Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
First of all we'll tell you right up front that we love Harry Potter! We read all 4 of the wonderful books by J.K. Rowling and we highly recommend them, for adults as well as for children. And we saw the movie (called the "21st century's Wizard of Oz") twice! So of course we had to see what the game was all about, even though strictly speaking it isn't really a standard Adventure game. It is more of an Action-Arcade Adventure (with the emphasis on action-arcade), similar to Twinsen's Odyssey or the 'Tomb Raider' games in many ways. And it is a very good one.
For those of you who aren't already familiar with the story (is there still anyone out there who isn't?), it is one that no child or young-at-heart adult can resist. It is a fairytale of fantasy and magic, of good versus evil, that does not take place in some far off 'once upon a time' but is instead set in modern day England.
Eleven year old Harry is a wizard, but he doesn't know it. His parents were killed by a wicked wizard when he was just a baby, leaving him with a 'lightning bolt' scar on his forehead from the ordeal. Since that time he has been raised by mean 'step-parents' (actually his aunt and uncle), who have deliberately kept his heritage hidden from him. He has no idea that magical people, witches and wizards like his real parents, even exist. Until that fateful day when he receives a letter notifying him that he has been accepted at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, and goes there to develop his own natural talent ..... and to eventually face and conquer the evil wizard who killed his parents!
This game was developed primarily for 8-14 year olds, but it should appeal to adults as well. It is also available for the PlayStation, Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Color systems, but the PC version (which we played) is much more versatile because of the engine that drives the game. It has more places to explore, realer looking characters, and more freedom and control in the Quidditch matches.
It is a 3rd person, 360-degree game, with subtitles and multiple inventories. You control Harry's movements and actions with a combination of mouse and keyboard, and the controls can be customized to better suit your style of play. Both the setting and the characters encountered (over 20) are faithful reproductions of those from the film, and they are a feast for the eyes. The hallowed halls and grounds of Hogwarts are rich in color and detail, with a fully navigable 3D environment and a huge variety of beautiful locations and secret areas to discover and explore. And the characters are absolutely wonderful: easily recognizable and realistic, with natural looking movements and excellent voice acting (but alas, no lip movement).
However the game was designed so that young fans could play at being the famous Harry Potter themselves. So with only a very brief introduction to remind you of the story, it assumes that you already know why you're here and gets right down to the business at hand: getting good enough at all of this magic stuff to be able to face 'You-Know-Who'. And that means lots of practice!
You arrive at Hogwarts only to be told that you must start attending classes immediately. But before you do, Fred and George Weasley volunteer to teach you how to get around. And their tutorial quickly brings you up to speed on how to climb over obstacles and jump over chasms (there's an Auto Jump option for those who have difficulty), as well as how to collect inventory items.
In each class (with the exception of Potions) you will learn how to cast a magic spell. There are 5 in all and you master them by tracing their shape in the air with your mouse within a certain time limit. Each time that you do so successfully (you get 4 tries), you win House Points for Gryffindor. Immediately following each class, you return to the halls and grounds to face a 'Challenge' in which you practice using your newly learned skills, or try to find items for Potions class or Hagrid. Along the way you will collect the 'Challenge Stars', lots of Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans (useful in trade for wizard cards and secret info), Chocolate Frogs (used to replenish your stamina), and the Famous Witches & Wizards cards (25 in all).
The challenges get harder as you go along, all preparing you for the final confrontation with 'You-Know-Who' of course. But first you have to not only overcome all of the physical obstacles, you also have to defeat all sorts of other enemies (at least 10 different ones) who are bent on stopping you: everybody and everything from Draco Malfoy to malicious plant life! And you can only save at certain predetermined locations, so you may have to repeat entire sections if you mess up (which is our only real criticism of the game).
But no doubt what young players will find the most appealing is the Quidditch! It is a fast paced, arcade-style game and with a little training you are quickly promoted to the house team where you can go on to glory, especially if you find the hidden Nimbus 2000! And for even more hours of fun the game includes an optional 'Bonus' Quidditch League, which pits you against increasingly harder teams as you improve.
All in all it is a truly challenging and immersive game, and it should appeal to kids of all ages. If you like Action-Arcade Adventure games, then you will surely like this one!
Developed (2001) by KnowWonder Digital Mediaworks and published by Electronic Arts.
Visit the following websites to learn more about Harry:
Minimum System Requirements: for the PC
PC: Pentium II 266 MHz Processor; Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 64 MB RAM; 4X CD-ROM / DVD-ROM Drive; DirectX 8.0; 8 MB 3D Video Card; DirectX 8.0 Compatible Sound Card; 500 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Keyboard; Mouse
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