Game Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (PC)

Flipendo!

Written by ritabuuk and dubiousdisc
Posted on June 9th 2019
Harry Potter Books 1-4
Harry Potter Books 1-4

Let us go back to the early 2000s, the heyday of Harry Potter. There were the books, more would be coming out, the books were good, we were all reading the books, and we were excited for more. Little did we know we would eventually get too much, but that's another story.

But anyway, in 2001, there were four books, and the movies were starting to come out. As for what concerns the movies, we can't say we're fans of them, but they did lead to the creation of the licensed video games. Unbelievably, many of these games based on the first few books were... good. Surprisingly good. They captured the magic we experienced while reading the books, they presented a beautiful Hogwarts for us to explore, and they seemed to be born out of love for this universe.

In this article, we will be talking about the PC version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - not to be confused with the Game Boy Color version, the Game Boy Advance version, the PlayStation version, the GameCube version, or the Xbox version, all of which are different games which go by the same name. Can you guess who the publisher was? Who would think it good marketing to release so many wildly different games with the same title without attempting to differentiate them at all? Back when Rosy was first playing this game when it was new, she had a friend in her class who she knew also had played the Harry Potter video game. Rosy asked for some advice to get past Filch, and her friend said some stuff about finding a key above a bookshelf, which didn't seem to make any sense... that's because he did beat Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but on the PlayStation, which is not the same game as the PC version. And they both learned that in that very conversation.

Starting the game

In the game, you get to play select moments from the story, but little effort was made to keep them from being disjointed scenes. This game is not meant as a replacement for having read the book, or even an introduction to it. To understand what's going on at all, you need to already know the story. There are narrator sequences which feature abridged passages from the book and little illustrations, but, if you don't already know what the narrator is telling you, you won't know what he's talking about. They're just refreshers on the plot that you are expected to already know.

The very first thing that happens when you start the game is one such narrator sequence:

There was nothing about the starry sky that night to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening.

As unsuspecting Muggles slept, a huge motorbike with a giant astride it tumbled down from the darkness.

The giant, named Hagrid, left a blanket-wrapped bundle on the doorstep of number four Privet Drive. Nestled in the bundle was a baby...

Harry Potter... The Boy Who Lived.

For the next eleven years Harry lived with his dreadful step-parents, the Dursleys.

Until that fateful day when he received the letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley, to purchase a most unusual list of school supplies. While at Gringotts, Wizard Bank, Hagrid collected a scruffy package from Vault 713 mentioning to Harry that the package (whatever it was) would be safer at Hogwarts.

Soon after, Harry caught the Hogwarts Express from platform nine and three quarters and left the Muggle world far behind.

Dumbledore stood up. 'This term, the corridor on the third floor is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to suffer a most painful death.'

Harry sat beneath the Sorting Hat hoping that he would not be chosen for Slytherin House over Gryffindor.

'Not Slytherin, eh?' said the Hat in his ear.

'You could be great, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on your way to greatness.

No? Well, if you're sure, better be...

GRYFFINDOR!

We're not abridging anything, this is how it is, in the exact order in which this narration shows up. Boom, Hagrid, baby, it's Harry. Harry gets a letter. Hagrid takes him shopping. It almost makes it sound like Hagrid has been there the whole time. Shopping, bank, package, train, Dumbledore stood up. In the train, supposedly. Who's Dumbledore? Suddenly Harry's got a hat saying weird things. Gryffindor, whatever that is, and now we're standing in the Hogwarts main entrance hall.

Harry with the letter
One moment he's a baby, the next he's got a letter. The Boy Who Lived, fast.
Dumbledore greets Harry in the Great Hall
Given that this is an action-adventure game from the early 2000s, this game is all about secrets, Harry.

According to The Cutting Room Floor, there was going to be a level in Privet Drive with the Dursleys. Maybe that part was meant to give more of an introduction to the game, and, when it was cut, the game ended up just jumping right into Hogwarts without much explanation at all.

Anyway, now that this meaningless narration is over, the game actually begins with a little cutscene of the kids running in the main entrance and Harry is there. Dumbledore shows up and tells Harry a little bit about how Hogwarts is full of secrets and to pay attention to everything, and then sends Harry off to go to his first lesson. At the top of the stairs, Ron is there, and will guide Harry to class.

Harry meets up with Ron
"Hey, Harry, remember me?" Does he mean, remember me from the books? Because he hasn't been mentioned before, and the game is introducing him right now. Did they plan to have a scene on the Hogwarts Express too?

