Here we are again. A big overarching comparison, and brief review of each version of Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, that I could get my hands on. In the second outing for Harry, we learn of devilish plots, and even more secrets about Hogwarts. I have done a previous article like this for the first entry in the series. If you’re interested, a link will be at the bottom of the article. So without further ado, let’s get in, and get started!
Review – GameBoy Colour
Much like it’s predecessor, this version of the game is a turn based RPG. With a lot of improvements over the last. It’s even developed by the same team, Griptonite Games. The game starts off with Harry in his room at the Dursleys, wishing he could already be back at Hogwarts. Of course you can’t have the famous room scene, without Dobby showing up. The game then proceeds in typical fashion. It actually followed the story exceptionally well. Even including bits from the book, just like Sorcerer’s Stone did on the Gameboy Colour. Even though these were mostly meant to be movie tie-ins.
Though I don’t know the books very well, I do like to think I know the movies well enough. So some things happen in this that don’t happen in the movie. Like Hermione going to the Medical Ward to get rid of the effects of the Polyjuice Potion. Or in the movie, Myrtle gets angry about something throwing Tom Riddle’s diary at her. This doesn’t happen here.
The gameplay is vastly better than the previous entry. There’s even a map now! You can scan enemies to learn their weak spells. Each spell is broken up to its own category in the battle menu. But most of all, you get team members! But at the end of the day, I never felt like I should gear up any of my team members, other than Harry, because they were barely around, and Ron felt annoying to use the whole game, considering his broken wand would sometimes rebound his spells back onto him. Plus I knew they wouldn’t be included in the final battle.
There were a fair amount of minigames in this, that were actually pretty fun! Like when you’re at the burrow, and you help Ron de-gnome the garden. Or you actually get to play Quidditch! Though these minigames are more in the first half of the game, and aren’t present in the back half. One thing I didn’t enjoy was that I never got house points to prove I’m better than Slytherin!
I did find the store however in this entry, unlike the other. But that didn’t matter at all, because I was never able to use it. Anytime I got enough money for a piece of equipment, it would be rotated out for a newer gear piece, that was way more expensive! So something cost 12k at the end of the game, and I was lucky to get 100 sickles at the end of one battle. So I never bothered grinding for hundreds of battles to fully gear myself up. Sure that made some sections difficult, but it was still manageable.
One thing I did despise, is that the final battle didn’t feel like it relied on skill, but instead on luck. It took me 5 attempts to beat the last boss, because my attacks just would not hit the last boss. I had no issues with survival, but eventually I’d die and have to retry just because of RNG.
Review – GameBoy Advance
This version was developed by Eurocom. The story in this one kind of goes fast if I’m being honest. Right away you’re just dropped into Diagon Alley. You get a brief rundown of Harry leaving the Dursleys house, and him at Ron’s house, and ever so briefly see his mix up with the Floo Powder which sends him to Knockturn Alley, then you’re just shoved on your way to Diagon Alley to purchase your school supplies.
The game takes a few creative liberties in ways of the story, or completely leaves out massive important things. Like instead of Harry and Ron missing the Hogwarts Express because Dobby blocks the path to Platform 9 ¾, they just miss the train, and return to Ron’s house to get the flying car. Or how Ron doesn’t go with Harry to the Slytherin common room when they use the Polyjuice Potion to become Crabbe and Goyle. Just little things like that really made the impact of some scenes less important.
The game itself plays like an isometric platformer from the era of Gameboy Advance games, where the camera was tilted, giving a false sense of depth to everything. You go from class to class, learning spells that mind you, Harry would already know, and do some levels that are set up to use the new spell, along with all the others you know. But this is where it got monotonous. The way you had to switch your spells is by going into the menu and selecting it. Instead of pressing, say select, for a quick change. When you need to swap your spells a lot, this becomes such an ordeal! There are a few boss encounters throughout the game, but most of them can just be beaten by mashing the attack button and moving ever so slightly.
