Last year's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets marked the first game based on the Harry Potter franchise to be targeted at a wider audience than the core children for whom the very first Harry Potter game for the original PlayStation was intended. The third-person action adventure game, developed by Eurocom, managed to offer a mix of good presentation and engaging gameplay while staying true to its source material. Nearly a year later, Electronic Arts is revisiting Harry's first adventure in a new multiplatform title, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The game, developed by EA's UK Studio in collaboration with veteran developer Warthog Games, borrows liberally from the Chamber of Secrets formula to make for a new adventure that retells young Mr. Potter's origins. While this may sound like a good idea on paper, the actual execution, unfortunately, doesn't live up to the standards of Chamber of Secrets and ends up being a lackluster game that never quite comes together.
This latest Harry Potter game is a straightforward action adventure that feels pretty rough around the edges.
The game's story sticks pretty close to the first book in author J.K. Rowling's juggernaut franchise and casts you in the role of young Harry as he starts his first year at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You'll hook up with Harry's circle of friends, meet his teachers, and, of course, sort out some trouble that's brewing at the school. The game follows a linear objective-based structure that is broken up into days. Each day features its own unique objectives (usually revolving around your classes at Hogwart's), which you'll have to clear before moving on to the next. Your activities are balanced between exploration, puzzle-solving (sometimes with the aid of your trusty owl Hedwig), and combat. However, once you've completed your daily tasks, you'll decide when your day is over, which lets you get in some exploration or minigame time if you need a change of pace. You'll find the same basic collectibles in Sorcerer's Stone that were in Chamber of Secrets, so plan on collecting Bertie Bott's every-flavored beans, which you can use to trade for items and wizard cards. At any rate, Harry's adventures will probably last you fewer than 10 hours.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone offers a fair amount of gameplay variety and aims to make controlling Harry as user-friendly as possible. The control here is identical to last year's game, so you'll move Harry with the controller's analog stick, and you'll use the face buttons for context-sensitive actions and spells. Spellcasting lets you fire off a spell quickly, or you can charge your sorcery up a bit by holding down a spell's assigned face button for a set amount of time. You'll keep track of your collectibles in Harry's "remembral," which is an in-game menu that lets you stay on top of everything that goes on in the game. You'll use the shoulder buttons to target foes, and you'll also have limited control over the camera during specific areas in the game. Jumping occurs automatically when Harry runs toward a gap. If the jump is just short of his intended destination, he'll even catch ledges. As before, Harry will able to shimmy against walls in stealth sequences (like in Splinter Cell) and can fly on a broom when needed.