Before going to class, however, we need a basic gameplay tutorial, which is administered by Fred and George emerging from a secret door and bringing Harry on a tour of a hidden room.

Fred and George
You'll be a troublemaker to rival us in no time!

Delightfully, Fred and George are very featured in this game, and we accept all that they do in the game as canon. In this section, they're showing Harry the ropes. They're so nice. We totally believe that they would. At the end of their tutorial, they ask Harry to collect Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans for them, and they will trade them for Wizard Cards, which are this game's unlockable collectibles - see if you can make a whole set by the end of the game. Fred and George say they need the beans for some... experiments. This game makes a very early plotpoint of their future career as magical practical joke scientists (which comes up in the books around Book 4).

They also are wearing the dreadful monogrammed sweaters from Mrs. Weasley. Ron is wearing his too, even though he hates it.

By the way, the uniforms in this game are closer to the books than the movies. Good. Everyone forgets this, but, in the books, the uniforms of Hogwarts are absolutely not prep school uniforms. They are described as wearing black cloaks and pointed hats. The game doesn't include the hats, but the students do all wear black cloaks. They have colored hems and little pins to signify which house each student belongs to, which probably wasn't in the books , but at least it's not so loud as in the movies, with ties and scarves and badges and oh my god.

Peeves
"Young Potter you're ugly, but what can we do?
Everyone says you belong in a zoo.
If you look in a mirror it surely will crack.
The best thing to do is wear a nice sack."

It looks like this game was based both on the books and the in-production movies, because while many things follow the books, some others are straight out from the movies - McGonagall in the illustrations looks traced from a movie screenshot, for instance, though her in-game model looks different yet. And the Quidditch pitch looks exactly like in the movies, with those checkerboard-patterned towers. Peeves was going to be in the first movie, but the scene was cut, creating all sorts of trouble for his future appearances later in the series... but, in the game, rather than being cut, Peeves is heavily featured, with wonderful taunting dialogue. He's the first enemy you encounter, appropriately during Fred and George's tutorial. Since at this point Harry doesn't know any spells, all you can do for now is platform away on top of the bookshelves, hopefully without falling too much, and get past him.

It turns out that this game is about Harry's platforming adventures at Hogwarts. His jumping and climbing are pretty slow, which is somewhat realistic, given that Harry is only a malnourished eleven-year-old with no physical training, and all of a sudden now he's climbing and jumping everywhere. He goes "oof" a lot.

When you inevitably miss a jump and fall, Harry will hurt his poor legs, and you'll need to resort to the healing items of this game, which are the Chocolate Frogs. In this game, they appear closer to how they were presented in the movies, as being able to croak and hop on the spot. The croaking helps to alert you to their presence, so that you can easily find them when you need them.

Harry climbing up a bookshelf
Hgn-huff!

Defense Against The Dark Arts: the Flipendo challenge

Anyway, now that we know how to jump and climb, we can go to class and learn our first spell. The first class is Defense Against the Dark Arts, taught by Professor Quirrell.

In this game, Quirrell gets to be a character! We see Quirrell teaching a class! He talks through all of it! He has mannerisms! And nice voice acting, with the stutter and all! In the book, it's mentioned that Quirrell teaches classes and they're boring, but we never actually get to witness a single one, so we have to take the narration's word for it, and it's just disappointing that we the readers don't get to make that judgement ourselves, and that there's an entire major subject taught by a critical main character that we don't even get to see. But in this game, we get to see it!

Quirrell teaching a class
Even if this class was boring, the beauty of the classroom itself would make up for it. Look at those windows!

The spell we're going to learn in this particular lesson is actually the most important of the game: Flipendo, which is used to magically push and flip things. Harry will need to use Flipendo very frequently throughout the entire game, to push and flip many things. But isn't it a bit strange that the most prominent spell of the game is actually non-canon? It was invented for the game, and we can see why that needed to happen - the book doesn't really tell us much of what Harry is learning! Only four spells are explicitly used in the first book, so the developers had to add something to have enough to work with to make a compelling video game. Despite Flipendo being non-canon, we think it fits right in with the rest of the universe. It also makes sense that it would be one of the first things that Harry would learn; pushing things magically sounds basic enough.

Quirrel teaches how to cast Flipendo

The way you learn the spell is by tracing the shape with the mouse, simulating the wand movement. In the case of Flipendo, its shape is a spiral (because it flips things, cute).

