I was one when the first Harry Potter was published. I was ten when the last book was released, and I remember going to our local supermarket first thing in the morning to get a copy. I had read it before it was bedtime that night. To say that I am in to Harry Potter isn’t enough: I literally grew up with it. So when Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery appeared on the Google Play store, I was compelled to give it a try.
Hogwarts Mystery takes place ten years before the main events of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, though specifically the game begins with the Great Hall of Hogwarts celebrating baby Harry’s survival of Lord Voldemort’s killing curse. You play as your own character, though you have your own backstory. Your older brother was a pupil at Hogwarts, but in his search for the fabled Cursed Vaults he was - poetically - cursed and subsequently expelled before running away.
The game follows through all seven years of Hogwarts schooling, with classes and clubs. Between those, you can build relationships with your fellow students - including a few familiar characters from the books. All of the teachers are the same, albeit with a slightly younger looking design. I am yet to reach the Defence Against the Dark Arts class - they don’t start until year five in this game, but I suspect the teacher will only last a year in keeping with the curse from the book.
In the first year, you take three classes: potions, charms and flying. Second year adds in transfiguration, and that is as far as I’ve gotten before writing this. You see, Hogwarts Mystery utilises one of the most egregious energy systems I have seen in any game. Each class is rated depending on the length of class you choose, from two to five stars, and it takes about 85 energy to finish a five star class. The energy bar starts at 24 energy, and refills one energy every four minutes. By the end of the first year, that energy bar is up to 27 energy, and I’ll get two more before year two’s end. It really isn’t enough.
The game chooses some of the strangest places to run out of energy - the first instance where you are guaranteed to deplete the energy meter is during an action scene where you are being strangled by some Devil’s Snare. Unlike the classes, you can’t fail this by letting it time out so your character isn’t in any danger, but it can be rather odd just letting an 11-year old child be strangled for about an hour on your phone.
Naturally, you can refill your energy bar with crystals which can be purchased for real money, though these options are awful too. You can buy energy in packs of 10, 30 or 60 for £0.89, £1.78 and £2.99 (cheapest prices available) respectively. Considering the amount of energy you earn per year, it seems like buying the 60 pack will waste energy, just as 30 will for me at this point in the game. The gems can be used to purchase costumes too, but personally I don’t have much interest in dressing my character up in dress robes.
All of that is honestly a shame, because someone at developers Jam City clearly loves Harry Potter. The story follows the rules set out in J K Rowling’s world perfectly, and the story is by far the best thing about Hogwarts Mystery. I was sceptical at first about creating my own character with a prewritten backstory, but I’m now deeply invested in the story Jam City are telling. I am going to finish this game to find out what happens, no matter how long I have to wait for the energy bar to refill - especially since not winning the House Cup for Hufflepuff is tantamount to losing.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery (Reviewed on Android)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
A great story that is almost entirely ruined by the reliance on an energy system and the gameplay that goes with it.