Kids experience Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry by becoming one of the three main characters: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, or Hermione Granger. The computer decides when you shall play as each character, but the two other characters usually join you and help through the game’s artificial intelligence.
The story unfolds through a series of video scenes that are nestled among the action that the player controls. The game is played by accomplishing a series of tasks. Some of the tasks include flying Buckbeak the Hippogriff, battling the Monster Book of Monsters, or traversing the Hogwarts castle to make it to classes. These tasks challenge kids to think logically, use quick hand-eye coordination, and apply creativity to puzzle-solving.
In addition to tasks, players need to search for a variety of items, including Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans, Collector Cards, and portrait passwords that open secret passageways.
A large part of the game is spent going to classes and learning spells, but this is not dry bookwork. When characters are taught a new spell, they master it by going on a Spell Challenge. For example, when Harry learns the Glacius Spell, his Spell Challenge teaches him how to freeze things, including flowing water. When players slide down the massive ice flows Harry has created, their adrenaline rises as they learn to bank the curves while grabbing Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans.
During the game, kids interact with 16 magical creatures. Most are pesky, some are whimsical, and only a few are scary. Parents concerned about the scary should note that "charmed skeletons" come to life when their bones are disturbed, but they can be dealt with by casting a Flipendo spell. The frightening Dementors, the prison guards from Azkaban who can suck out a person’s soul, look like the wraiths depicted in the movie—gray robed creatures that float ominously with only a mouth in their hooded head. The game does a good job of having Harry pass out or else perform the Expecto Patronum spell before they become too overwhelming.
Not only will kids have a great time reliving the events in the book, but the spectacular graphics of this game make the world come alive. Water flows, fabrics billow, and the Hogwarts castle is presented in amazing detail as kids turn the camera 360 degrees to view vaulted ceilings or mosaic floors.
This PC game is less complicated and easier to play than the console version discussed below, making it the ideal choice for families with kids ages 8-up. The two previous Harry Potter PC games were great, and this one is even better. This game is a fabulous way to continue the magic of going to the movie or reading the book.
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