Title  : Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation, Windows
Publisher  : Electronic Arts
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 7.1
Review by  : Ken Gagne

The boy who turns video gamers into readers can work his magic both ways. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, an Electronic Arts game for PlayStation and PC, isn't quite as magical as the books, however. [PSX version reviewed here] 

Based on J.K. Rowling's first book, the video game follows young Harry Potter during his first year at the wizardry school of Hogwarts. Players control Harry in a 3D, over-the-shoulder platform games like many others. 

Few of the book's plot development details are observed in the PlayStation game. The gameplay takes advantage of the school setting to give Harry (and players) lessons in spellcasting, making a goal of getting to class and learning each spell. Between lessons, Harry may run errands for Hagrid the groundskeeper, have a run-in with the sinister Draco Malfoy, or rescue Hermione Granger from a rampaging troll. Quidditch matches, in which Harry mounts his flying broomstick in search of the Golden Snitch, occur occasionally. 

Although Hogwarts is a large place, locked doors keep Harry on a set path with little room for additional exploration. There are plenty of Every Flavor Beans and Famous Witches and Wizards cards to collect, but these are unnecessary to progress. 

In these details and other regards, the game imitates the novel's world – except in one important way. The game has a primary audience in younger gamers, but unlike the books, will probably not garner similar interest from an older crowd. The average gamer can guide Harry though his trials from beginning to end in under four hours, having found most of the secrets and suffering little damage. 

The environment similarly fails to captivate. The graphics are pleasantly free from any camera issues, allowing Harry to always get a clear view of even the most cramped surroundings. The soundtrack isn't John Williams, but is appropriately bewitching, preferring to make itself known only during climatic battles and cinematic expositions. 

The control varies depending on the situation while retaining a constant simplicity. One primary button searches or interacts with an item, while another casts a spell. Anything Harry wishes to bewitch can be affected by only one type of spell, so the same button can cast an offensive Knockback Jinx against an enemy, an Incendio fire invocation on a plant, or a levitation charm on a statue. 

The spells require exact timing, but players will otherwise be unchallenged by Harry's movements. Some trials involve jumping, which Harry does automatically when he approaches a ledge. Broomstick flying is also a simple experience, though also much drier than one might imagine. Whether in training or on the Quidditch pitch, players must guide Harry with increasing speed through a series of floating rings. The control is fast and loose, making it easy to lose sight of the target. 

The strongest feature of Harry Potter's PlayStation incarnation is the brand name. Electronic Arts has not applied the name to a weak game, but there's little about the game that's enchanting on its own.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 19-Nov-01