A Hogwarts Mystery – how this game ever got made

There was quite a lot of excitement surrounding the recent release of a new Harry Potter game on iOS. It was your chance to attend Hogwarts, learn lessons, immerse yourself in the magical world that we’ve grown to love. It was even touted as Harry Potter meets The Sims, which, as you can imagine, immediately got my attention.

Early reviews of the game weren’t so positive though, suggesting that whilst the story is interesting enough, it’s really just one of those ‘gouge-as-much-money-from-the-user-as-possible’ games which is free to play but perhaps not so free to fully indulge in.

The Guardian review, in fact, hits out at the game right from the off:

Like a lot of smartphone games, Hogwarts Mystery looks a bit basic, but it’s not lazy; it’s colourful and gently humorous. Fan-pleasing touches come in the form of dialogue voiced by actors from the Harry Potter films, cameos from beloved characters and allusions to nuggets of Potter trivia.

The enchantment fades when you get to the first story interlude, where your character becomes tangled up in Devil’s Snare. After a few seconds of furious tapping to free yourself from its clutches, your energy runs out and the game asks you to pay a couple of quid to refill it – or wait an hour or for it to recharge. Sadly, this is absolutely by design.

I’ve played the game on and off for a week or two and haven’t spent any money on it but I’ve also not gotten very far with it either. Things didn’t get off to a good start when I inexplicably picked Ravenclaw to be my house (I’d love to see the bar chart comparison of how many users pick Gryffindor compared to the other three).

The fact that you do have to either buy energy or wait until your health is restocked is annoying, and it makes the gameplay very stop-start. My biggest complaint though, is that the game is basically just tapping the screen to no real end. Occasionally, there’s some dialogue where you choose how to direct the conversation, and there’s a very rare tap-to-get-the-circle-within-the-circle moment to break up the monotony, but it’s really just tap tap tap. Wait. Tap tap tap. Wait.

With a rich universe as the Wizarding World, this seems like such a missed opportunity. Make it a free-to-play, pay-to-play-faster if you must but if you do that you have to make the gameplay addictive and interesting. There’s such a range of options that could be designed in terms of mini-games: getting more characters involved, flying broomsticks, racing broomsticks, match threes, crosswords, quizzes, spells, caring for a magical creature, proper duelling like street fighter, really there’s so much that could be done.

Instead, it’s tap tap tap. Wait. Tap tap tap. Wait.

You’re really better off just watching the films or reading the books again, because even though there’s no actual expansion of the universe by doing that, you actually get some entertainment from it.

I wanted to love this game, but sadly it doesn’t live up to The Sims or Harry Potter.