There's something rotten at Hogwarts. Something maleficent and unstoppable. It's worked its way into every classroom, weaving its evil spells and attempting to ruin the lives of everyone who tries to get in its way.
No, that's not the plot of Harry Potter: Hogwart's Mystery. I'm talking about something much more invasive than the influence of He Who Must Not Be Named. I'm talking about monetization, wait-timers, and one of the blandest mobile games I've seen in a good long while.
This is an experience that seems almost designed to sully any good feeling you might have ever had about Harry Potter games. It feels cynical, cold, and overtly calculating. So I thought we should have a good look at everything that's wrong with it.
The Leaky Cauldron
Things start off reasonably well. You're dropped into the wizarding world, tasked with making your aspiring first-year student, and sent to Diagon Alley in order to procure the bits and bobs you're going to need to start your studies.
But anyone paying attention at the start of the game is going to see the start of the rot. Diagon Alley is an iconic location – in the books and films it's a bustling location full of wonder and whimsy. In Hogwart's Mystery it's a place populated by about three people and a handful of blue glowing objects you need to tap.
Okay, you might be thinking, maybe that's just to get the tutorial out of the way. Maybe the good stuff is going to start when you get to the school and embark on your new career of learning. Alas, if only that were true.
The Sorting Hat
You get to Hogwarts and take part in the sorting ceremony. But rather than the Sorting Hat probing your character to find out where you should be placed, you just get to pick your own house. The lack of depth is really starting to show by this point.
But maybe, just maybe, spending time in Hogwarts itself is going to really kick the game into gear. Maybe you'll be able to explore all the nooks and crannies of the famous old castle and find out some of its secrets by yourself.
Nah, you're just going to be tapping on blue things. There's no exploration here, no finding your feet. When you're given a quest you go to where it's taking place. You tap blue things, some numbers flash up on the screen. And that's it. Well, actually, that's not it. It gets worse.
Because every single tap costs you energy. And within the first half-an-hour you're going to run out. There's none of the usual free to play kindness, no 'hey, have this refill on us'. Instead, while your character is entangled in Devil's Snare, you have to either wait or buy some gems to continue.
And it keeps happening. You'll get half way through a challenge only to run out. And sometimes those challenges have time limits that are shorter than the time it's going to take you to refill your energy without gems. So you either stop and wait, or reach for your wallet.
Bear in mind though that this is a game that's designed to appeal to children. It is, after all, set in the world of one of the most famous children's book series ever written. And it's just sat there gouging away. If you want to do anything, ANYTHING, for more than a handful of minutes, then it's wait or pay. There's no other way.
And the simple fact is, there just isn't enough here to make you even consider paying. Even die-hard fans are going to see through the game in a matter of minutes. It's The Simpsons: Tapped Out dressed up in robes and wands. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is one of the most disappointing mobile games of recent years.
It isn't an adventure, it isn't filled to the brim with ideas and possibilities. It's a game about tapping and waiting, with the occasional appearance from a character you remember from a variety of much more interesting pieces of entertainment.
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