There’s about an hour of magic at the start of Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery Hack, when an owl gets there from Dumbledore with a letter bearing your name and you’re whisked off to Diagon Alley to get ready for your wizarding education. Like a lot of smartphone game titles, Hogwarts Mystery Hack looks a little basic, but it’s not lazy; it’s colourful and carefully humorous. Fan-pleasing touches come in the form of dialogue voiced by celebrities from the Harry Potter motion pictures, cameos from cherished characters and allusions to nuggets of Potter trivia.
The enchantment fades when you can the first tale interlude, where your figure becomes tangled up in Devil’s Snare. After a couple of seconds of furious tapping to free yourself from its clutches, your energy operates out and the game asks one to pay several quid to fill up it – or hold out one hour or for it to recharge. Unfortunately, this is absolutely by design.
From this point onwards Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery Hack does everything it can to avoid you from playing it. Manage to survive get through a good single class without having to be interrupted. A typical lesson now will involve 90 mere seconds of tapping, accompanied by an hour of waiting around (or a purchase), then another 90 mere seconds of tapping. An outlay of ?2 every 90 mere seconds is not a reasonable ask. Between history missions the put it off times are even more egregious: three time, even eight time. Hogwarts Mystery pulls the old technique of hiding the real cost of its acquisitions behind an in-game “gem” money, but I worked out that you’d have to invest about ?10 every day merely to play Hogwarts Mystery for 20 consecutive minutes. The interruptions prevent you from forming any kind of connection to your fellow students, or even to the mystery in the centre of the storyline. It is like trying to read a book that asks for money every 10 web pages and slams shut on your hands if you refuse.
Minus the Harry Potter trappings the overall game would have nothing to recommend it. The lessons quickly become boring and the writing is disappointingly bland, though it does try with character dialogue. Duelling other students and casting spells are fun, but most of the time you’re just tapping. Apart from answering the odd Potter-themed question in category, you do not have to engage the human brain. The waits would be more bearable if there is something to do for the time being, like exploring the castle or speaking with other students. But there may be nothing to find at Hogwarts, no activity that doesn’t require yet more energy.
Harry Potter is a powerful enough fantasy to override all those things, at least for a while. The existence of Snape, Flitwick or McGonagall is just enough to keep you tapping through uneventful classes and clear work has gone into recreating the look, audio and feel of the institution and its personas. But by the time I got to the finish of the first year I was encouraged by tenacity somewhat than pleasure: I WILL play this game, however much it tries to avoid me. Then emerged the deflating realisation that the next season was just more of the same. I felt like the game’s prisoner, grimly coming back every few hours for more thin gruel.