In concept, this idea of drawing the spell is amazing. However, in practice, trying to follow the spiral with your mouse is clunky and harder than it should be. It takes away a lot of the magic when the line you drew came out shaky because of the tool you're using. This game came out in 2001, far before the Nintendo DS and smartphones and the Wii and anything of the sort, so we guess that this mechanic was about 5 years ahead of its time. It would have worked wonderfully on something with a stylus, because, omg, magic wand. We still appreciate the attempt a lot, and, since passing all four stages of difficulty is optional, you won't get stuck.

Although this means that this is the only part of the game where, if you fail, fuck you. There's no try it again. If you fail at the second stage, that's where it ends. No more chances. For every passed stage, Gryffindor is awarded an incremental amount of house points, so, if you stop at the second stage, you missed on a lot of house points. But you don't need to feel bad, because it doesn't actually change anything. The house points don't actually do anything in this game - at the end, Gryffindor is going to usurp Slytherin because of well-known plot reasons - but it is still a bit of letdown that you fail once, and minigame over. It's been almost 20 years and Rosy still can't consistently beat all four stages of these challenges with the mouse. Maybe next time we should try to play it on the Cintiq.

Once you've learned the shape of the spell, there is a practical exam in the form of an obstacle course! Yeah, because why wouldn't Hogwarts restructure itself into an obstacle course for each class? It can!

The Flipendo challenge acts as the second part of your basic gameplay tutorial. To use spells, you press the mouse button and look around to aim on something that the spell can be used on, and then release the button. Flipendo can be used to knock over pillars, flip cauldrons, break vases, and trigger buttons. The environments in this area are gorgeous, and it's interesting to listen to Quirrell speak to Harry throughout this part.

Part of the Flipendo challenge takes place in beautiful corridor full of stained glass windows
For a 2001 game, this is gorgeous. Even now, this is gorgeous.

Flying, Alohomora, and the Wingardium Leviosa challenge

Madam Hooch
Madam Hooch gets to be a character!

A few days later, we have our first flying lesson. In the book, before Harry gets a chance to learn how to use a broomstick, he needs to save Neville's Remembrall from Draco, and so his first time flying happens like that. In this game, the Remembrall part will happen, but separately from the first flying lesson. Harry gets to just have a perfectly normal lesson with Madam Hooch, which lets the player have a tutorial for how to do this flying thing.

The broomstick sections are, in our opinion, the weakest part of the game. Which is sad, because they could have been so cool. Instead, you're just flying through rings. Exciting. Why did so many games of that time period do that, anyway? It was never fun. Though, one cute thing that we like about this lesson is that there is a secret room that can only be found by flying at it, and if you do, Madam Hooch will congratulate you for being the first student to find the secret room since 1867. Daw.

Secret Room
Really, no one has tried to go here in over 100 years? Not James? Not Sirius?
Hermione teaches Alohomora

Next is Charms class, but before that, we have a little while to wander around. We meet up with Hermione, who decides to teach Alohomora to Harry. By having a full-blown lesson, with the drawing of the spell and all. As you do so, Hermione will say, "Harry, you're doing well, Flitwick would award you points!" ...and the interface shows that Gryffindor just received points, somehow. Did she seriously go speak with Flitwick afterwards? What did she tell him? "Professor, I just taught Alohomora to Harry and he did such a good job! You should give 50 points to Gryffindor!". And he does??

Alohomora
It's just so viscerally satisfying.

Now that we know Alohomora, we can open locked chests and secret doors. And mirrors. That's the best part.

But anyway, we go to our next formal class, where we learn Wingardium Leviosa. This challenge is disappointing. The way Wingardium Leviosa works in this game is just... not satisfying at all. It lifts special blocks that you can then set down on buttons, and does nothing more. It's so obvious when you have to use it, the blocks are even marked with a W, and actually using the spell is essentially a chore. Luckily, it's also the least common of the five spells in the game, and the challenge is pretty short.

Wingardium Leviosa Challenge
Hmm, I wonder what spell to use on these? Maybe Walohomora? Wipendo?

Herbology: the Incendio challenge

Throwing firecrackers at Draco
Playing firecracker catch with Draco. Thanks for the fun!

