Early in February, news broke of a Harry Potter-based game release: Hogwarts Mystery. The augmented reality RPG game was produced by Warner Bros. and JAM CITY games. The news quickly went viral around gaming and Harry Potter communities alike. Towards the end of February, a trailer was released. An ‘unreleased’ version of the game was also made available on Google Play.
Warning: This article will contain mild spoilers for the first chapters of the story.
The Game’s Setting
The game’s setting is pretty evident by the title – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But before you get too excited for a cameo from any of the characters we know and love, you should know that this game takes place around the early 1980’s, after Voldemort kills Harry Potter’s parents. So unless you’re willing to consider a news report on baby Harry a cameo, then you’re out of luck. Fortunately, older characters like Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and even our favourite love-sick villain, Severus Snape, are ever present in the game.
Characters aside, the story revolves around your avatar as they begin their first year at Hogwarts. The story starts off as you can imagine, venturing through Diagon Alley to purchase your avatar’s school equipment. Here you’ll meet Rowan (whose gender depends on your avatar’s gender) and get some backstory. Much like the Boy Who Lived, your avatar has quite the reputation surrounding them, thanks to your sibling, Jacob.
Converse with Rowan further and you’ll find out that Jacob was a brilliant – yet unhinged – student who, after allegedly attacking his fellow students, was expelled and suddenly disappeared without a trace. Pursue this line of inquiry further and you’ll discover that Jacob’s disappearance has left your avatar with both burdens and questions, not to mention becoming their main motivation for attending Hogwarts.
Fast-forward through the formalities like meeting the Hogwarts staff and selecting your house (yes, you can choose via the Sorting Hat) you are soon given your first few classes. You’ll attend Charms with Professor Flitwick, Flying Lessons with the owl-eyed Madame Hooch, and of course Potions, with the sardonic Professor Snape. Each class gives you the chance to make a new friend, like the book-smart Penny or the timid Ben Copper, but also a rival, Merula Snyde (a Slytherin, of course) who sees your avatar as a threat to her dream of becoming the best witch to attend Hogwarts. Throw in some visions of knights, ‘cursed ice’ and haunting secrets within the castle walls and it becomes clear that there’s a mystery afoot within Hogwarts.
Can you solve the Hogwarts Mystery?
As can be expected of a smart-phone and tablet based game, the touch screen is the crux of this game. Since I downloaded the game from Google Play, there’s a chance the Apple version could differ slightly. Regardless, 99%
of the actions in this game, from spell-casting, to potion brewing and controlling your character, are all done via the touch screen. Hogwarts Mystery has thrown a bit of flair into their touch-screen game-play, particularly with the spells. As you complete challenges, you’re awarded with XP, money, gems and energy.
Following the traditions of the books and the films, the different spells in Hogwarts Mystery have specific ways of being cast. Ergo, you’ll have to get fancy with the touch screen.
For example, take the staple spells of the Harry Potter universe, the Expelliarmus and Wingardium Leviosa charms. For Expelliarmus, you simply need to draw a straight line across the screen. But with Wingardium Leviosa, you must draw a circular shape with a tail (swish and flick anyone?), thus differentiating it from Expelliarmus and other spells. The system is pretty fluid, but the only drawback is that you can only cast spells under certain circumstances, like duels and charms class. Bummer.
Despite the slight lack of structured education in Harry’s days at school, Hogwarts is fundamentally still an educational institution. This means that much of your time in this game is spent in class. But Hogwarts still had some fun classes; from Charms, to Potions, Divination, and who could forget Defence Against the Dark Arts? Unlike the spells, you can do a class anytime you wish during the game, but unfortunately you only have three to start off with: Charms, Potions and Flying Lessons.
Excluding a few subtle differences, most of the classes operate similarly. The length of each class is one real-time hour, but some go for up to five. Why so long, you ask? Well, at the top of the screen is a row of five stars, your objective being to fill the blue bar behind them. Start the class and you’ll notice that some of the objects and people within it are glowing blue. By touching the glow, you will see a number appear. To progress the class, you simply need to touch the object/character as many times as the amount of the number on the glow. Press enough objects/characters and new ones will begin to glow. You need to follow the prompts and finish the tags to pass the level.
Problem: Remember how some classes range between one and five hours in length? Well, that’s because you can only touch a limited number of glowing objects on screen before you run out of energy. Then you must wait five minutes for more. If you follow the prompts after filling up the star bar, you will pass the class and progress with the story. You might even unlock some new spells and earn some experience points as well! Who says studying doesn’t pay? As you can imagine, this method becomes repetitive and dull after a while. Unless, of course, you learn a new spell.
At least they likened it to real studying, right? Small comfort.
The game contains in-app purchases, such as extra energy to move along faster, but these can be turned off. Overall, the game can be slow, but the detailed story arc and enchanting graphics mostly make up for that. It’s still the interactive magical addition to the world of Harry Potter we’ve been craving!