Why I'm Playing a Harry Potter Mobile Game From 2018

Fun, but flawed

The Hogwarts cafeteria in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
Jam City

I have been venturing down memory lane hard with my good friends Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, and Snape. 

Okay, not in real life, but I’ve been playing Jam City’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery for the past two weeks. I recently invested in a second generation 11-inch iPad Pro and before purchasing it, I knew I’d want to download some games. As an avid Harry Potter fanatic, I was thinking this adventure game could be a good first download on my new device.

There’s a few functionalities and design changes that could have made this gaming experience better, but it still had a nice historical touch with various challenges testing your trivia ability to remember spells, phrases, and potions from the popular franchise.

"There are plenty of Harry Potter mobile apps out there, but not many of them capture the adventure aspect adequately."

Look, I chose to play this old, 2018 game because, for one, it has the highest rating in the Apple App Store for Harry Potter games with a 4.7 out of five stars out of approximately 909,000 ratings. Secondly, I wanted to play an adventure game with longevity and Hogwarts Mystery is ranked No. 28 on the App Store adventure chart. There are plenty of Harry Potter mobile apps out there, but not many of them capture the adventure aspect adequately. The other games I came across were mainly just Harry Potter themed puzzle and matching gem games. Ick.

So, honestly, why not grab a game that has the highest possibility of me loving it?

Reeling Me In 

I was able to design my own playing character! Though I’m kind of sad I couldn’t choose a low buzzed haircut like my own because I chose a woman character, I went with a short ice blonde pixie cut instead. In most games I’ve played, I’ve gotten full masculine and feminine feature options, regardless of the gender of the player I choose. Jam City definitely missed the inclusivity cue on this one. 

Either way, please meet the stylish and witty Wynter Stargaze. This name totally came to me after I designed her, it was like it was meant to be.

Player's created student character in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

When I started the game up, I got an opening scene filled with music and cameos from classic characters (helpful since I haven’t seen the movies in a while). I even got my acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Following that, I enjoyed the trip to Diagon Alley to pick my wand and meet my first friend, Rowan. 

From here, the game moved forward pretty smoothly and wasn’t interrupted by the typical advertisements every couple of minutes. I was sorted into Ravenclaw, which is the house I wanted. Like typical adventure games, you get an overarching look at rewards, rooms, and other things you can unlock as you move through the levels. Though it’s simplistic, the design of the Hogwarts campus was done well, from the Great Hall to the Quidditch Stadium and the Charms Classroom. I can tell the game’s designers really drew inspiration from the films while still adding a personal touch.

My favorite aspect of the game is I’m able to make friends and have conversations to gain their trust. I get to choose from a variety of dialogue options, and ultimately the more trust I build with friends, the closer I get with them to take on missions with me. From the other adventure games I’ve played (mostly a lot of Tomb Raider on my PS4) I don’t get to build relationships like this, even though I often cross paths with people. 

Where the Game Fell Short

The game is packed with a lot of dialogue, but outside of the opening scene, there isn’t much audio… I found that very odd. You’ll have to read the dialogue and settle for some facial expressions and a few small noises like grunts and laughs.

Gameplay is based on an energy bar, like many games of the era, unfortunately. I started with 25 units of energy to use, and I’ve since worked my way up to 27 (the energy bar increases as I reach higher levels). It’s difficult to play this game for longer than 10-15 minutes at a time, though, because once I run out of energy, I can’t move forward until I recharge, which happens over time (unless you want to pay for more, of course). It takes 4 minutes to recharge one energy, so to get fully charged, it takes close to two hours right now. 

"There’s a few functionalities and design changes that could have made this gaming experience better."

This is mostly unfortunate because the game also puts a time restraint on all tasks. Sometimes I get three hours to brew a potion, and if I can’t get that done using only one energy bar, I have to wait and watch the game closely. Sometimes, those time restraints are more outrageous, like this 12-hour wait to feed the Niffler again.

This is definitely a game you want to get notifications for since an alert is sent when you have enough energy to complete a task.

Feeding the Niffler in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

The main thing that ticks me off with this game is the way you have to complete charms and potion classroom tasks. In order to acquire a new skill, you have to earn five stars, and you earn these stars by completing short tasks like reading the board, practicing certain motions, or conversing about the learning content with classmates.

But weirdly enough, you’re not actually doing these things, you’re just clicking through them. For example, if there’s a task to chat with a classmate and it's worth four points towards a star, I just tap that classmate four times and I complete the task, instead of actually talking to the person. Each tap also takes away one energy point, so you really have to find the right combination of tasks to complete to earn five stars and acquire new skills.

"This is definitely a game you want to get notifications for..."

A way to get past all of these roadblocks, of course, is to spend money. You can purchase just about anything in the game that you can earn, from energy to coins and diamonds. I’m a true Harry Potter Stan, but I refuse to spend money to advance in this game. It’s 100% possible to beat this game without spending money, but it may take a significantly long time with the way the game is designed.

Regardless of this game’s faults (and there are many), I will continue to play Hogwarts Mystery solely because I’m too committed to completing the game, and maybe keep my fingers crossed for a redesign of the time restraints. I’m mainly interested in finding out what happened with my brother who was expelled from Hogwarts. Oh, I’ll also be spending a lot of time in the dueling room, so I can be ready just in case “he who must not be named” decides to pay me a visit. Sure, it’s an old game, but it’s still got me spellbound.