There are collectibles in this version though. Like chocolate frogs to increase your health, or challenge rooms with beans, that give you passwords to get around Hogwarts faster. These bean rooms, though, have backgrounds that spin and twirl, and I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea, but it eventually hurt my eyes. There’s even a minigame! That’s right, just one. So compared to the version for the other handheld, there’s not a lot of variety. But at least it’s a 3D Quidditch minigame!
In terms of scope, this may have been on a newer piece of hardware, but the previous generation’s version was much larger for a handheld adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I love this version, but after seeing the other, I realize that it was very held back by a lot of things. Sure it looks prettier, but that was at the cost of a lot of scene changes, lesser minigames, and a shorter game in general.
Review – PlayStation 1
Here we are for a third time, poor Harry is stuck in his room again. Along comes Dobby to tell him not to go to Hogwarts. That’s when Ron and his brothers show up to save Harry! The story in this version, when not being told through cutscenes, happens in a book-like fashion. Giving you the general bullet points of the story, at the point that you’re at. So the game starts off at The Burrow, which is Ron’s home. You take the time to help him degnome the garden, which in turn begins your adventure through the land of minigames!
The story in this version is very disjointed. Some things aren’t talked about, and others are completely changed. Like the game never explains to you that Harry and Ron miss the Hogwarts Express. Instead it just throws you in control of the flying car, which for some reason Harry is driving, as opposed to Ron. Which means that it never talks about Ron breaking his wand, or how he runs the car into the Whomping Willow, and gets chewed out for it. This also affects many of the scenes throughout the game though. So you don’t understand why Ron is throwing up slugs when he tries to curse Malfoy. Or you don’t learn about how Gilderoy Lockhart is a fraud, and how the boys make him jump into the Chamber Of Secrets first. Heck you don’t even get told that Hermione solves the mystery of the basilisk! Again, if you’re going to make a game off of a movie or book, at least keep the big important bits in!
The game plays exactly like the previous entry, as Argonaut Games are still the devs. At least they mostly get the gameplay right. As I said before, this game is packed full of minigames. Gnome throwing, car driving, wizard duels! Then there’s the god awful sliding minigame, where you’re put on a giant slide, and have to get to the bottom in the amount of time needed. But it was so slippery that I had a hell of a time with it. Especially at the end of the game. At least the rest of the minigames were fun! Even Quidditch that you only get to play once. But on the main menu, at least you get the opportunity to play more. The glasses are still a weird mish mash of Simon Says minigames, then you get thrown into a small challenge level to test the new skill.
Even the exploration didn’t feel as exciting as Sorcerer’s Stone. This felt very linear, and the grounds of Hogwarts felt much smaller than what it used to be. Even the boss fights were very boring, as you basically played dodgeball, but with magical spells. Plus the fight against the Basilisk makes zero sense. You get the sword of Gryffindor, but you just deflect a green laser beam back at its fangs, which it shoots at you. Heck it didn’t even mention Harry getting bit!
Review – Nintendo GameCube
This time around, EA UK developed this version, which holds many similarities to the GameCube version of Sorcerer’s Stone. Which means it’s just as infuriating and bad. So the game just starts off with everyone arriving at the burrow. No mention of Harry meeting Dobby or Ron and his brothers picking him up, nothing. Hell Dobby was never mentioned in the game. So you run around Diagon Alley after a short trip at the burrow, and you’re tasked with getting a few things for class in the new year. Then we go off the rails more. The story tells you that Ron and Harry missed the train, and Ron drives it, but again, no mention of a broken wand!
From there, it gets worse. You see Nearly Headless Nick not too far in, who was petrified from the Basilisk which makes Harry visit Dumbledore’s office, which mind you doesn’t happen until late in the book or movie. You never see Gilderoy Lockhart. Ron never barfs up slugs. Ms Norris or Colin Creevey never get petrified by the Basilisk. Heck Dobby never curses the Quidditch balls, so Harry never breaks his arm for Lockhart to remove his bones from! Again if you want to make a licensed game from a source material, stick to it!
