Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone
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7  |  Casting A Spell With Harry Potter
Darryl B. , 6/15/2005 8:57:14 PM
Harry Potter is a worldwide phenomenon, short and simple. Even though I have little knowledge of what's going on in the literary world, even I know what the Harry Potter books are, even not long after they were introduced to the unsuspecting world: when first asked about them from someone several years ago, I said nope, I don't know what you're talking about, but then when I was told the books were originally aimed at children, but a lot of adults ended up liking them, I said "oh yeah, I know what you mean".

And then not long after that, the H. Potter movies started being cranked out.

Not to mention the video games as well.

The rather unlikely success story of a childrens' book series involves a young wizard who must leave the world of "muggles" (non-magic users) and go to wizard school (which he never even knew he was a wizard in the first place). The author -- whom I'd like access to just ONE of her bank accounts...just one! -- J. K. Rowling, who was inspired by The Lord of the Rings books, is now quite rich, as are various people in the movie industry, and I'll bet the Potter stars are quite comfortable as well, being young teens (at the time of this writing).

Granted, the Potter road hasn't always been smooth, as, at times, Rowling has had writer's block (she has said from early on she planned to write seven Potter books in all), one of the directors for the movies has already been replaced, a member of the cast died, certain fanatics have denounced the Potter series as to supposedly being evil, due to mentions of (kid-friendly) witchcraft (undoubtedly they're the same whiners who own pamphlets of "The Evils of Dungeons and Dragons", due to keeping tallies of how many times the words "devil", "demon", "witch", etc. is mentioned in the Monster Manuals and all, plus a load of other crap), and a real-life witch (this is true!) even placed a curse on the first Harry Potter movie, attempting to destine it to fail at the box office, due to claiming that real-life witches were insulted that Potter and pals are shown riding brooms backwards, as all real-life witches know that it's the handle end that is supposed to appear behind the broom rider, and the bristles end is supposed to be at the front. (Obviously, this wasn't a powerful enough witch to bring down the mighty Warner Brothers movie studio, who owns the rights to the Potter movies, which have been big hits so far.)

Anyway, aside from a kind of storybook-type intro, this cd goes right into the gaming aspect, rather than wasting time like the first movie did by having Potter gather all kinds of things for wizard school that were never explained why he needed them, most of the scenes weren't very funny or even very interesting, either (in my opinion). Potter's supposed to go straight to class the moment he enters the wizards' and witches' school of Hogwarts (loooovely name...what, "Pigsnot" was already taken?), but he's instantly deterred by the twins George and Fred who say they're going to give Potter a private lesson instead.

Instead of that possibly sounding naughty if taken out of context, it's actually a crash course in how to move about in the game, what with climbing and jumping around. The game's mostly in a behind Harry/3-D context, and runs smoothly as long as your computer can handle it (not that we're talking Doom 3 requirements or anything, but my mom's computer doesn't have a 3-D graphics card, although you can turn down the details and graphics to accommodate it all), having a pretty good-looking world with an eerie, but not scary atmosphere (after all, the game IS geared towards the younger to adult crowd).

Most of the game involves exploring Hogwarts while trying not to take damage from it's evil denizens and finding things, usually in regards to magic beans, chocolate frogs (ugh; guess we know what happened to Frogger!) and earning wizards' cards (which, if you have no idea what I'm talking about...well, I guess it's all explained in the book, as I've yet to read it). However, it's not all fun and games, as Potter actually has to attend the odd class or two (since he IS at a school, after all) to learn spells that will help him out in the game later. Unfortunately, with one of them being the Flipendo spell (which is kind of like a small bomb), Potter has to gleefully say "Flipendo!" with every time it's used, which, being like Anakin (or Anakan't) squealing "yippie!" in Star Wars Episode I, gets annoying. (Actually, if you're not listening carefully, it almost sounds like he says "Nintendo"...makes sense, as I'm sure those bratty wizard wannabes HAVE to have something in their dorm rooms to relieve their stress during their off-times.)

Yes, there's plenty of Potter references to the book and all, along with his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger showing up (not to mention Potter's rivals as well), along with a really fun part of the game consisting of a 3-D broomstick-riding screen (even though Potter's supposedly riding it backwards; oh darn), which also leads to the famed Quidditch game match later.

Anyone halfway decent at Doom (or any other intense FPS of the same genre) won't find the game to be too incredibly hard, although there IS one segment where Potter has to jump onto a bunch of moving platforms, which, if he misses, he'll take a fall into the water below, costing him all of his energy, which it's a while in between save states of the game there, so you'll have to keep on starting over and going through that part several times, as it's fairly difficult.

Anyway, backing up to something I said earlier about the voice samples, the voice acting is pretty decent, although Electronic Arts did away with the difficulty of trying to get the lip-synching to match while someone is talking entirely by just having none of the characters' lips move at all. So that's kind of creepy. Worse, too, is that there is NO WAY to skip the blasted cutscenes in the game...well, at least none that I know of, since I can't find the instructions to this (this game belongs to the nephew, who's always losing things). I've tried pressing (repeatedly!) the spacebar, the Escape, and all the F- keys (F1 through F12), and nothing seems to do the trick, which is ridiculous, since if you feel like pulling out the game from time to time over the years, you have to sit through them all, which is pretty pathetic. One well, at least the control is perfect, as you can't go wrong with either keyboard and/or the mouse controls.

Nonetheless, this is a decent game full of atmosphere, although to those who want a more action-packed FPS-type game knows where to go with the Doom, Quake, Duke Nuke 'Em, etc. games instead.

And none of which will contain characters that cares which way you prefer to fly on your broomstick in the privacy of your own computer.

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