We wanted to love the new 'Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery' video game, but the slowness and cost are disappointing

The mobile app is great if you only play for a few minutes a day, but hardcore Potterhead gamers will be put off by the expense if you want to play longer

Ginny Wong |

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If you’re anything like us, you’ve been waiting for your Hogwarts letter to arrive for, like, years. Wait no longer - games developer Jam City has released Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, an app that lets you FINALLY be the witch or wizard that you were always meant to be. However, while we really wanted to love this game … we sort of didn’t.

The game, set in the years before The Boy Who Lived goes to school but after he defeats Voldemort as a baby, follows the adventures of, well, you, as you learn spells, make friends, and gain points for your House. You start off in Diagon Alley, where you meet and befriend a fellow-student-to-be, and where you choose a wand. There are options here to customise your character, which we were happy to see. More options can be unlocked or bought as you level up. As you play through what is essentially the tutorial, you discover that your character has a pretty interesting backstory.

The backstory, by the way, is actually pretty good - your character’s brother was expelled from Hogwarts and has been on the run ever since, and you enter school under the shadow of your older sibling’s actions. As far as story-driven mobile RPGs go, this is great fun, and there’s a mystery to be unravelled. You want to continue playing, because you want to know more about happened, and what will happen next.

The game seems to have a definitive end in mind (obviously, it has something to do with your brother), but how you act and responses to NPCs as you play will affect how you reach that end. The build-up of your stats - courage, empathy, and knowledge - are entirely dependent on you. You can choose to be an intelligent witch with no empathy, or a courageous but stupid wizard instead. That will, however, affect your gameplay further down the road, because some actions can’t be taken if you don’t have the stat numbers for it.

The graphics are pretty, the cut-scenes are charming, and the music very Potter-esque. We love that Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon returned to reprise their roles from the films by lending their voices to their app equivalents.

So, that’s what we loved about the app, but here’s what we didn’t love.

There are details and things mentioned in the app that don’t match the books. If the game is set in the mid-80s, before Harry’s first year, then why are there questions on Firebolts (supposedly a new broom in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and Dolores Umbridge (who was never a professor before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)? They are minor things, obviously, but pure Potterheads will probably be a bit annoyed at the inaccuracies.

The biggest thing is that the game is practically unplayable if you don’t spend real money. Actions in the game are dependent on energy, which can be restored by waiting (like you would in Candy Crush on Facebook when you run out of lives), or by spending gems. Gems can be bought with the in-game currency … which can be bought with real-life money.

Many of the game objectives have a time limit; if you feel like you can’t beat that limit without buying an instant replenishment of your energy, we can see how dangerous this game could be for your bank account. Not spending anything is possible, but it makes the game incredibly tedious. An insane amount of energy, for example, is needed to escape from a Devil’s Snare very early on in the game, and you might end up waiting for hours before you can move on to the next objective, at which point, you might find yourself closing the game in frustration.

Is Hogwarts Mystery worth the hype that built up around it? It depends on how patient a player you are - if you can play for a few minutes a couple of times throughout the day and not feel frustrated, then this is awesome. It’s immersive, and fun, and full of Potter goodness. If you prefer to play your games for long stretches of time but you don’t want to fork out real cash for the privilege, then maybe you should pass on this one. Sorry Jam City, we wanted to love this, we really did.

Gif via GIPHY