Edit: Unfortunately a lot of my screenshots from the game that I used to illustrate this post seem to have mysteriously disappeared and I can’t find them but hopefully it’s still an interesting read!
It’s pretty rare for me to play games on my phone but when I heard of a Harry Potter game were you get to go to Hogwarts and take classes and do all this amazing stuff any fan always wished they could how could I not give it a try? One of my Harry Potter fan friends had warned me that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be but I still wanted to see it for myself, plus the internet creepily knows I’m a HP fan and has been bombarding me with adverts for the bloody thing, so that’s how I came to download Hogwarts Mystery.
I made my character first of all, so after looking through all the facial details I was kind of surprised at how most options made my witch look like she’d just had an allergic reaction to something. This might have been me being an idiot (I don’t know how because it should be simple) but I couldn’t seem to give her a hairstyle so I concluded that at Hogwarts you have to EARN that hair! Eventually my button nosed, wide-eyed, boy hair witch made her debut in Diagon Alley where she immediately met Hermione. Sorry, I mean Rowan. A muggle born witch who, upon learning that she has magical powers, absorbed the entirety of A History of Magic and other books. She’s such a unique character. This makes her super handy though because I need someone to tell me where and what everything is, even though I am the one from a magic family so shouldn’t it be the other way round? I am a seasoned HP fan so some of the explanations are a little patronising but I guess some people that don’t know anything about HP may have decided to download the app… For some reason.
Time for a bit of gameplay! I tapped on some shop doors to go in and then I tapped on some books that I needed, I tapped on them several times until my “book collecting” meter was full, then I gained some experience and earned some coins! Yay, coins! Next stop, Ollivander’s! Here Ollivander tactfully mentioned that my brother is a bit of a troublemaker who got expelled from Hogwarts and has now run away from home. Everyone’s going to have their eyes on me to see if I am also a troublemaker too. Ooh, undesired fame! Sounds a little familiar… He then says “that must have had a profound impact on you…” OK, I mean it’s literally none of your business but soon I would discover that not only is this pretty much everyone’s business, it’s also my core defining feature. I was given some dialogue options to answer him and chose “I feel sorry for him”, this earned me a wand for “sensitive wizards” made from acacia with a unicorn hair core. Brandishing my 12 inch tampon I went to show Rowan and we headed off to Hogwarts.
At our arrival we’re promptly told by Dumbledore told that some kid called Harry Potter has been taken to live with his Aunt and Uncle after his parents were murdered by He Who Shall Not Be Named, so we know where we are in the timeline now. Time for the sorting! I was quite excited about this, I like taking quizzes and while I have been sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore I was still mildly curious to see if I’d get the same result the questions would be super obvious or kind of discreet, maybe it wouldn’t even be a quiz maybe it would be based on what I’d already said to Rowan and Ollivander… It was technically a quiz: “What house do you think you belong in?” I was momentarily stunned. No quiz? No sorting based on your actual personality? I tapped Hufflepuff and half expected some more questions but no, that was it. I was sorted into Hufflepuff. I was outraged. If I had to pinpoint a moment that I decided this game was crap it would be that one. How dare you insult the sorting hat! Why even bother with it? Why not just go and sit at the table you want to join? The hat is a core part of the Hogwarts experience, not some Easter Egg character. Absolute anarchy.
On the plus side, you never get to see the Hufflepuff common room in the movies (or described in the books, I believe) so I was interested to learn that it looks like the sun puked in a Hobbit hole. The door is also not behind a picture of a bowl of fruit by the way, no portraits cover the House dorms. Surely figuring out how to get into the dorm could have been a good mini game?
Turns out that Rowan is a Hufflepuff too! Who’d have thought?! Such a coincidence! What luck that we’re here together! Now she can tell me more about how to tap stuff! You know what would be great Rowan? If you could tell me what the blue lightning bolts I keep getting are, or the pink gems… Or the empathy/knowledge/courage traits. What’s the point of those? I keep being asked to choose which one I want as a reward when I complete a tappathon but I have no idea what they mean.
It was then time for my first lesson: Charms. In order to learn how to cast Lumos I had to tap random bits and bobs around the room several times, I just… This is so stupid. I’d tap on Rowan and it would say “Discuss” or I’d tap on myself and I could “Wonder”. Wow. Really? If it gave you some facts about the Lumos charm or Wizarding World knowledge it would be pretty cool but nah… I then realised what the blue lightning bolts are for, they are your energy. Every time you tap on something you use 1 energy, if you run out of energy you can’t complete any more activities and need to wait for your bar to re-fill (4 minutes per energy bolt). Or you know… You could always buy some more energy, they have to make their money somehow I suppose, I would have happily bought the app though if it was good. Each task will be over after a certain amount of time and if you can’t complete all your task stars within the allotted time you have to start again. The first few activities are easy and you can’t run out of energy so that was OK, but the longer you play the more energy some tasks will take. You also can’t play it for long periods of time. After tapping away I finally got given the shape to trace to cast the best Lumos charm seen from a first year ever, or something else like that to make me feel like I am “The Chosen One”. The best Lumos charm! What? No way!
Draco Merula appears. A first year Slytherin girl with way too much make up on for an 11 year old. That or she’s just never seen the sun. Turns out she wants to be the best witch. OK, go for it girl. I literally just want to learn magic and have a good time. You can be best witch. Anything you say infuriates her though because she’s your arch enemy. After reminding me of the plot she flounced away.
