Back in 2001 the Harry Potter phenomenon was in full swing, I read all the books, loved the movie, and like every other kid in my class that year couldn’t wait to get my hands on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the PlayStation. Whether it was a good game or not was irrelevant, it was Harry-motherfucking-Potter.
The game itself was one of the few bought new PS1 games I actually owned, it being 2001 and in Washington, Tyne & Wear most of my games were pirated, and this would have been no exception had the disk I got worked properly (bad dump? Maybe the tools just weren’t as up to scratch back then?), so I ended up getting it as a gift for my 9th birthday.
I played it for hours, got every weird jelly bean collectible thing, every bullshit wizard card waste of time, every point for the house cup, before eventually getting stuck on a weird out of place stealth section and giving up on it. The bloody cat caught me every time.
So I pretty much forgot all about the game, before a fit of drunken nostalgia between me, Lisa and our friend Jen compelled me to dig around in my parents loft for it.
Putting the disk in my PS3 and a JD and Coke in my mouth, it seemed like a decent way to kill an evening. But honestly, besides a couple of nearly unforgivably infuriating sections, it turned out to not be a bad game for the era, and probably doesn’t deserve all the hate it gets.
Hell, for a kid obsessed with that world way back when it must have been a pretty immersive place to explore. It has a little piece of everything in it, so no matter whether you fantasied about potions class or being a Quidditch star when you were reading the books by torchlight, it had you covered.
And that’s how it became a thing for the last few months for us to get blitzed and pass the controller around for a couple of hours.
We soon passed that invisibility cloak area that I got stuck at as a kid, and this weekend finished the thing off for good (until we see Chamber of Secrets for 50p in CeX at least).
It’s far from perfect.
Some sections are punishingly hard, even for me now, an adult who has spent most of his life getting the hang of playing games. There are impossibly precise jumping sections, a general lack of information on what you’re doing or why, those terrible camera controls, and don’t even get me started on that whole Gringotts rail section.
It’s unforgivable for a kids game, and kinda just came across as one of those old “hey let’s make the game super punishing so that they can’t rent it and beat it over a weekend” things.
I can only imagine that this was an intentional attempt at extending the playtime. We weren’t going off and doing every little side objective, but we weren’t exactly going for a speedrun either, and even with the game occasionally left on pause for 20 minutes our final time only clocked in at 5 hours 7 minutes.
In spite of some of the dated mechanics and the short playtime (of perhaps because of it) I could actually see myself playing this again sometime, or at the very least it’s given me enough curiosity to check out the rest of the series.
For now I’m headed back up north to my parents place again for a couple of days. I might have to dig around in the loft again and see what excuse for drunk fun I can find.