The gameplay is just as terrible as the last entry on the GameCube. It was an action platformer, where all the platforming just did itself. So if you needed to jump, Harry would jump by himself. You get new spells in the game after a little challenging level that was used to progress throughout the castle, but most of them weren’t ever used for combat. You do partake in wizard duels in this version as well, but they are just awful. Once you’ve hit the AI at least once, you can sit there mashing the attack button, and basically stun lock them into submission. Sometimes you will have to use a spell to fire a spell back at them or bosses, but it works so terribly, or you have to reposition yourself a ton, which doesn’t work on the fly with these controls, so you take damage.
The worst part of the game by far, were the controls. You were fighting the camera the whole game if you’re trying to see where you’re going. Harry doesn’t grab onto ledges sometimes even if you’re face to face with them, causing you to either run around quickly to get back up, or in the case of the “Restricted Section” of the library, climb all the way back up to the top, through all the ladders and ledge walking. A couple of times where you have to be stealthy, you sneak by just barely pushing the control stick. But the area for this is so small, I’d end up just barely pushing the control stick, and end up running instead. But the pace at which Harry sneaks, would get me caught anyways. So I’d just run through the stealth areas, hoping for the best. Even when I tried to stealth, the prefects would catch me miles off screen anyways.
The exploration in this version is also seriously toned down. I looked around as much as I could, even with the Lumos spell, and would never find secret entrances, unless I was kissing the wall, which in the previous entry, you could see from a good distance off. When you reach the grounds, you can only choose a few predetermined paths to go down, which take you to some zones, which if you try looking around, you just get booted back to the front door of the castle anyways. There was no exploring and it sucked. It was my favourite part of the last version. Even in the castle, it didn’t feel as big. You get to find 101 Wizard Cards throughout the game. After 10, you get more health. I was only able to find 10, through all my bare bones exploration. But hey, at least the Quidditch in this version was some of the best!
Now that we’ve got through all of the various versions that I have access to, let’s start breaking them down here. For the story, all of them took a lot of different kinds of liberties. By either mixing some things up, like how Ron and Harry missed to train, to not mentioning it at all. The Gameboy Colour version at least mentioned it and had you travel to Kings Cross Station. Some of the games mention Lockhart, but some keep him off screen for basically the entire thing. Again, at least in the Gameboy Colour version, Lockhart still played his role. Then there’s the sin of the GameCube version where the only one who was ever petrified was Nearly Headless Nick. I think you see where I’m going with this. In terms of story, the Gameboy Colour version is the absolute winner, hands down. Especially because that was the only real one to feature Dobby and all of his shenanigans!
In terms of gameplay we have a few different kinds here. We have the turn-based RPG gameplay of the Gameboy Colour version, the isometric platforming of the GBA version, and the 3D gameplay of the PS1 and GameCube versions. So obviously we have some different tastes and perspectives to deal with. All of them except for the GBA version have minigames, and all of them were scaled down in terms of exploration, except the Gameboy Colour version. I found that gameplay the best, even if I didn’t have to pay attention most of the time. The GBA version was monotonous with having to constantly hit the pause button to switch spells. The PS1 version just bored the hell out of me for some reason, and the slippery platforming of the GameCube version made me rage a lot. Sure it had the best Quidditch to date, but I don’t think that can make up for all of its other faults.
So by all accounts, the Gameboy Colour version is easily the best of the bunch. Sure it’s a bit grindy if you really want to keep up to date with your equipment, but this feels like the only version to have improved on itself but also stayed true to its original form. If you’d like a breakdown based by scores, I’d give them the following scores:
- GameBoy Colour: 7/10
- GameBoy Advance: 6/10
- PlayStation 1: 5/10
- GameCube: 4/10
If you ever find yourself wanting to play any Harry Potter Chamber Of Secrets game, go for the Gameboy Colour version. As I said, it stays true to form, while improving on itself, and actually mentions the story beats that happen in the movie. Sure the others may be prettier, but is it worth it in the end? I don’t think so.
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