"When you first hear the tinny sounding main theme through the Gameboy Colour's speakers, you'll most likely by in no doubt that this is just another cash-in on a popular novel and film. However, once you actually begin your massively large adventure, you'll wonder if this ever was intended just as a tie-in. In fact, unlike most games based on novels and films, this game actually takes the mystical worlds of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts and brings them to life in a way neither the film nor any of th..."
When you first hear the tinny sounding main theme through the Gameboy Colour's speakers, you'll most likely by in no doubt that this is just another cash-in on a popular novel and film. However, once you actually begin your massively large adventure, you'll wonder if this ever was intended just as a tie-in. In fact, unlike most games based on novels and films, this game actually takes the mystical worlds of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts and brings them to life in a way neither the film nor any of the games on other platforms have accomplished.
Let's start at the beginning. Harry Potter is a young, ordinary kid who's just recently found out that he's actually the son of a witch and a wizard, and that he's actually the only person in existance known to have survived a killing curse, which killed his parents when he was only one year old. Harry's journey is one of discovery as he learns all there is to know of magic, wands, three-headed dogs, potions, and Quidditch, the popular sport played by wizards involving four balls and played in the air on broomsticks. Every aspect of wizard life is shown on the Gameboy's full colour screen, and the sheer amount detail crammed into the world is immense.
In 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', players will get to control Harry on his journey to Hogwarts and beyond, and it's a great experience. Starting out with only a wand and one harmless spell, you have to guide Harry on numerous errands and quests throughout the game, leading you to some memorable locations. But, it would all be too easy if it were not for magical encounters. These random patches of blue appear almost everywhere outside and in many dungeons and rooms of Hogwarts castle. By touching one of these, Harry enters a turn based battle against a selection of creatures. Controlling Harry, you get to cast spells you've learnt at enemies, and use items to boost your attack, health, and Magic Points. Spellcasting is great fun, and you'll always want to come back for more experience, and to learn which spells are most effective against which enemies. Also, you can use combinations of wizard cards (more on them later) to unleash deadly magical attacks on your opponents, giving you the edge.
If there's one thing that annoys me about the battle system though, it's the lack of any proper animation for attacks. Every spell you use has a different animation, but every one of your enemy's attacks is illustrated by a quick shudder of the attacker, followed by an annoying little pecking noise. This is aggravating, and you'll probably want to turn the sound off as you play. It's a pity, seeing as the Gameboy Colour title also features some great, imaginative little tunes in different areas of the game.
The wizarding world is full of surprises. Secret shortcuts hidden in one wall, and a free cauldron cake hidden inside a nearby basket. This encourages you to explore, but the massive amounts of hidden items in the game ruin the enjoyment of finding something new. Famous Witches and Wizard Cards are something you'll always need to look out for. There are 100 to collect throughout the game, and not only can you trade them with other GBC owners, but you can use them in battle to aid you.
If you get bored of the adventuring and battling after a while, this title will always surprise you by showing you a fun little game to try or a different style of side-quest. One such example is when you have to cross the great lake at Hogwarts. The lake is full of nasty beings and tentacled creatures, and you have to navigate through them in a little rowing boat. It's quite difficult for new players and it's a challenge to get through unscathed. Upon completion, you'll usually receive some sort of bonus, even if it's just a new card or possible combination to use in battle.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone isn't without it's flaws. Some of the dungeons, like Gringotts Bank, are extremely large and you have no sense of direction of how to proceed. Also, battles do tend to get rather repetitive, especially if you are in a large location, where the kinds of enemies you encounter don't vary much. The sounds do get on your nerves after a while too, and sometimes the visuals aren't too clear. But, all of that aside, you've got solid gameplay.
Get bored of playing through Harry's first year of wizarding education? Relax and play some of the minigames you unlock as you progress through the game. They're pretty fun, and would entertain you should you only have a couple of spare minutes to play. High scores don't seem to be saved, which is a bit of a downer, but it's not really that important.
With it's amazing length, great story, interesting subplots, and only a few minor flaws, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for the Gameboy Colour stands out as, in my opinion, one of the best licensed games to date. Highly recommended.
Community review by bodo_parkour (December 14, 2007)
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