Review: Chamber of Secrets Game

I would like to say that EA made an amazing amount of improvements from Sorcerer’s Stone to Chamber of Secrets, or all that I would have made anyway. I’ve really analyzed the first two games, and have come up with every improvement or general change that I can think of between the two games. This comparison page only compares the Chamber of Secrets to its predecessor the Sorcerer’s Stone. Likewise, each comparison page with each new game after this one will only compare itself with the computer game that came before it.

Intro and End: I really enjoyed the “movies” in the second game, but I also thought there was too much “Game Loading” going on. Personally, I didn’t think that the “pictures” in the first game were bad, because it went along with the simplicity of the rest of the game. The only thing I would have done differently for that, would be to add more pictures to go along with each part of the brief story that is told to get you up to speed with Harry’s going to Hogwarts. But, I also thought the movies were more effective in showing you new places outside of Hogwarts, such as Harry’s bedroom and Diagon Alley.

Loading and Saving: Loading and saving games takes soo much longer in the second game than in the first. The reason for this is probably that the graphics are much better or that there’s more information or data to keep track of. Nevertheless, the waiting period for a game or a new level to load and to resume after saving a game is quite a bit longer and much more of an annoyance. Also, I like the loading game screen much better in the first, because it gives you some idea of what’s coming up in the next level, and I like the “old page” look, rather than “Harry in action”.

Spell Casting: Casting spells is slightly different, but the difference is an improvement on the part of the second game. First of all, you can actually walk and talk at the same time in the second game, rather than having to stand still while you aim at something. Second, the red and yellow dots are helpful, as they show how much closer you need to be to the object, instead of in the first game, where there are many colored dots mixed into one. Plus, if you miss your target and let go of the mouse button, the red or yellow dot simply fades away noiselessly, which is an improvement from the first game’s rather obnoxious noise. Finally, the spell symbols are much more animated, rather than in the first game where the symbol just snaps to the object and stays there with little movement until you let go of the mouse button. Also, the symbols are all the same size, rather than in the first game where the symbols cover the size of the object you’re casting the spell upon. To me, one size fits all looks better.

Animated Characters: I was so excited when I first started playing the second game, because I realized that the character’s lips were moving! Not only that, but they can also create more facial expressions by moving their eyes and eyebrows. Really, who ever thought that nodding and shaking heads would suffice? Also, bodily movement has been improved, especially when climbing, but it is hard to explain. If you’ve played both of the games, you’ll definitely feel a difference in the movement.

Bertie Bott’s Beans: Other than the fact that there are thousands more beans in the second game than in the first, there’s also a much more useful and practical use for them: the bean trading system. I find some of the things I can “buy with beans” really helpful, and some not. A faster broom or better armor doesn’t help in the least when you can’t play Quidditch that well in the first place. Besides that, I sometimes miss the Weasley twins popping up in all of the most expected places asking for 25 beans, even if they don’t have much to say, instead of in the second game, where they can always be found manning their posts near the Quidditch Pitch. I suppose there is a use for those beans in the first game, because you get a wizard card out of the whole 25 beans deal. Also, there’s another new diversion in the second game: the Bonus Bean Room, which you can only go into if you attend the weekly House Point Ceremony, and only if Gryffindor is leading in house points. I really enjoyed this addition, as you get to see Dumbledore more often. Finally, I think it makes more sense that the beans exit chests individually in the second game, rather than all at once in the first. For cauldrons, they all fall out at once, which is consistent with both games and also makes sense.

Chocolate Frogs: I found that the chocolate frog’s ability to move around rather annoying, but amusing in the second game. But, my biggest complaint about them is not their movement, but their uselessness when you already have full stamina. That’s why I’m glad they added Wiggenweld Potions to the second game, which you can keep until you need them when you’re very low on stamina and there’s no chocolate frogs around. Besides, these potions provide subject matter for the Potions class in the second game, when you’re so hoping you won’t have to go to it.

