A beautiful role-playing game with bland game play, characters, and tasks. It’s the Hufflepuff of the Potter world.
Familiar faces and recognizable (magical) places
Send in the dementors. This game deserves to spend time in Azkaban.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a free-to-play role-playing game. If you are expecting an action-packed, dueling with wizards, learning new potions, and exploring Hogwarts experience...you are in for a disappointment.
Four years ago, The Boy Who Lived was Born. Harry Potter and his pals will not make an appearance. This is a new story surrounding the events of those early days. Your brother searched for the fabled Cursed Vaults, and their treasure, during his time at Hogwarts. He wasn't there long. Hogwarts expelled your brother and he ran away. You haven't seen him since.
Some students and professors eye you with suspicion. Will you choose to break the rules and follow in the footsteps of your brother or fall into line? How you interact with the people you meet has consequences.
Welcome to Hogwarts
The game begins with a hunt for school supplies in Diagon Alley. You don't have free reign and you won't find much to do. Even choosing a wand is a boring process. You do make your first friend, Rowen.
Every other sentence points out how the two of you are odd and strange. You both complain about not having friends. Conversation with Rowan does have its perks. You receive attributes in courage, empathy, and knowledge. The responses you choose can strengthen your bond with Rowan so she can join you on further adventures and give you points. Some conversation options are unavailable if you don't have enough points in a skill (like knowledge). Still, these are not likable characters.
Your first enemy doesn’t get much better, taunting and teasing you with threats that sound closer to those of a Kindergartner. Even with the almost interesting Cursed Vaults backstory, it's hard to care about any of these characters. Once you head to Hogwarts, talk begins about the sorting hat. In a shocking move, this game doesn't include a quiz to sort you into the appropriate house. No, you choose the house you want and that's the house you get.
Things almost pick up as you discuss your classes with Rowen. Potions, charms, flying on a broom -- when do you get started? Too bad your first class isn't any more interesting than any other part of the game. Again, more random tapping on highlighted objects accompanied by bland conversational text.
You might need to study a book, so you click three times until the meter fills, and you can move onto the next highlighted object. Throw in one trivia question based on the class (and general Harry Pottery knowledge) and, no matter how good it looks, it's still drudgery. When you complete actions, you gain more points toward specific attributes. Complete classes, answer the question from the class right to receive rewards in the form of energy, coins, or gems. Complete the class and move to the next thing on the agenda. Tasks can take short periods of time up to a half a day to complete. It’s almost as infuriating as the paywall that appears fifteen minutes into the game.
Respect the rules of magic
Your actions have consequences. Your triumphs will earn you points while rule-breaking loses you house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points get the House Cup, like in the books. But unlike the books, the pace is agonizing. After the tutorial, you will run out of energy. You cannot do anything else in the game without energy or enough gems to gain energy. Each of your actions, such as attending a class to learn how to take care of your broom, need a set amount of stars to finish. You gain these stars by completing actions using your energy. Your energy meter only holds so much. It’s impossible to complete the actions before time runs out. When time runs out, and it will, you have to repeat the mindless tapping, and hope you have enough energy this time to finish the task and advance the story. Otherwise, it’s back to square one.
The customization options of clothing and hair, pets, makeup, and the rest of a wizard's ensemble is the high point of the game. It's too bad the game lacks free custom options. The dollar amount on the rest of the lot is too high compared to the rate at which you receive coins and gems.
Moving from one place to another is infuriating. Is it necessary to click from one doorway to another doorway? At least the secret attributes and energy points sometimes hidden in a scene are nice. So, too, are the moving portraits and plates of armor. This game does provide the feel of Harry Potter and it looks good. It doesn't have the detailed characters and immersive world you want in a role-playing game.
Where can you run this program?
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is available on Android and iOS (requires iOS 10.0 or later).
Is there a better alternative?
Fans won’t find a shortage of Harry Potter-esque games. Lego Harry Potter is a premium pick but follows the story of the real Harry Potter in yellow brick style. With 100 character unlocks and the typical Lego humor, it’s lighthearted, humorous, and fun in a way Hogwarts Mystery can’t match.
Fantastic Beasts: Cases is a more serious title but does have the feel of Hogwarts Mystery. Use your wizarding skills to seek out hidden picture objects and solve magical creature crimes. The graphics are great but it does rely on energy so you won’t get to play at your leisure. It's a move that might be too close to Hogwarts Mystery mechanics.
It’s a thin story paired with repetitive actions and constant paywalls. Every minute of almost active and interesting game play is thwarted swallowed by hours of inactivity.
Should you download it?
No, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is not the wizarding role-playing game of your dreams. With boring gameplay, repeating tasks, and zero in the character development department, this is one game you should avoid.