Mobile games are not usually my thing. As a fan of video games, I’m used to setting aside time to devote to console gaming, immersing myself in other worlds with a controller in hand. Playing a game on my phone feels a little too breezy to me — not always immersive enough, and usually just a way to mentally check out of wherever I am for five minutes at a time. While I’ve played my fair share of great mobile games — Lara Croft Go being a favorite! — they’re not something I normally seek out.
But I kept seeing reviews pop up on some of my favorite gaming sites about the mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, by Jam City As a Harry Potter nerd, I had to check this out. And I’m so glad I did!
Hogwarts Mystery lets you create a character who enters their first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s like a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to play an RPG set in the Harry Potter world, and this one whisks you right into the Great Hall, where you’ll be sorted into one of the four houses and start your magical studies like a real student. (Okay, you choose your house. I’m Ravenclaw.)
The gameplay jumps between taking classes and having conversations or activities with the characters at Hogwarts. One of the biggest things you’ll do is make friends — and enemies. How you handle encounters affects how you level up your character’s unique personality, which is a simple mix of intelligence, compassion, and courage. (I’m focusing mostly on compassion and courage, but boy do I need to be a little smarter!) Occasionally you’ll come across a dialogue option that is locked because you don’t have enough points in a particular personality category, but this is extremely rare.
There are also instances where time with other characters involves some activity, like a duel. These are essentially mini-games. I can’t tell if you’re able to “lose” or not, but it’s fun to see where you succeed and fail as the game — and, in turn, the story — progresses.
Apparently you continue through all seven years at Hogwarts, but I’m still in Year 1. This consists of several chapters, and in order to proceed to the next chapter, I have to complete the activities and all of my lessons. Sometimes I’ll feel like I’m done with everything — no prompts to continue my story — but when I go into my menu, I see I have go to Potions class with Professor Snape before I can proceed to the next chapter.
Being able to spend time with all the familiar Harry Potter teachers is so much fun. Snape is condescending as usual, docking points from Ravenclaw whenever he sees me. Meanwhile, I have a blast learning spells in Professor Flitwick’s clasroom. Students comment on Filch lurking around downstairs, and I’ve had a chance to briefly meet Hagrid and McGonagall too.
Getting through a class or certain situations requires Energy, and you start off with 25 points of Energy. When you have a lesson, for example, you’ll have to tap various parts of the screen to imply chatting with someone, taking notes, glaring at someone, or what have you. Each of these taps drains an Energy point, and when you run out of the 25 points, you’ll have to either purchase more with the in-game currency (which you can buy with real money) or wait for the Energy to recharge. One point of Energy in my game currently takes four minutes to recharge, so if I have another five or 10 taps to go in a lesson, I’ll just set the phone down while I watch a TV show or commute to work. However, each activity like this has a time limit — such as one hour or three hours — so you have to return to it before too long to avoid losing your progress!
There’s also coins and the in-game gem currency that you can use to purchase either Energy points or in-game items, like new outfits. I haven’t bought much, since I don’t plan to spend tons of money buying cosmetic items that only I will ever see in this game! But it’s a cute idea, and when I earn enough coins in the game, I’ll go ahead and buy my character some snazzy new spectacles and a fancy witch’s cloak.
These currencies and Energy points add up to a simple system that works well to keep me coming back to the game on a regular basis, without quite reaching the point of annoyance. Really, Hogwarts Mystery is best enjoyed in small doses anyway. If I binged this game, playing straight through the story with no Energy point drainage to stop me, I would probably be done by now, and that would actually be a shame.
I’m looking forward to continuing my journey in Hogwarts for many weeks to come. It’s a relaxing diversion from the real world — but also a uniquely immersive experience, for a mobile game.
Though you do have to buy the game, it’s worth the few dollars I spent on it. It’s best to be connected to the internet to play, but that’s not too much of a challenge as I usually am sitting at home or at work when I play for a few minutes at a time.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I highly recommend this one. =)