On the way to the Herbology lesson, Harry is confronted by Draco, who won't let him out of the door. He torments Harry by throwing firecrackers at him. We love that. He's not getting in a duel or anything like that, no. Just throwing firecrackers that might as well be Muggle stuff. Fighting with magic would require skill, no, he's just throwing some firecrackers that he got because he's rich and can afford as many as he wants. Maybe they're even illegal at Hogwarts, but he got them in a package from his dad. Actually, this makes only too much sense for him.

But we throw the firecrackers back at him until he drops on his ass and we manage to get out the door. To reach our Herbology lesson, we first have to get to the greenhouse, which is on the other side of an elaborate and dangerous hedge maze full of chompy plants. Hermione was going to help Harry get through this part, but she realizes that Neville must have gotten completely lost, and she goes to help him instead, so Harry is on his own.

This part of the game is great. There's so much attention to detail and so many exciting secrets to discover. You get to walk through a lovely garden, and there are secret courtyards with topiary dragons and fountains all over the place... This is the game of extensive secrets within secrets. You don't just get a little bonus room, you get entire new areas with more secrets inside. We love it. There's even a whole part where, once you reach the greenhouse, if instead of going inside and therefore starting the lesson, you dawdle a little bit longer and find a secret hedge, you can open it and access the space between the greenhouse and the garden's outer wall, and if you squeeze through this narrow gap you'll reach a secret courtyard behind the greenhouse where there are two dragon statues, which you can spin towards each other to reveal a secret Wizard Card. This makes our secret-loving hearts just explode.

Behind the greenhouse
Secrets within secrets within a secret garden!

On the other hand, reaching the greenhouse is harder than the actual class. No wonder Neville was having trouble. But even without his particular problems, who the hell sends a class of eleven-year-olds to navigate a maze with carnivorous plants that could eat them, and without the spell that would prevent them from being eaten?! Nothing about Hogwarts is safe, but holy shit this is twisted. I guess it lets Professor Sprout make the utility of what she's teaching you immediately obvious, but did it need to be hammered home by threat of disembowelment? Maybe last year's students were like, what do we need to learn about plants for, and she kinda cracked.

So, in this game you go to Herbology class to learn Incendio. Which sets plants on fire. Well. That's one way to work with plants. The challenge takes place inside the greenhouse, which is cute, but yeah, it was harder to just get there.

Incendio Challenge
How many games have this exact pincushion cactus that spews needles at you?

The Remembrall chase, Hagrid's hut, and Quidditch

McGonagall talks to Harry
This version of McGonagall better matches our mental images of her. And nice green robe!

Exiting the Herbology challenge, we find Neville being tormented by Draco. This is the part where Draco steals his Remembrall, and Harry chases him on the broomstick to recover it. Even if the order of this part has been rearranged, this is still the event that causes Harry to end up on the Quidditch team. After the end of the chase, Professor McGonagall talks with Harry to chastise him for his recklessness, but also name him as the new Gryffindor Seeker. Good luck on your first match! It will be against Slytherin, and it will be... this afternoon. Yikes. Good thing Harry's a natural, because in this version of the story, he gets zero training and a heaping helping of anxiety.

Hagrid trimming the bush
Thank you Hagrid for all of your hard work.

Before all this excitement, Hagrid had asked Harry to meet him after class. Now that we have a moment between Herbology and our first Quidditch match, we head to his hut. If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed earlier that Hagrid was trimming a bush, and if after all these events you pass by that same bush, you will see that it has now been shaped into a dragon. Rosy has played this game many times now and only on this most recent replay she noticed this detail. It's such a wonderful detail to have. Implying that all of these wonderful topiaries that we've been casting Flipendo and Alohomora on were Hagrid's own creation. We never really thought about it, but, of course, he's the groundskeeper! And look at those bushes - he's an artist! Hagrid is a big part of what makes Hogwarts so wonderful.

By the way, in this game, there is not a unified overworld that you keep revisiting. Actually, each time you walk through Hogwarts between plotpoints, you're walking through a different version of the world. Some places might be similar to how they were the last time you came by, but in those cases, you're actually seeing a copy of that room. Other things might change wildly. Even though you will pass through copies of the same place several times, you usually only ever have one chance to find secrets. So what happened with the bush is that first we were in the version of the Hogwarts grounds with Hagrid trimming the bush, and now we're in the version of the Hogwarts grounds with the bush fully trimmed, and the path to Hagrid's hut opened.

