Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery first impressions: What Pottermore probably should’ve been


It feels like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a fairly well-polished version of what Pottermore should have been upon its first debut.

At this point, Harry Potter will have a long life in pop culture. Not only is it able to sustain a spinoff film series, but it also has a new game out today for the first time: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, for both Android and iOS. Naturally, yours truly sat down and gave it a run-through just to see how it all works.

On first glance, it feels like what Pottermore should have been when it was first released all those years ago — an extension of the universe, not just a chance to relive the seven books. You’re playing in an era somewhere between the Marauders and Harry’s own time; Dumbledore explicitly mentions that the boy with the lightning scar will be along at Hogwarts sometime in the near future. (Considering that you can apparently meet Bill Weasley at some point, your character is not that far off — canonically, Bill is about 10 years older than Ron.)

Instead, you get to customize your own character, deciding to play as a witch or a wizard. As I like my crossovers, I named my character Leia Skywalker, then gave her gray hair and blue eyes to be different. There are seven options for skin tones, nine different nose shapes, 12 eye shapes (with five colors) and a few options apiece for eyebrows and lips. Hairstyles are a bit more limited. Unlocking more styles, clothes, and accessories comes with leveling up and spending a lot of in-game currency, either coins or the premium gems.

Still from Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Image via Jam City / Warner Bros. / Portkey Games, screencap taken by C. Wassenaar.

The game has a pretty basic story: you start your time at Hogwarts under a cloud, because your older sibling (I had it a brother) seems to have gotten expelled looking for Cursed Vaults. Your rival, a Slytherin named Merula, also says the sibling works for Voldemort now, but your character says that she’s lying; you can start making friends before that, at least. As of this writing, the first three years are available to play through. It appears that eventually, you’ll be able to play all seven.

The problem is that it might take you a year at least to play the game through completely. Like most mobile games, it relies on a stamina system. You’re given 24 points of energy to start. Events like lessons take up multiple points. You’ll need to tap a few times to dedicate those points to activities like listening to your friends or trimming a broomstick. There are ways to increase your pool. But completing your first flying lesson, for instance, only earns you one point, and it costs gems to buy extra energy.

I’m not the only one who had something to say about the energy (translated, the first tweet reads “when you wait for energy in Hogwarts Mystery“:

Sure, it means that you’ll end up savoring the game. However, the title screen also comes with a warning that you should play on Wi-Fi only, because the game downloads more data as you play.

Yes, it’s an extremely detailed world. The first thing you hear is Dame Maggie Smith’s voice as Minerva McGonagall writes your acceptance letter. (You even get to see that letter eventually.)

You can earn House points, cast spells, duel, make choices about which of three categories you want to focus on, and oh, yeah, unravel a mystery.

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Potterheads will enjoy the opportunities, but those who also enjoy gaming might quickly lose their patience. So for now, it looks like the game needs to make some improvements.

Ready to play? Download on the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.