Redbrick Gaming send intrepid games journalist Tom Martin high into the skies above London to try out the latest sky ship adventureWritten by Tom Martin on 24th May 2018
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Fails to Charm Fans
Gaming Editor Emma Kent investigates a number of player concerns, including suggestions that Hogwarts Mystery makes frequent negative references to mental health and that the game is (Tom) riddled with micro-transactions.
It seems that even the Harry Potter franchise has been unable to escape the curse of the free to play mobile game model.
Only a few days have passed since its release on the 26th April, yet the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery mobile game has already attracted significant criticism online from Potterheads and game critics alike.
One of the most common complaints centres around the time-gating of content, a common feature in freemium mobile games. In Hogwarts Mystery, tasks must be completed in order to progress through the story, but each of these uses up 'energy'. Once the player's energy bar is exhausted, he or she can either wait for for it to be recharged (a process which can take several hours), or choose to speed up the process by paying real life money.
Considering that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is free to play, the inclusion of micro-transactions is perhaps unsurprising. Yet players and industry experts have highlighted that Hogwarts Mystery really pushes the envelope, with the paywall arriving exceptionally early even for a free game. The first such paywall arrives when the player is being strangled by devil's snare, placing the player under a great deal of pressure to either pay up or allow a child to be strangled for up to 8 hours.
Fans have also complained that the count-down on tasks is particularly punishing: if a player fails to complete a task within the time window, they must restart and lose all of their previously-spent energy. Others argued that the sheer amount of time required to wait for energy rendered the game almost unplayable.
In addition to the long waiting periods, players have taken issue with the gameplay, labelling it unimaginative and boring. With levels centred primarily on the tapping of glowing items, players have complained that Hogwarts Mystery feels more like a 'tutorial' than a fully developed game.
Several Twitter users also expressed that they feel uncomfortable with the game's apparent references to mental health. For context, the player-character's background story is built on the idea that he or she has a runaway brother who was previously expelled from Hogwarts. Some characters in the game refer to the brother as 'mental' in order to insult the player, which led some to question whether this was an appropriate use of the word.
When I asked other players from the Hogwarts Mystery subreddit for their opinions on the matter, they pointed out that Ron frequently uses words such as 'mad' and 'mental' in the original books and the films. However, although the use of the word may have been a reference to the original texts, it clearly still made some players feel uncomfortable.
Despite the numerous issues raised online, not all fans were disappointed with the mobile game, with some on Reddit praising the storyline and colourful characters. Many fans loved the visuals and expressed joy at being able to explore Hogwarts on their own terms. Others commended Hogwarts Mystery for making a concerted effort to be inclusive, highlighting that many of the main characters in the game are POC.
Fans remain hopeful that these initial problems will be fixed over the coming weeks. With the amount of negative criticism online, it is perhaps only a matter of time before developers Jam City adjust the game to help bring the magic back to Hogwarts.
Redbrick Gaming has reached out to Warner Brothers for comment and is awaiting a response.