Visually, Hogwarts Mystery is pretty decent. Everything is rendered in 3D, but it’s more like last-gen graphics, similar to what you’d expect from PlayStation 3. The character model renderings look alright with their aesthetics and texture details, but they’re a tad more blocky than I’d like. The world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley are pretty true-to-life with the movies, and overall a nice representation of the Harry Potter world. There is quite a bit of dialogue and text to read through, as you’ll be making choices, but the typefaces are easily legible. Animations are smooth and fluid, so there isn’t any issue with lag or choppy frame rates on my iPhone 8 Plus. The music is whimsical (as expected) and the sound is pretty spot-on. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then this game does a good job in terms of visual and sound design.
Since Hogwarts Mystery is a role-playing game that takes place before Harry Potter attends Hogwarts, there’s a standalone story to go along with the adventure. You are a young witch or wizard who’s received their Hogwarts letter to attend the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry. You start out as just any other kid, then you’re whisked away to Diagon Alley to get your materials for the school year, and then finally Hogwarts Castle.
Even though this is a role-playing game, it’s fairly on-rails. What I mean is the fact that you’re guided through a lot of the scenarios, and there’s not much free-range exploration to do, as you can quickly jump to where you need to go to advance the story. As you interact with other characters, you’ll be asked to make decisions that affect your character’s attributes, friendships and rivalries, and the ending. You’ll need to be careful about who you build relationships with, since you’ll want to work together with your House to earn points for the House Cup.
Speaking of houses, I was a little disappointed with how the Sorting Hat worked here. I was expecting the Hat to ask you questions and then judge your house sorting based on the answers you provide. Instead, the Sorting Hat merely asks you what house you hope for and then you pick the one you want. That’s it — the Sorting Hat throws you in to the house you picked and calls it a day. Even though I like that it gives you the freedom to choose your favorite house (Slytherin is best), I thought the process could have been more personalized and true. So I was a tad disappointed with the Sorting Hat.
As you embark on your journey as a student at Hogwarts, you’ll go into scenarios that have timers attached to them. These include things like taking classes, learning spells and potions, and getting out of hairy situations. To clear these scenes, you need to earn two stars on them. Each scene features objects in the environment that you can interact with through taps, and it fills up the gauge. However, sometimes these activities require energy for each tap, which I thought was dumb and annoying. You only start out with so much energy, and if you’re out, you must purchase more with the purple crystals (premium currency).
Because of this, I’m stuck in a room trapped with Devil’s Snare for eight hours because I’m out of energy to perform taps and don’t have enough crystals to get more. This is the first paywall and I’m surprised that it came so early on. It’s rather annoying, to say the least.
I did enjoy other activities, such as learning spells and making potions. These usually consist of mini-games, like tapping the screen at the right time, or tracing out lines and shapes for spell casting.
In the beginning of the game, you’re able to customize the look of your character. If you made a mistake, you can change anything at any time, but you’ll also unlock more items as you progress in the game and level up from completing chapters. However, you’ll need coins and purple gems to buy the “cooler” looking hairstyles, clothing, and accessories, and they’re pretty pricey.