Wizard Cards: Not only are there 76 more cards in the second game (101 in all), which I think is awesome, but maybe a few too many, there are also more uses for them. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind just collecting them, but I’m not complaining about the chance to get more stamina levels and to play an extra challenge to get 11 more cards. Also, one of the greatest improvements of the second game, which probably had to be done with the addition of so many wizard cards, is the speed in which you pick them up. In the first game, the slow “movie” and music associated with each pickup of these useless Wizard Cards is really annoying. In the second, picking up a card is just like picking up any other item, like beans and frogs.

Quidditch: The differences between the two games, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, with respect to Quidditch are great, but there are no improvements in my opinion. In the first game, you have to find and chase the snitch as they always say, but the other seeker cannot catch the snitch. Only if your stamina runs out will the other team win. In the second game, you automatically chase the snitch, but the other seeker can also catch it, so you have to knock him out of the way in order for you to stay behind the snitch long enough to catch it. Honestly, I enjoyed Quidditch in the first game better, mostly because it was easier than the second. Also, I really liked the option on the Main Menu, in the first game, where you could play Quidditch at any time, as long as you’ve learned how to do so in your current “main game”. This menu is just so much more convenient than waiting until you’re at a point in your “main game”, in the second game, to walk into the Quidditch stadium from Hogwarts Grounds to play. But, I suppose this is more realistic or practical, even though I just enjoy playing a few games whenever I want to. Also, whatever happened to periodic Quidditch games throughout the “main game”? My best guess is that Quidditch, in the second game, is so much more difficult than the first that it would be impossible for some people to beat the Quidditch “level” to continue on with the rest of the game. Also, the little introduction that Lee Jordan gives at the beginning of every match in the second game is rather lame in my opinion.

Dueling: I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about Quidditch in the second game, as another diversion was added, which was also introduced by Professor Lockhart in the second book and movie: dueling. All I can say about this is, it’s so much fun, and you can win quite a few beans by dueling, which you have the option of doing whenever it’s accessible, just like Quidditch. To do this, just walk up to someone in the antechamber next to the Great Hall.

Challenges: Along with the Quidditch Pitch, and the Great Hall antechamber, there are also a few more places around Hogwarts where you can walk into to replay any of the Challenges, such as Rictusempra, Skurge, Diffindo, and Spongify. The doorways to these rooms, I think, make up for the several doors around Hogwarts in the first game that you couldn’t go into. It’s kind of funny that there are actually a couple doors in the entire second game that are locked, and Harry actually says so. Another improvement is the absence of the professors during the challenges. I always thought, when playing the first game, what is the rest of the class doing back in the classroom when the professor is following me around in the challenge? Well, I think it just makes so much more sense to have only a voice explaining things as you go along, rather than the person. Also, speaking of “back in the classroom”, I really enjoy the new layout of the classrooms in the second game. They seem to be almost perfectly modeled from the second movie’s classrooms, which are in turn loosely modeled from the book. I think this is another great improvement from the first game.

Extras: Back to the Weasley twins “not having much to say”, so did all the other extra characters in the first game. Even the main characters didn’t have much to say unless it was directly related to the storyline. I felt much improvement in this section concerning the second game. Not only were there many more extra students at Hogwarts, they also each had their own story to tell, and they each had their own voice, unlike the first game where everyone basically said the same phrases and some extras changed voices between each phrase, saying phrases that were meant for someone else. Or, there were several different people in the same general area that said the same exact phrase in the same voice.

Exploration: I am leaning greatly to the second game on this one. I thought that the first game was very straight forward, and that it didn’t let you explore anywhere, as almost every door you came to was “locked”, unless it’s the door you need to proceed through to continue with the game’s storyline. So, you can’t stray or explore anywhere in the first game (unless you want to “cheat” and explore “behind the scenes”, I’ll get to that later). As far as the second game goes, I’m so glad that EA didn’t close off any of the activities or exploring that you could be doing instead of continuing with your next task in the game’s storyline. In my opinion, games shouldn’t be read like a story, and game-play shouldn’t stick right to the storyline.

