Even with the franchise coming to an end with the final film in 2011, we still have not been able to forget about Harry Potter and the world of Hogwarts. So, with much of our generation still yearning for more Harry, let’s take a nostalgic look back to one of the first, and one of my most played childhood games, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the PC.
For those unfamiliar with J K Rowling’s second instalment, Harry has returned to Hogwarts after an incredible first year of learning, after Robbie C0ltrane’s famous exhortation: “Yer a wizard, Harry!”, trying his hand at incredible spells and potions, and of course, thwarting the evil Lord Voldemort. With He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named vanquished once more, one would think that this year at would be more normal – well, as normal as attending a magical school of witchcraft and wizardry could be. But when Harry begins hearing voices in the walls, people start being petrified (being turned to stone) and it is announced that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened by a chilling message written in blood on the wall, it seems that Harry, along with his best friends Ron and Hermione, are in danger once more.
In order to defeat the evil lurking in the sewers, Harry must learn a series of new spells and overcome more difficult challenges than the ones he faced in the first game. Attending classes, lead by old favourites Professor Flitwick and Professor Sprout, and the new and famously good-looking, but inept Professor Lockhart, allow Harry to learn new spells with mini-challenges, such as ridding hallways of gooey ectoplasm with ‘Scurge’ and stunning magical creatures with ‘Rictusempra’. This is particularly where the gameplay is actually vastly superior to that of its successors after the Prisoner of Azkaban: a player can cast these spells easily and effectively by holding down the left mouse button until the symbol of the spell appears on the object they want to cast it on. In other games, casting a spell can prove tricky and inaccurate, due to the lack of helpful symbols and, in some, confusing camera angles that result from not being in first-person shooter style.
The storyline is indeed one of the most compelling features of this game, with Aragog the giant spider leaving you to be devoured by his children and Lord Voldy returning with a vengeance to set the dreaded Basilisk on you. But of course to know this, one may simply turn to the novels. Unique to this game are the collectables that make the player want to explore the incredible features and places further. There are 50 Bronze and 40 Silver Wizard Cards with celebrities from the wizarding world to collect, which not only give you extra stamina every time you collect 10, but also give you keys to the Golden Wizard Card room, where your favourite characters such as Dumbledore and Harry himself are immortalised in card form. One of my favourite places in the game is the Bonus Bean Room, which you are permitted to enter if you are in the lead for the House Point Cup every week. Here Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, which are also collectables around the game, are in abundance, and by collecting enough, one can buy Wizarding Cards or even Quiddich updates like superior broomsticks from Fred and George Weasley.
Of course, for a game developed in 2002, one cannot compare its graphics to the Elder Scrolls and Farcrys of today. The bulbous pixelated eyes of gnomes are creepy and Ron’s fingers look like they are permanently glued together, but the animations are still fluid and well done. At least they have vastly improved from the Philosopher’s Stone game, where a flat Hagrid seems to have been hit in the face with a sledgehammer.
If any Harry Potter fans want to relive their childhood obsession (and, let’s be Sirius, that’s all of us), then I would recommend this game to begin with. Its storyline is sufficiently disconnected from the underlying terror of Voldy to make the game epic in its own right, and so allows the player to become blissfully absorbed into the magic of Hogwarts that we all wanted to be a part of as children – and for a lot of us, still do.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is available on the PC.