We both imagined Hagrid's hut was much closer to the castle than the game presents it. Harry has to go through an entire path with dangerous plants and creatures, cliffs and streams and caves, before finally arriving. Maybe this commute is not a problem for Hagrid, who is friends with every monster, but it's a bit hard for Harry. It is, however, absolutely in-character for Hagrid to not have realized that the path to his home would be life-threatening for about anyone else.

When we get to Hagrid's hut, we see he has a whole little garden and pigs and a goat. Inside the hut, Hagrid shows us that he has acquired a dragon egg, and asks Harry to find Fire Seeds in the caves nearby to help it hatch.

Hagrid's hut
So cute!
Harry seemingly falling to his death
In this screenshot, Harry is not falling to his death, but rather about to land on the secret ledge.

Of course, the caves nearby are also very dangerous. Sending eleven-year-old little scrawny Harry to literally jump over several chasms to get Fire Seeds... that seems like a new record of dangerous things even for Hagrid's standards.

This dungeon isn't too exciting, but it does feature what might be the most likely-to-be-missed Wizard Card of the game. At one point, Harry is navigating stone ledges along the outside of a cliff. If instead of going through the door which leads to the next part of the dungeon, you stand on the very edge of the ledge and look down, you might just barely notice another ledge lower down. If you blindly jump for this ledge, you'll access a secret area with a Wizard Card. This is quite a secret to have, and different from most of the other secrets in this game, which require casting a spell here or there. In this case, you just have to jump. It's a leap of faith which is most likely going to result in Harry's death, at least once. You might try to do this, die, and come to the conclusion that this is not how you reach the secret. But it is. And if you don't do it now, you can't get the good ending, because you can never revisit this area again.

Fire seeds
Sizzle sizzle... Crink crink crink!

Beyond this secret of doom, the best part of this dungeon is the sound effects the Fire Seeds make. Generally, the sounds of this game are great. The cauldrons make a satisfying clang when they are tipped, the cranks make nice sounds when you spin them, the chest unlocking sounds are good. And the Fire Seeds crackle pleasantly.

It might have something to do with playing this game on a newer computer, but for us, sometimes the sound effects glitch, especially the spellcasting dialogue, so Harry is casting spells and the voice gets cut off, so instead of him loudly declaring FLIPENDO! you just hear FLI!, or instead of WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA! you just hear IOSA!. It's funny. Trust us. We're five.

By the way, when Harry casts the spells, he says them slightly differently every time so that you don't have to hate your life. With Flipendo, he has many different ways of shouting Flipendo!. And then the one time where he just kinda says, "Flipendo.", matter-of-factly. We love it. "Flipendo."

Not just the sound effects, but anything about sound in this game is great. The soundtrack is amazing. It was composed by Jeremy Soule before he started working on The Elder Scrolls and then went on to make the legendary soundtracks of Oblivion and Skyrim. Rosy was a fan of his work before he was cool. B)

But anyway, Harry gathers the Fire Seeds, and gets to see the dragon hatch and Hagrid christen it Norbert. As a reward for his work, Hagrid gives Harry a flute as a present, which he says will help put animals to sleep. This is sure to be useful, now that Hagrid has a baby dragon.

Norbert
Hagrid, is that the proper Norbert-holding method?

And now it's time for Harry to go play his first Quidditch match! Just take a moment to think about this day he's been having. His first class of the day was his Flying lesson. Then he learned Alohomora with Hermione, and went to Charms and did the whole Wingardium Leviosa challenge. After that, he had to get past Draco and his firecrackers, and through the whole hedge maze to Herbology. He learned Incendio and did the challenge, then got out and had to chase Draco to get the Remembrall back. He was conscripted to the Quidditch team, and went to meet Hagrid, for whom he went through two dangerous dungeons and hatched a dragon. Now it's afternoon, and he's got to do sports. How is Harry alive?! How does he not fall off his broom with exhaustion. Hogwarts is a dangerous place.

Quidditch
Yeah, clearly inspired by the movie.

But not only Harry plays his very first Quidditch match, he even wins... and now he's got his evening lessons! Will he ever be able to sleep?

The Lumos challenge, Potions, the troll, and the Mirror of Erised

Our next lesson is again Defense Against the Dark Arts. For being the class that was completely glossed over in the book, here it's actually the most represented class of the game. Before this lesson, Harry is able to wander a bit around Hogwarts and look for secrets. This part is almost completely optional... and there's so much to do! There's an entire library section and so many secrets and it's just yaaaaay such fun.

