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PS2 Review - 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'

by The Cookie Snatcher on March 2, 2004 @ 1:34 a.m. PST

Players take the role of Harry Potter as he arrives for his first year at Hogwarts and embarks on a journey to unravel the mystery of the Sorcerer's Stone. An adventure full of fun and magic, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone allows players to explore a variety of multi-layered 3D environments. The game includes encounters with many of the characters familiar to readers of the fiction, including Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Dumbledore, and his nemesis Draco Malfoy.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Warthog
Release Date: December 09, 2003

The Harry Potter franchise is huge. It's busting at the seams with profitability and everything the young wizard touches seems to turn into gold for everyone involved with the production. The videogame aspect of the equation is no exception. It's apparent from the number of units sold and the surprisingly good reviews it received that last year's multiconsole Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a smash hit. After the success of Chamber of Secrets, it would seem only logical to have a quickly-made/high-profit-potential, financially low-risk prequel produced. Unfortunately, Sorcerer's Stone does not meet the standard of Harry Potter games that was set in Chamber of Secrets.

The story stays true to the first book and movie that have succeeded at winning the hearts of so many consumers across the world, both young and old. The plot revolves, as the title suggests, around a young wizard boy named Harry Potter and his exciting exploits at the magical school of Hogwarts. You'll meet your Hogwarts friends, teachers, and classmates and control Harry as he makes his way through his first ever published adventure.

Every day in the game has a series of objectives that you need to accomplish in order to progress, many of which are taken straight out of J.K. Rowling's and Chris Columbus' book and film, respectively. After you finish up the day's objectives, you can explore Hogwarts, play mini-games, collect items, talk to classmates, or go to sleep. It's a solid structure, and one that worked well in Chamber of Secrets.

In terms of the game's control scheme and method of progression, Sorcerer's Stone shares more than a passing resemblance to last year's Chamber of Secrets. In fact, these two titles are essentially the same game but with different situational content. If you've played either of the N64 Zelda games and remember how Link controlled - ie: move with the analog, automatic platform jumping, trigger button targeting, strafing, etc - then you'll have a pretty good understanding of how Harry moves around in Sorcerer's Stone.

What would a wizard in training be if he didn't practice spellcasting? Well, he wouldn't be Harry Potter. That's for sure. As expected, Harry has the ability to utilize his magic wand to create spells of varying results and potency. You're able to dictate the power of each spell to a certain degree by holding down the spell's assigned face button for a certain amount of time. Also, in standard wizard fashion, Harry will hop on his broom and fly around on occasion.

Much of the visuals look quite familiar, but were boggled in the transition. Last year's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets showed off some truly memorable graphical additions ranging from an assortment of unique art pieces and original environmental backdrops. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, however, isn't nearly as polished or visually striking. At the slightly reduced price of $29.99 you can bet that you'll get what you pay for with this game. The particle and lighting effects give the graphical presentation some style and the familiar environments found throughout the game will certainly appeal to fans of the source material. Just don't expect anything too fancy.

The sound in Sorcerer's Stone gets the job done and even manages to impress on a few rare occasions. But it is also largely forgettable. The soundtrack conveys an undeniable sense of Potter-y ambiance, but some of the orchestrations tend to repeat a little too often for our tastes. Voice acting is probably the game's best aural aspect as the voice talent behind the in-game characters usually manage to deliver their lines in a believable and fitting style. Dialogue is available in Spanish as well, which seems like kind of a strange addition, but, well, there you go.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the PS2 utilizes a good engine that works well and is based on a franchise that is a huge hit. But Sorcerer's Stone is actually drastically inferior compared to the one-year old Chamber of Secrets. This will no doubt disappoint fans expecting something on par with the last Harry Potter game. Given the impressive game-making reputation of Electronic Arts and the seemingly unlimited financial resources of Scholastic Press, it's puzzling how such a mediocre product could have resulted from their combined efforts.

Score: 6.4/10

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