Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry is back at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry in his third game based on the third book. Unlike previous years though, this time he is not adventuring alone. This time you get to control Harry, Hermione and Ron as you will need all of their skills to battle Dementors, rescue Buckbeak and get through final exams (eek!)
As a big Harry Potter fan I was happy to play the game, I have read all the books and was satisfied the game gave you the basic outline of the novel, (as long as you're not being too picky.) You don't have to be a Harry fan to like the game, but I think it will certainly help, as the fans are the intended audience.
Fellow Harry Potter fans will know that there are many Hogwarts' secrets to be uncovered. If you explore the grounds carefully you will find hidden things everywhere. Chocolate Frogs and secret passages and Bertie Botts Beans and Wizard Cards are all over the place. Of course it is not essential that you collect every Chocolate Frog or Wizard Card or go through every secret passage way, it's up to you to decide what is "properly" finishing the game. However if you want 100% in the final exams, you had better look for everything.
All things Harry Potter are in the game: going to classes, following the moving staircases, watching the portraits. You can find your way around the school with the Marauders Map, you battle Hagrid's Monster Books and you trade your Bertie Botts Beans, Pumpkin Pasties and Cauldron Cakes for other goodies at Fred and George's shop.
There are some differences compared to the other games, The Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. I have already mentioned that sometimes you get to be Hermione or Ron, and at other times all three are together and using their powers to help you. There is a really fun part where Hermione casts a spell on a bunny and then a dragon, and you take control of the creature. When you are an animal you have to find a way to get Hermione into places she can't get to by herself. It was cool eating grass and digging holes as a rabbit, but flying as a dragon was a bit trickier.
There is also no Quidditch in this game, which some people might miss, although Hippogriff flying seemed to me more or less the same thing. There is also no more House Point Tally. Instead you are able to enter the Bean Bonus Room once you have collected all the Challenge Shields in one of your class challenges. You don't learn spells by tracing them anymore either; you just get to know them automatically.
Other bits I particularly liked were using the Glacius Spell to turn everything icy and then racing down the ice slides, and riding Buckbeak the Hippogriff.
The game seemed to be a lot easier to complete than the previous two. Whether it was because I'm older, or they made the game easier, or a combination of the two, I am not sure. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though, as I expect the intended audience to be around my age or younger, and being easier will help younger or less experienced players. This one might be a good game to start with if you haven't played the others.
The game play was easy to learn, too, and gave you the option of either using the keyboard or the mouse (or a bit of both!) I found it easy to switch for different things. You will have no trouble casting spells or talking to people. When you did something new the game would teach you how to do it and what controls you needed to use. I liked this because I'm not at all a big fan of instruction manuals.
The graphics were good, but I thought they would be a lot better seeing as the box said they were the best ever. I didn't think they were that much better than the last game. The music and sound effects were good too but the lip-syncing was as bad as ever! That wasn't too unbearable, though, because there wasn't too much dialogue apart from the bits that were narrated for you. Scenes were detailed which I liked because you can't have anywhere in Hogwarts looking dull.
To save you need to find a save book, which is like the other games, but which I don't really like. It's better if you can save when you want to. The game also automatically saves at certain locations in case you forget, and in this game a good thing was that it saved more often so you didn't have to repeat so much of the game if Harry, Hermione or Ron get into trouble. If their stamina runs out then they "faint" and you have to start again from a saved game or the autosave point.
Even with the differences, The Prisoner of Azkaban is a lot like the first games so if you liked those you will like this one. I thought sometimes, though, that being the same made it a bit tedious. Getting to play three people (and a bunny) helped make it interesting, and made it more like the books, where Harry often needs his friends' help. Even though I thought it was a bit easy, it was still fun to play, and you might get most enjoyment out of this if you haven't played one of the others. Of course, if you are a keen Harry fan, then you will like it anyway.
Copyright © Emily Sheehan age 15 2004.
All rights reserved.
Windows 98/2000/Me/XP, Pentium III 600 Mhz, 128 MB RAM (256 MB for 2000 and XP) 8x CD ROM, 850 MB disc space, 32 MB Direct 3D video card (GeForce 2 or equivalent) DirectX 9 (included on the disc) DirectX 9 compatible sound card