Harry Potter

My opinion of this game, good or bad, will fall on deaf ears, as every child under 12 (and probably quite a few above that age) already owns a copy - and, if they don't, they're probably in the process of suing Santa for failure to deliver.

JK Rowling's poor little magic boy phenomenon has achieved almost blanket coverage worldwide, so the game's opening and character introductions are kept to a minimum. This means the game is quicker to start, but could also leave less experienced Potter fans somewhat at a loss.

Your role, as Harry, is to save the Philosopher's Stone hidden within Hogwarts School of Wizards and Wizardry from a certain ‘evil' teacher. If you haven't read the book then you will have to work out who the thief is in your quest to defend the stone.

You will need to cast spells throughout to open doors, move blocks and reveal hidden passages. But be careful, because all is not what it seems within the magical school: with moving staircases, bridges and doors, you may get a little lost. Throughout the game there are hundreds of Bertie Botts beans, which you will need to collect during the first level. Don't eat them, though, they may come in useful later.

In the first phase of the game you don't really get to do much. It pretty much plays itself and occasionally allows you the privilege of running a few paces to follow one of the characters. By the time you reach the third level you start interacting on a set that could best be described as Tomb Raider in Wonderland.

Thereafter, the game can require a fair bit of skill and patience and you can find yourself yelling at the little fellow as he plummets from a platform for the fifth time.

The long stretches of non-interaction, where you cannot control the game, may mean some children will lose concentration. Generally the challenges are good but some are far more complex than others and may need a little adult help. The controls are kept as easy as possible, but you will need a keyboard and mouse to cast spells and perform certain movements, which could be a little complicated for small fingers.

The game is really good, there's no denying this, but it does feel a little rushed - perhaps to coincide with the launch of the film? The graphics aren't as clear as they could have been and the storyline feels as though it's missing something. But, all in all, it's a magical journey that all children, large and small, will love.

Publisher: Electronic Arts.

Developer: Electronics Boutique.

URL: www.eagames.ea.com.

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Wendy Brewer

PC World
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