Grand Staircase: This one sort of goes along with the previous one in that just by having the Grand Staircase, you’re allowed to explore more. This staircase adds so much to Hogwarts as a whole, because you know where all the classrooms and everything else (like the Infirmary) in Hogwarts is, each on their separate floors. The “central room” in the first game, which you could only explore once in the entire game, apart from the battle with Peeves, could take you to only one important place: the third floor, where the Defense Against the Dark Arts is located. You are taken to all of the other classes automatically, instead of going there yourself. Besides finding out where everything is located, the Grand Staircase just looks so darn cool!

Complete Layout: Bringing it all together, the exploration and the Grand Staircase, I loved the new layout of Hogwarts as a whole. It is so much bigger and complex than the last one (which is is so much smaller and simple), and I think it’s much more reminiscent of the books. Like I’ve already said, the Grand Staircase provides a link to all the other classes. Along with that, the Hogwarts Grounds, which you can leave the indoor comfort of Hogwarts to explore at any time, was laid out so much better than in the first, because you can go right to Hagrid’s Hut and the Greenhouse. As you can tell, I’m very glad to have the ability to go explore everywhere that Harry would go on a regular basis. Yes, this also includes the dungeons, but I didn’t go there very often, and the Great Hall, site of ceremonies and dueling, which holds two chests of beans, if you choose to explore it aside from dueling. Oh, and how could I forget the Gryffindor Common Room! A direct path leading to this this favorite spot of mine was also added in the second game, and you can go there and lounge around whenever you want. I usually saved any current games there, as there’s a save game book in there. This is probably getting off the subject somewhat, but I really enjoyed having a save game book in each of the three “sections” of Hogwarts: the Grounds (save book at Hagrid’s Hut), the Entrance Hall and surrounding corridors (save book in common room), and the Grand Staircase (save book on ground floor). Furthermore, all of these places are shown on a Hogwarts Map (not quite as complete as the Maurauder’s Map), which can be found on the Pause Menu.

Cheating: I was disappointed that cheating was no longer an option in the second game. I really enjoyed getting a “behind the scenes” look of the first game, but maybe it’s for my own good that I can’t any longer. I’ve probably wasted far too much time exploring places that weren’t meant to be explored in the first place. Besides, exploring the background of the game made everything seem rather unfinished or incomplete, simply because normal actions aren’t applied to these areas. Because of this, you can walk through trees and walls, and walk up to inactive characters. Of course, I wouldn’t have come to realize any of this if I hadn’t started cheating, which is why I’m sort of glad it isn’t possible to do in the second game. It helps to avoid any disappointments. I want to be clear, however, that I’m not mad that I’ve explored these areas through cheating, because I actually really enjoy doing it, and it has really helped me understand how a game like this works, and what goes into making it.

Pause Menu: Aside from the fact that my favorite “background song” of the two games is played only while the pause menu is active in the second game, the pause menu itself just makes so much more sense than the first. There are so many more useful and helpful options, plus there aren’t multiple ways of doing the same thing like in the first game (the Wizard Card menu). Also, referring back to the background music of the pause menu, both the music and any active voices in the first game are not paused like they are in the second game, which messes things up a bit when the game is unpaused. I’m glad EA figured out that not only should game-play be paused, but also background music, dialog, and all extra sounds.

The Music: Jeremy Soule composed quite a few new songs for the second game that I love, including the music for the pause menu, Dumbledore’s office, the Grand Staircase, the Infirmary, the few new challenges, the Grounds Day and Night, the Chamber of Secrets, and many more. But, Jeremy and EA still knew when it was best to fall back on the original music from the previous game, and were very wise in this.

The Entire Gaming Experience: Despite all of the improvements listed above between the two games, the overall experiences of the games are equal in my eyes. In a way, the first game portrays Hogwarts as small and simple, and if you think about it, it isn’t likely that Harry would know where everything was and how to get there in his first few days, anyway. So, it isn’t necessary for the game to show us, although it would have been nice. It’s best to start simple and build on it. In respect to this game’s experience of simplicity, it fits to have it this way first. In the second game, Hogwarts feels bigger and more complex, and I feel this game’s experience of complexity just suits the second installment. I can see both sides of the spectrum here, and both views of Hogwarts feel like home to me. I love both the games just the same.