Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone Review by: NovemberJoyExecutive meddling in action
EA is not a very good company. They're infamous for doing all of the things that people hate from gaming companies - buying up well-liked studios and running them into the ground, microtransactions, incredibly stupid business decisions, and more. I could go on all day about the things that EA has done that won them the Worst Company in America award, but that's not what you're here for, is it? Well, this game just happens to be published by EA, and comparing it to the GBC version of the same game shows just how much meddling they were doing even before being named the worst company in America.
I really like the graphical style of this game. It's detailed and colorful, especially for a GBA game, and it's a treat to look at. The animations are fluid enough that you can tell a lot of talent went into designing them. The GBC version of this game tried its best and is impressive to look at in its own way, but I honestly think this game wins out in the graphics department, partially because it's on a significantly more powerful system.
I wish I could say the same about the music and sound, though. The sound effects are fairly decent and fairly memorable at the same time, but the music isn't. It sounds extremely muffled as though it's being played underwater no matter what track you're listening to, and the tracks wildly vary in quality - some are somewhat pleasant to listen to, while others feel like an icepick in your ears. If the same level of work that went into the graphics went into the sound and music as well, this game would have an excellent presentation. The GBC version, despite using significantly less powerful hardware, has much better music than this game. Although it's a bit primitive at times, it still has a lot more work put into it than this version.
As far as I can tell, the storyline attempts to follow the movies instead of the books. Even with this in mind, it doesn't follow the movie all that well. The more memorable moments are there, such as the troll in the dungeon, but some other moments are mysteriously missing. To compensate for this, the developers decided to tack on their own subplots that don't fit in with the story at all and feel like they were just added in for the sake of making the game a little bit longer. I know movie-to-video-game conversions aren't the easiest thing in the world, but you could do a LITTLE better than this.
It's a fairly standard action-adventure game from a top-down perspective, and it seems to work out pretty well at first, although the issues start becoming more apparent when you advance further into the game. Almost every major objective in this game is a collect-a-thon that asks you to collect a bunch of some object and return to the start of the area. It's fine the first two or three times it happens, but it starts getting old very fast when you have to do it so many times. The first objective in the game is to collect a bunch of golden stars inside a maze, and then the second objective is to collect a bunch of glass vials from an underground maze...You get the picture.
This game's level design seems to favor repetitive mazes more than anything else. Forests are mazes, greenhouses are mazes, classroom challenges are mazes, the castle itself is a maze at certain parts of the game, everything's a maze! They're all very repetitive, and not all that fun to trek through just to collect a bunch of items. What's with all the holes, too? The level designer must've had some weird fascination with holes, because they're just about everywhere! There's so many holes that even the enemies fall into them occasionally! They're also the worst obstacle in the game, because falling into them forces you to restart the entire area from scratch. Considering how annoying it is to get through these areas in the first place, I really didn't need the added frustration of having to start the entire area over again.
Combat seems like it might be fun, considering the wide range of spells you'll have...right? Nope. The only spell that actually does anything to enemies is Flipendo, and the only enemies that are actually harmed by it are snails and gnomes. The rest just shrug it off without taking any damage. Even when you're fighting gnomes and snails, though, you have to be careful, since casting a spell has almost a full second of wind-up time before the spell is actually cast. I've been hit quite a few times simply because I was too close to the enemy and couldn't finish casting Flipendo in time to keep them away. Who decided to put that delay in there? Who could possibly think that was a good gameplay mechanic?
This game also has stealth for some reason. I didn't think there was all that much Metal Gear-style sneaking in the movie, but the creators of this game thought differently. One of the biggest problems that I had is that your view isn't large enough to easily see and react to enemies before they can run up and spot you, which sends you back to the beginning of the area. If they just added a feature that lets you move the camera freely, or even a feature that lets you see more of what's ahead of you by shifting the camera slightly forwards, I wouldn't have quite as much of a problem with this section. There's also some very poorly placed enemies, which will inevitably lead to you getting caught a lot, especially when an enemy that you already sneaked past appears right in your path just offscreen. You can probably see why I didn't like this section of the game, especially since it never happened in the movie or the book.
Although it seems like a typical action-adventure game, there really isn't much exploring to do. I didn't find any optional areas, and the only collectibles I could find were useless Wizard cards that you can't even get a description of and Pumpkin Pasties that raise your max health. As a result, there really isn't all that much replay value, and it doesn't help that some of the cards are in the aforementioned annoying stealth section. It's a very linear game from start to finish.
Overall, this game isn't all that great. It's extremely linear, doesn't do the greatest job of following the movie, and has a lot of major flaws in the gameplay, such as delayed controls and poorly-implemented stealth sections. Even if you're a Harry Potter fan, I would advise you to go for the GBC version of this game instead. It's got much better gameplay, a lot more optional things to do, follows the movie and the book much better, and is overall a much better game, especially if you like RPGs.
Overall Rating: 5 teleporting professors out of 10