Being an awesome witch meant that I was allowed hair so I was finally rewarded with my long awaited messy bangs and average trim. I don’t know what’s going on with the ‘dos in level 8 and 15 but I can’t wait.
Next we went to the Potions class. Of course I was immediately despised and discriminated against by Snape for literally no reason other than to make me feel like I am actually Harry Potter, if I was Gryffindor there would have at least been a link there. I wonder if you’re treated the same way if you’re in Slytherin? To be fair to the guy if this is set literally a couple of days after Lily’s death he’s probably a little distraught. I’m surprised he’s not been given some time off. Merula decided to share a table with me and Rowan, even though we’re mortal enemies, and she very obviously spiked my potion. Snape took 10 points away from Hufflepuff for my potion malfunctioning and suddenly WOAH I’m in trouble! The Hufflepuff House Prefect (who looks like a middle aged woman by the way) wants to see me immediately to talk about why we lost points. It’s 10 points dude, chill out, it’s really not the end of the world. Besides, I was given 10 already for casting the best Lumos charm in the history of light so we technically didn’t lose anything, I don’t see anyone else around here earning points! Luckily, a totally unsuspicious note from Snape arrives saying that if I bring him an ingredient from the supply closet he’ll restore the 10 points. Hmmm… Rowan and I head to the closet and suddenly we’re locked in and there’s some Devil’s Snare in here with us! Oh no! We can hear Merula on the other side of the door who is cackling to herself about being the best witch or something. I know I was supposed to be thinking “oh no, devil’s snare!” but in all honesty I couldn’t stop wondering how an 11 year old witch on her second day of school managed to install such a huge amount of Devil’s Snare in a closet. It’s pretty impressive, she could totally be the best witch.
Somehow I was the only one that was grabbed by the Devil’s Snare and it left Rowan alone. She pounded on the door and shouted for help while I tapped on the plant until the Lumos charm pattern appeared. This is where the tapping stuff got silly. I ran out of energy very quickly on this (mainly because I’d just come from my Potions class and had already used a bunch of energy) but the event was 8 hours long so I thought I’d just come back to it later once my energy had come back… My character was trapped for about 2 and a half days before I remembered and went back to it. If it wasn’t for wanting to write this post I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all. I had to start the event again and this time I did manage to get free.
Hagrid let us out of the closet and asked me how evil I wanted to be in my revenge. I said I wanted to go to Dumbledore (bitch tried to kill me!) but he basically said not to bother. Just a normal day in Hogwarts then! Time for a flying lesson! Here I met (or maybe I’d already met him, I can’t remember, he was that impressionable) a new friend
Neville Ben, a Gryffindor that doesn’t feel like he should be in Gryffindor because he isn’t brave. He has an unfortunate fish-esque face and he’s kind of depressing.
Did I get to fly in my lesson? No. I dreamt and wondered at the idea of flying. It was so great.
One thing was made clear to me though: that was as far as I was willing to go with this mind numbing game. I never thought I’d find a Harry Potter game more shite than when I got The Order of the Phoenix on the Wii back in the day but here it is! It really takes talent and skill to make the world of Harry Potter a boring place but this app managed it. What’s more, this is actually a Warner Bros. licensed game. They made a video game publishing company (Portkey Games) to make games specifically related to the Wizarding World and with all that creativity and content available to them this is what they came up with. They could have even improved the name by just inserting the letter ‘A’ in there. Hogwarts: A Mystery. You know, like Hogwarts: A History? Better, right?
What was I expecting from this app then? Well, here’s we get into severe gaming app territory where things can get a little restricted because it’s… Well, it’s an app. Obviously they need some money from the app, as I said before, but tapping stuff isn’t exciting! You’re not gaining anything other than getting to trace the shape for a spell once you’ve tapped enough and some in-game currency. If you want to play it without buying anything you can only complete one task at a time (or two very small ones) and it’s not like I’m thinking “Gosh, I can’t wait to go back to the game so that I can tap things until I earn enough pink gems to purchase a pair of glasses!” There’s just no fun incentive to bring me back. I would have happily paid for a well made Harry Potter app with puzzles and mini games rather than have a free one that relies on in-game purchases, in fact I actually thought it was a puzzle game at first because it’s called Hogwarts: Mystery. I can get over the terrible plot, I guess they need something to drive this, but I’d like to be able to run around the school and talk to different characters, I could have a spell book and could cast them randomly when I want (still by drawing on the screen), I could pick up little side quests from characters (find the lost wand or something), I could have a magical creature to look after, maybe I’m not very good at some lessons and then later I’ll be recommended which magical jobs I should aspire to work for based on my performance… I don’t know much about app development but none of that seems out of the realms of possibility.
It’s a shame because it actually looks pretty good, there was just so much that could have been done. Why hasn’t a proper big Harry potter game been developed yet? I know we have all the games that came from the movies but I would love a Sim-esque RPG style one on Playstation or PC or something.
Maybe I’m missing something. My friend (who is a massive Harry Potter fan) said that she really enjoys the game and that the only thing that annoyed her so far is that Professor McGonagall doesn’t have glasses so it’s a little inconsistent. This resulted in me pulling exactly this face:
But who am I to judge?
… I just… Really?!
Have you been playing Hogwarts Mystery? Are you enjoying it? Are you not enjoying it? Do share your experiences in the comments!