I've played the unreleased app for two weeks.
I felt like a chosen wizard when I managed to download the unreleased version of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery last month.
The official website hasn't announced anything yet, but I'm not complaining about the early access to the halls of Hogwarts before the rest of the world does.
So to all of you still waiting for your Hogwarts letter, here's everything I know from playing the game for the past two weeks:
1. You can play it on Android in Singapore
I found the unreleased version of the game on the Google Play Store and was surprised I could download it. Although it's not officially launched, it plays like a fully functioning app already. It's currently not available on the Apple App Store yet.
You get to choose everything from your gender and skin colour to even facial features.
2. It's not an AR game
Remember the excitement when Niantic (the people behind PokémonGO) announced an Augmented Reality Harry Potter game?
Sorry to disappoint you, but this is a different game altogether. The Niantic game is only set to come out much later.
But in the meanwhile, you have this game by Jam City.
3. It's more like a visual novel
You don't directly control your character and move him or her around the school. Instead, you make choices that will have an impact on the storyline. So don't expect a first person/AR game – this is more an interactive visual novel.
One of terrifying parts of playing an unreleased game is that there are no guides online to tell me the consequences of my choices.
Some choices, like how to respond to a teacher's questions, have a small impact on the game, and may cause you to gain or lose house points. Other choices are more significant and determine the direction of the overall narrative.
Also, the house you choose determines which common room you get to enter. And while it's awesome for me to interact with the characters in the Gryffindor common room, I still wish I could see the other houses' common rooms that did not appear in the movies.
Any Hufflepuffs or Ravenclaws here that can show me what your common room looks like?
4. The long wait
The annoying thing about this game is that you have a limited number of Energy points that take time to regenerate. You end up having to close the game after a few minutes of gameplay because you are out of Energy and purchasing more is morbidly expensive (it would cost me over $3 just to fill my Energy bar once).
Here's a tip: I found that each level of Hogwarts has a special icon you could click on to give you an additional Energy point. It's not a lot, but added together, five points does make a difference.
Tapping on the stick lying on the ground will cue a short animation that would award you an additional Energy point.
Location of bonus Energy points
Castle Grounds: Stick lying on the ground
West Towers: Painting beside Moaning Myrtle's Restroom
East Towers: Mirror/painting to the left of the Charms Classroom
Lower Floor – West: Empty flame on the right of the Great Hall
Dungeons: House Elf next to the Kitchens
5. It makes you feel like a student…in a bad way
Quite a lot of the game involves expending Energy points attending the exact same classes to level up. It's a mundane practice of mindless clicking that kills the fun.
But if nothing else, it helped me appreciate how difficult it was to become a wizard and why the characters in the movie took so long to master one spell or potion.
The story is set before the time that Harry Potter entered Hogwarts, so you encounter many favourite characters like Hagrid, Professor McGonagall and the legendary Professor Snape.
IMAGE CREDITS: SCREENSHOT FROM HARRY POTTER: HOGWARTS MYSTERY
6. Thankfully the story is strong
This game is more long-drawn than it should be, but I keep coming back because the content is good. Once your level is up and the Energy bar full, the story is quite compelling and gives me motivation to attend more repetitive classes.
Also, this game – set just after the first fall of Voldermort – is rich in Easter eggs to satisfy any Harry Potter fan.
All in all, the story is enjoyable, so long as you keep your expectations low and remember this is a visual novel.