Optional part before Lumos
Forgive us for saying it again and again, but, how beautiful.

You're also able to talk a little with the random students around. Some students are Slytherins and they're perfectly nice. Some of them will be assholes to you. Some students are Ravenclaw and dislike Harry as a Gryffindor. Of course. Some are even Gryffindors who don't want to speak to him because "I don't talk to first-years". And then there's that kid who says "I've heard there's a secret room around here, and I'll be the first to find it!" as we have Harry literally jump through a mirror in front of him. Please picture this kid all excited talking to Harry, and him just casting Alohomora at the mirror without even breaking eye contact. What a savage. And in character.

This time in class, we're learning Lumos. In the books, Lumos is essentially turning your wand into a flashlight. This is also true in the game, but here the primary function of Lumos is to reveal magically-hidden things. You cast the spell on these gargoyle statues found around, and they awaken, yawn, and show the path. It's an interesting interpretation of the concept. The challenge takes place through Hogwarts in the evening, through what looks kinda like an empty church. It's one of the prettiest parts of this already pretty game.

Lumos
AH
Snape
Snape does have a flair for the dramatic.

On one of our replays, there was a glitch in the Lumos challenge which would have it impossible for us to finish the challenge and continue the game if it hadn't been for the existence of a cheat code. Thank you cheat code. Cheat codes are important.

After Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry still can't go to bed, because he has a Potions class, presumably at midnight. As soon as Harry arrives, Snape deducts house points for Harry being late and being Harry (no, you couldn't have been early, there's no way to avoid this). As punishment, he sends Harry to fetch the ingredients from the dungeon. Harry happily goes to get the first ingredient across the bridge, and the bridge opens and dumps him into the depths of the dungeon.

Snape
AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaa...

Yes, Snape made a whole obstacle course in the dungeons just to torture Harry. This dungeon also features a logic puzzle, which is totally Snape's style. If you wanted to be generous in your interpretation of this part, Snape hid secrets for Harry to find to help teach him to always be observant. Just, like always, Snape didn't need to be such an asshole about it.

Troll
The game unfortunately doesn't have Quirrell yelling "TROLL! IN THE DUNGEON!". Too bad.

Harry finishes this "challenge" long after everyone has already left Potions class. It's presumably 3 am by now. Harry has been awake for 22 hours. Maybe this is why he doesn't even think to talk back at Snape anymore. But he still can't sleep, because now there's a troll on the loose! They have to save Hermione, with Ron doing the slowest Wingardium Leviosa in the history of magic while Harry protects him from flying toilets!

After this, there is a timeskip, so Harry presumably finally got to have some sleep. We move directly to Christmas, with a cutscene in which he gets the Invisibility Cloak.

Filch
This part has a lot of the feel of when you're sneaking in Oblivion, with Filch being like the guard getting all in your face. STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM! (Maybe the music has a role too...)

Next, there is the part where everyone needs to get rid of the baby dragon before Hagrid gets in big trouble. This is the stealth section of the game, in which Harry has to sneak through the castle at night, avoiding the detection of Filch and Mrs. Norris. Harry has to very quietly say the spells. flipendo. This quest seems to have been merged with the other part where Harry sneaks into the Restricted Section, because it is taking place in a library for no other explicable reason.

On the way back, Harry sees the Mirror of Erised, and there's a cutscene with Dumbledore which goes pretty much how that part goes in the book.

Mirror of Erised
Except for the part where Harry only sees his parents, and not his extended family.

The ending

Next, the game skips ahead right to the exciting conclusion. Harry, Ron, and Hermione go in the Forbidden Corridor, and now we have to do all of the challenges to find the Philosopher's Stone.

Fluffy
And try not to get bitten.

The first one is putting Fluffy to sleep. The game did an interesting take on this. You have to play the flute on all three heads to put each one to sleep, but they fall asleep and re-awaken at different speeds, so you have to solve the puzzle of which order should you try to get them to sleep.

Devil's Snare
Ew!

Next, there's the Devil's Snare. In the book, Hermione was the one who saved them all, but in this game, Hermione isn't playable, so instead it's Harry casting Incendio Incendio Incendio while Ron and Hermione are incapacitated.

The flying keys part is played like Quidditch, of course, so not much to say about that.

Chess
We wish it played more like chess.

