Based on the recently released movie of the same name, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an action adventure in the style of The Legend of Zelda that's targeted primarily at kids, but it is also reasonably entertaining for adult fans of the Potter series. The gameplay and storytelling are solid, if a bit simplistic, but a great number of rough edges mar what could have otherwise been a much more polished game.
Help Harry Potter avoid escaped prisoner Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
It's a safe bet that much of this game's potential audience is already familiar with the storyline from the original novel, or they soon will be when the movie version is released. If you're not, Prisoner of Azkaban recounts Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a year that is dogged by the feared criminal Sirius Black. Black, the eponymous escaped prisoner, was somehow involved in the death of Harry's parents and he is making great efforts to reach--and presumably kill--young Potter as well. As with all the stories in the Harry Potter series, this one has more twists and surprises than you can shake a stick at, so if you don't already know what's going to happen, you'll be in for some surprises. The game mostly does a decent job of following the original storyline, though some liberties are taken to create new playable sequences. Meanwhile, some events from the book are only touched upon in passing, giving the story presentation a sometimes disjointed and hurried feeling. The game's story works pretty well, but it's better experienced as a companion to the book or movie, rather than as a stand-alone narrative.
The gameplay in Prisoner of Azkaban has been expanded upon from previous Harry Potter games, primarily because you can now play as not only Harry, but also as his best friends, Ron and Hermione. You'll progress through the storyline by pursuing basic quest goals that will have you attending particular classes, searching for key items, and helping out those in need. Once all your goals are completed for a given section, you'll have the option of ending the day and moving on to the next chapter or simply roaming around Hogwarts and exploring. The game's basic control scheme lets you map two spells to your action buttons, and a lock-on ability lets you dodge and keep your aim focused on a particular enemy or item of interest. You can switch between the three characters at the touch of a button, although sometimes you'll be limited to just one or two of them as situations dictate.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione each have different abilities that will come in handy as you fight magical enemies and solve puzzles.
Although the basic controls are the same for all three characters, the game does a pretty good job of differentiating between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry is the only one that can do athletic things like leap across chasms or climb up ropes; Ron has the ability to spot secret doorways and other hidden things; and Hermione can squeeze through small spaces that the boys can't. The puzzles in the game are pretty easy, but they make good use of the three friends' unique abilities, and you'll have to switch between characters to accomplish different parts of the same task. The characters all have access to some basic spells, such as the attack spell Flipendo, while other spells are character-specific: Ron can use the Lumos spell, that fans will know from the books, to shine a light on some enemies and items, while Hermione's Glacius spell can freeze hotheaded enemies and cool down some puzzle elements. Overall, the spellcasting is functional but not very flashy, and it provides another reason to switch between the three characters to defeat foes and solve puzzles.