Today marks the 20th Anniversary of a very magical publication. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone debuted on June 26, 1997 in the U.K. Twenty years has given us seven main books, several spinoffs, a theme park, a plethora of movies, and of course, video games. Unfortunately most of these games aren’t very good, which is astounding to me. Watching Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them last year made me realize you don’t need Harry to tell a good story in this universe. There’s so many other tales to tell and games are the perfect medium to realize J.K. Rowling’s vision. Why then hasn’t there been any true greats?
Understandably there’s a lot to deal with when creating a game based on an intellectual property. There are rights to consider along with following a tome of lore. The most important factor is money. It’s simply easier for companies to rush a movie tie-in game through development, which will sell regardless of quality, rather than to invest on something original. Sad, but true and yet there is hope. Lord of the Rings has made some great strides recently and it’s only getting better.
What we have right now though for Harry Potter is poor. The games based on the seven movies try to haphazardly follow the plot, but because a game can’t be a narrowed, short experience like a movie, these tie-ins are padded out with awful mini games, clunky platforming controls, wonky combat, and a laundry list of other groans. The one thing I will give props to is allowing players to explore the campus of Hogwarts albeit in a truncated fashion. So there are good ideas, but they’re caged in a shell of mediocrity.
As always I’ll discuss all that and more with the accompanying video retrospective. Before I sign off though I wanted to give a quick shout out to my aunt who bought me the very first book and opened my eyes to the wonderment of Harry Potter. Thanks again and happy 20th Harry!