A flying car, killer tree, and moonlit paths greet young Harry Potter as he returns to Hogwarts for term two in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The Harry Potter novels have enjoyed great success among both adults and children. Reflecting this, the developers have made gameplay extremely approachable. The control interface is simple – any child with some control over a keyboard and mouse should be able to master these; the game itself is also extremely straightforward: players are given plenty of guidance.
While this focus on simplicity will help younger players get the most from it, serving to reduce at home tech-support time from hard-working parents, advanced gamers may find that the title lacks teeth. Conversely, this in-game simplicity lends to adults looking for a quick games fix, without a rocket-science degree.
Harry begins with spells learned during the first game, enabling him to cast light (Lumos) and to flip items over (Flipendo). An example of simplicity: to cast spells, players just need to hold down the mouse button, moving the resulting cursor around the screen to release the magic. If an object can have a spell cast upon it, an icon unique to the appropriate spell appears. The game encourages some logic in its younger players – some puzzles require that spells be used in sequence together to achieve an aim.
Classmates will sell Harry what he needs in exchange for that staple Hogwart’s currency – Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. These are scattered everywhere, and can be used to buy things, including Quidditch Armour, and broomsticks.
Quidditch has been improved. When engaged in a match, players enjoy faster, smoother play, and more-responsive controls. It isn’t a flight in the park, though: opposing teams’ Seekers mount constant attacks to keep Harry from his goal.
You’ll need to play a few levels before playing Quidditch, but exploring the numerous secret passages and side adventures will help you find more beans to get that broomstick. The game also introduces Wizard Duels, which open up after Harry has had his first duelling class. Winners get beans, but first must learn offensive, defensive, and stun spells.
Aimed at younger players and Harry Potter fans, the game manages to be engrossing, but lacks the advanced features that some gamers look for. Graphics and sound-effects are good, and cut scenes frequently appear to help players move ahead.