We arrive to the chess part with Ron having already been defeated, still conscious, but unable to walk... so Harry has to finish the game. Despite taking place on a chess board with chess pieces, this part doesn't work like chess. Instead, each piece can move one square at a time in any direction, but they will always go towards Harry, so you have to predict how the other pieces will move and take your steps so as to make them collide with each other, and not with Harry.

Potions
Even Hermione says, this is ridiculous.

The part with the potions is a game of moving cups. A difficult one. No thanks to the camera spinning all around after the end of each spinning cup cutscene. After you manage to solve the puzzle, Hermione goes to help Ron, and Harry continues on.

The fact that Harry and Hermione go opposite ways here made more sense in the book: Ron was unconscious and of unknown health status, and there was only just enough potion for one person to go forward. In this game, there seems to be plenty of potion to be able to share, and wouldn't it be more important for Hermione to help Harry? The game shows that Ron is in some way hurt, but he's conscious and lucid, and he is able to say that he wants them to continue on without him. What probably happened here is that the developers decided to show Ron still being conscious to avoid making this part too scary. But a side effect of this change is that it makes it seem like Herimone is taking the first flimsy opportunity to ditch Harry and make sure Ron is okay, which almost gives this part a shippy tone - she's more worried about Ron's injuries than about Harry needing to face an evil wizard alone. Note that this game was made well before there were any definitive answers regarding the characters' feelings for each other; in fact, this game came out in the midst of the shipping war between the those who shipped Hermione with Harry and those who shipped Hermione with Ron. Interesting how this little tweak of the story ends up fitting into that...

Flipendo
Next there will be a tug of war!

But anyway, Harry goes alone, to face the evil wizard... and it's Quirrell, who reveals himself to be evil! And not actually have a stutter. Harry uses his Defense Against the Dark Arts knowledge to fight back against Quirrell with...

Flipendo. Yeah, Harry is trying to move the blocks through a maze to be able to reach Quirrell on the upper platform, and Quirrell Flipendoes them back. This is funny. Epic wizard duel of evil versus good and... we're pushing boxes back and forth.

But we arrive to the last chamber with the Mirror of Erised, and there it turns out that Voldemort is on Quirrell's neck and all that. Unlike in the books, where Voldemort just looks out the back of Quirrell's head, the game shows Quirrell spinning his head around 180 degrees so that Voldemort can face forward. Yikes.

Spinny head
We understand Harry's dumbstruck terror.

For the record, this is Voldemort's introduction. His name was not even dropped before this moment, and that still doesn't explain who he is. Harry is the Boy Who Lived, but no explanation what that means.

Probably the reason why this is so sudden now is that there was going to be a level in the Forbidden Forest with the unicorn and the centaurs, but that was cut too. That would have been a good time for Voldemort to have been introduced, rather than in the very last section of the game.

But anyway, Harry defeats Voldemort by knocking down the pillars on his head, and spinning the mirror and reflecting back his spells. Flipendo saves the day. Quirrell is directly responsible for his own defeat. Well, Defense Against the Dark Arts indeed. We wondered, how is pushing exactly going to help us against the dark arts? Like this. Just shove Voldemort around.

Voldemort
We're making fun of it, but actually, it is a pretty cool end boss battle.
Harry's own card
Thanks?

At the end, if you did everything right and got all the Wizard Cards, including that one off the cliff, the final narrated cutscene will show Dumbledore explaining the ending to Harry, and Ron shows up to give Harry a Wizard card. It's the Harry Potter card. He gets his own card. That must be weird. That means the picture of himself moves and waves at himself. We're not sure how is this exactly a reward. A picture of you. Maybe Dumbledore now can have a bonding moment with Harry over how they both have cards of themselves and that's weird.

Dumbledore
We also want to comment on how the artist here gave Dumbledore such stunning windswept hair. Nice. He would, you know?

But anyway, we move directly to the ending, in which Slytherin was all ready to celebrate the final feast as winners of the House Cup, and Dumbledore has to ruin everything. But instead of it being that Harry and each of his friends get house points for their heroic deeds, with Neville clinching the cup because of his bravery of standing up to his friends... Neville doesn't appear at all in the ending and doesn't get to make the final plotpoint. Instead, it's just Harry who gets all the bonus points for his brave deeds. The points don't even get split with Ron and Hermione, who were there with him in the Forbidden Corridor, and Ron broke his leg for this. Just, Dumbledore at all the cheering Slytherins, "But Harry gets extra points, so Gryffindor wins". It's a surprise that neither Dumbledore nor Harry are dead by the evening after pulling this.

