchanting voice that makes the saturation of such cut-scenes throughout the game bearable.
The graphics, inevitably, are better, and Hogwarts seems ingredients in exchange for the Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans you collect Pac-Man-like through every level) and a new duelling sub-game to add to the Quidditch league.
This wizard version of football has also been changed, although hardly improved. While before you had the freedom to fly wherever you wanted in search of the golden snitch, this time you follow it automatically. The thinking, which has driven much of the redesign, is that this is much easier, and so more tot-friendly. So, while last year's title had a certain simplistic platformgame allure for adults, The Chamber Of Secrets can almost be played one-handed. With your eyes shut. Balancing a watermelon on your head.
Yes. That's the third heading with the same word. Annoying, isn't it? Just wait until you've heard the damn word 789 times. You see, the core of the game has Harry running around levels jumping, moving boxes, opening chests and the like but, instead of doing anything as working-class as using his hands, everything is accomplished with a wave of the wand and a magic word Most of the time it's the same word and, when you're surrounded by creatures that need stunning repeatedly, the over-enthusiastic voice starts to echo deep in your brain rather painfully.
Despite the subgames, story breaks and occasional free-roaming, the repetition becomes all the more noticeable thanks to the developer's determination to make this a longer experience. But when Prince sang that there's Joy In Repetition, he wasn't referring to videogames. Of course, if you've ever been forced to sit through the Teletubbies, you'll know variety isn't exactly high on a toddler's priority list. But just how low an age group is EA aiming for?
For all the criticisms, Harry Potter is still a good game, but one only the youngest players will fully appreciate.
Download Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets
Return to Hogwarts for a second term of magical mayhem as wizarding wunderkind Harry Potter. This Zelda-inspired adventure closely follows the thrilling plot of the superior second book/movie, so it should easily best last year's ho-hum PSi romp. If you're hip to Harry's scene, you'll scream with glee for the improved Quidditch play, magic duels and gnome-bashing minigames. Of course, the labyrinthine castle corridors, bizarre magical sweets and unforgettable characters from the first game all reappear as well, so get ready for another Harry Potter-packed holiday season.
I kept saying to myself...just wait 'til next year, then they'll see." That's how EA product manager David Lee consoled himself last fall as the mediocre reviews poured in for his game Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This November, just in time for the next Potter feature film, comes his chance at redemption: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
So where exactly did the last game go wrong, and how is EA planning on making it right in the sequel? Well first of all, a lot more gamers will get the chance to play it. Unlike the PSi-only Sorcerer's Stone, Secrets' development began early enough that all three of the next-gen home consoles will be getting a version of the game simultaneously.
And where last year's Potter game had to construct an action-adventure from the mostly action-free first book and movie, the plot of Chamber lends itself more easily to a game. All of the cool scenes are here, such as Harry and Ron hijacking the flying car, fighting the creepy Aragog spider-monsters, and exploring the forbidden Chamber of Secrets. The story's darker, horror-tinged elements also afford the game a sense of spooky dread that helps propel it onward. Something's turning Harry's classmates into stone, and it's your job to solve the mystery. Those of you who've read the book know just how well the dramatic climax could work as a game--just wait until you see it here.
Harry's gameplay draws heavy inspiration from the Nintendo 64 Zelda titles: He walks, runs and auto-jumps just like Link and can lock onto enemies to attack with magic. Speaking of which, Harry learns a variety of spiffy spells as he progresses through the game, each with different casting methods. For example, the normal attack spell, Flippendo, can be fired as small blasts by tapping the button or charged up for one massive bolt by holding the button down. Hold it for too long, however, and the charged spell will blow up in Harry's face in a seriously embarrassing Wile E. Coyote fashion. Harry's magic gets quite a workout too, since the developers have stuffed the game with a gaggle of challenging boss encounters.
Of course, Harry's not always pelting monsters with oddly named spells. Sometimes, he has to actually do stuff at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Aside from attending classes to learn spells and playing on the Quiddtich team (see sidebar), Harry also joins the Dueling Club. Here, he faces off against other students in dramatic, one-on-one magical battles. Mastering spell deflection and timing is invaluable for actual combat, so you can sneak up to the roof of Hogwarts late at night and practice dueling to your heart's content.
Graphically, every location in the game looks just like the ornate, imaginative sets from the film. Meandering through the bizarre shops in Diagon Alley and catacombs beneath Hogwarts truly brings the Harry Potter experience to life. The audio isn't quite so faithful, as most of the actual voice actors from the film couldn't squeeze in time for the game. The sound-alikes perform admirably, though.
EA claims that Harry Potter has already become its largest worldwide brand, and that popularity stemmed from last year's slightly disappointing lineup. Now that they've got a much more respectable game coming to the next-gen consoles, we expect the Potter franchise to take off like a Nimbus 2000 (that's a flying broom to all non-magic users). Oh, by the way, the PSi, GBA and even GBC will be getting Secrets in November as well.
Snapshots and Media
GameBoy Color Screenshots
Playstation 2 Screenshots
- Crash Bandicoot 2
- Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Maple Story 2
- The Legend Of Zelda: Gaiden/Majora’s Mask
- Tomb Raider
- Tomb Raider 2
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
- Legacy Of Kain Soul Reaver 2
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4
- Spider-Man 3
- The Sinking City