But what about Fred and George's ... experiments? Next, there is a little cutscene of Snape going to his office, and suddenly beans are emerging from everywhere, out of every desk drawer, and every cauldron, beans and beans and beans! That was Fred and George's prank. Smother Snape in candy. Completely harmless but so amazing.

Snape and the beeeeans
His kryptonite!

In conclusion

The humpback witch statue
The humpback witch statue laughs when you cast Flipendo on it, and then dispenses beans.

Such a cute game. Just wonderful and heartwarming and beautiful. Unlike what happened with the movies, whoever worked on this game definitely read all the books that were out at the time, loved them, and had wonderful attention to detail. When there's the whole part with giving Norbert to Charlie's friends, there are indeed the two figures of his unnamed friends there. There's an ugly dwarf cherub on the Flipendo tiles. There's the humpback witch statue, which is important in the third book. There are gnomes and Doxies, which won't appear until later books. They tried to put in as much stuff as possible.

And still, it seems like this game would have been even more than that, if the developers had more time. There were going to be more spells, particularly more Transfiguration rather than none, but that didn't make it into the game. Apparently there was going to be a spell to turn things into matchboxes, and that's just too cute. Madam Pomfrey was going to be there, but she won't appear until the second game. Generally, it seems like we got half of what the game wanted to be. The half we got is still amazing, though.

If you just see this game at a surface level, you might wonder what makes it so good. It is a very simple game, very linear and straight-forward. There aren't really many puzzles to solve or much creative thinking required to do anything. Just go around and try to cast a spell on the things that seem like you should be able to interact with, and see if it works. You don't even need to try to guess if you need to use Alohomora or Flipendo to open the way - Harry will do whatever spell was the right spell for this obstacle. You find the secrets that reward you with beans and cards that are just interesting for you to see and fun to pick up, but don't technically really do anything. Fred and George need so few beans that if you fail to have enough beans for them at each checkpoint, we wonder if you actually have a pulse. We go around collecting hundreds of beans, when the game only requires that we get a measly twenty-five. It's not like we have to go get those beans, we just want to. Because exploring the world of Hogwarts is fun and satisfying, and casting the spells and opening the secrets is fun and satisfying, and grabbing the colorful beans is fun and satisfying. This game is fun and satisfying!

And half of the reason is just how beautiful and designed the world is. We can tell that the developers put a lot of effort in making sure that every corner of the world is visually pleasing. One of the ways they achieved this is with a careful visual balance between areas of interest and areas of less interest. Each wall has a detail that you'll want to look at, whether it's interactable or not, but not every inch of every wall is covered in excessive detail that would just look like an overwhelming mess. On top of that, this game uses lighting in a very interesting and artful way. There will be a green wall, that will be lit by some invisible orange glow, giving the wall a gradient from green to orange, highlighting those visual interests with contrasting colors. This technique can be seen everywhere in the game: windows will be blue in a room that is red; yellow walls will be highlighted purple... it's all just so colorful and wonderful.

Dungeon
There's nothing to do in this corner, but look at how beautiful it is!
Painting
And sometimes, a painting contains Fred and George.

Another reason why this game is good is because of how full of secrets it is, with the pleasure inherent in just discovering the secrets, balanced with how not everything in the world conceals a secret. It's not like anything that looks like it stands out from the background has a secret. Sometimes, a painting is just a painting. Sometimes, a painting is a passage into a whole secret area. And sometimes, the secret area has another secret area inside.

We would tell you to try this game if you can. If you can. This is another game in EA Purgatory. It requires SafeDisk DRM, which is no longer available on newer versions of Windows. So, even if you have the disc, you're forced to crack it to continue playing this game that you own. Thanks EA, as always. They haven't even bothered to re-release the game in any form, and they even removed the soundtrack from the digital store, for no apparent reason. Enjoy!

Library
So beautiful, we can't say it enough.

References

Notes

  1. In Book 2, when Harry is disguised as Goyle, he asks a student which he believed to be a Slytherin where their common room is. That student was Penelope Clearwater, who then proceeds to tell Harry, why would she know that, she's a Ravenclaw. Because Harry was able to make that mistake, we can infer that the school uniforms don't have evident house markers. At least, not colored hems that Harry would have been able to distinguish.
  2. In the books, the Chocolate Frogs are simply regular chocolates that happen to be in the shape of a frog.

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