Has this game changed from the previous one? Of course it has! How do they compare? Well that’s why you’re reading this page. The Prisoner of Azkaban may have been much shorter than the previous game, but it has changed much, and so I have much to write here. I’m currently using the review of the second game, and so will try my best to adhere to the general organization of the content on that page. I’ll try to touch on all the bases for those categories, but if I skip some, just assume that it’s not applicable to this game as it might have been for those games.
Intro and End: There wasn’t much change in this area, as far as using movies as opposed to still pictures, except that I enjoyed the movies of this game better. I loved the scenery it showed while you watched the Hogwarts Express chug away in the distance, and Sirius (in dog formation of course) certainly helped to set the tone of the first part of the game. The movies were also somewhat shorter than those from the previous game, and so in that I thought EA did a good job of setting the story up for you, but not too much so that you could get started playing the game as soon as possible.
Loading and Saving: It’s not fair for me to rate this one in comparison with the previous full game in respect to time, because I used a different and much better computer, so I would have expected game loading and saving to be faster than what I was used to. I haven’t checked out Chamber of Secrets on this laptop yet to see how much faster loading really is.
Spell Casting: Slightly different feel from CoS, but not much. Question though: why the change from Flipendo to Depulso? Did the original incantation just stop working so another one had to be invented? And why the change in spell symbols in this one as well as Rictusempra? Not saying I minded the change, I’m just wondering out loud why it was needed for this game. Suggestion for improvement: get rid of the Lumos gargoyles. They were alright in the first game, I dealt with them in the second, but now I just think they’re annoying. Is there any way you can just use Lumos the way it’s supposed to be? Illumine dark areas of challenges, instead of just another way to find more secret areas?
Animated Characters: I thought this was even more improved on compared with CoS, which was quite an improvement in itself, even though some of the animations I thought were a little awkward in some of the movies.
Bertie Bott’s Beans: Finally something I can talk about. Not only can we collect and use Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans to purchase items like in CoS, but we also have the addition of Pumpkin Pasties and Cauldron Cakes, each worth more and more. This may be the proper place to mention as well that not only can you buy items from students around Hogwarts, you can also visit another addition: Fred and George’s Shop (adjacent to the Gryffindor Common Room). I found this quite convenient when I wanted to get more Wizard Cards as well as passwords to explore other places within the castle. But getting back to the currency used there, why not Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons? Why trade food items back and forth instead of coins like they would in the “real” wizarding world? Maybe they didn’t want the pickup effect to “jingle”. I liked the “pickup effects” in this game. Very nice.
Chocolate Frogs: Perhaps EA caught up on my annoyance with the moving Chocolate Frogs from CoS, because they sit still in this game, and thank goodness for that! However, this is also the only source of stamina in the game, as compared with CoS which had Wiggenweld Healing Potions.
Wizard Cards: There are around the same amount of cards in this game, but they are better organized than the last. Only one group of five cards can be found in this certain challenge, and another group of five can be found in this task. Better organized. I like it. The larger groups are those that can be found around Hogwarts, as well as those that can be bought from other students. That’s the only thing they sell in fact, with the lack of Wiggenweld Potions in this game, you don’t need to buy ingredients for that, so that’s the only thing they have left to sell really. One thing I liked about this game though is that each card has a set price. If I remember correctly, some Slytherins in CoS always tried to get more beans out of me than the Gryffindors did. Maybe I’m wrong, but in this game the price is set no matter where you go.
Quidditch: One short clip of Quidditch in this game, just to introduce the Dementors and give Harry reason to train against them. You don’t play Quidditch, but I suppose this game didn’t need that since you’ve got the previous one, Quidditch World Cup.
Challenges: Instead of having the entrances to replay the challenges scattered throughout Hogwarts, they’re all in one central location now. How convenient. Apart from that, not much has changed from the challenges. The classrooms are still modeled from the movies by the looks of them, which I enjoy. There has been a replacement of some classes though. There isn’t Herbology anymore, nor is there Potions class. Instead, there is Transfiguration, which though I thought was fun mostly, though it seemed to be rather pointless at times. I mean, what is the point of turning a statue into a rabbit or a dragon so you can hop onto a platform or light a fire, just so you can open the door and continue your progress? I mean, Flipendo and Alohomora were good enough in the first game, why not this one? Again, I enjoyed it though. Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts return also.
Exploration: EA took yet another step in the right direction in improving this aspect of the game. Not as much as they could have perhaps, but then again I suppose they should leave something for future games too. How did they improve? In CoS you were allowed to go wherever you wanted, except for perhaps at night when everything was locked. Throughout the game, however, you were expected to follow other students around to the next “level” of the game, though you were not required too. Actually, PoA had this sort of thing to begin with, with the constant reminder from Hermione that she did not want to be late for class, and since you control all three (more about this in the overview and review), she can’t go there on her own and let her two friends be late. So you listened to her to get her off your back pretty much. But after that it seemed to get better. A little bit of following people around, but not as much as CoS. What could have been improved even more? This is the second time I’ve played a game that visits the library but does not include some way of getting there from the castle itself! Why?!
Grand Staircase: Yes, yes, yes! And no. I loved the new layout of Hogwarts, not just the Grand Staircase, but altogether actually. But I especially enjoyed the changes made with the staircase, the main part of the castle. However, the purpose for doing this is basically to put the Gryffindor Common Room on the seventh floor where it belongs instead of on the first where it doesn’t, at least that’s what I’m guessing. That’s just fine, but upgrading from four floors in CoS to seven floors in PoA means one thing: lots of filler. I thought the stairs themselves were much better organized, with the option of going around the “spiral” staircase by all of the floors, or use the changing staircases to skip between the odd ones. However, the floors themselves, I thought, were much more random. At least the hallways (or corridors as some might call them) in CoS actually look like hallways or corridors should. Nothing much extra, just the walls, ceiling, and floor, nothing extensively decorated. I guess I’m just a big fan of long empty hallways instead of these short corridors that look more like small rooms than anything, with classrooms adjacent. Sure it takes longer to walk, and it’s not much to look at, but I just think it’s much more welcoming. And most floors didn’t have hallways at all; in fact, the sixth floor had just one small room with a locked portrait (which can be opened by buying the password in Fred and George’s Shop) and floor five didn’t have much more. I suppose they just added the extra staircase to give you something to look at. Again, if they need more things to add onto some of these seemingly useless floors, why not the library? And then again, why not the infirmary? It was included in CoS, why not in PoA? More real rooms, more real corridors, and much, much less filler altogether. It’s too random. No, no, no. And yes.
Complete Layout: As if I haven’t touched on this enough with the grand staircase, I’m given more of an opportunity to write about all the differences in layouts between the games. Let me touch on the ground floor: I loved the overall improved look and feel of the Entrance Hall, but then again, where is the Great Hall? They had it in the last game, why not in this one? The main rooms look great, but a lot was taken away from CoS that didn’t really need to be taken away. But again, there’s always an improvement, and in this case there’s no exception. The “transport portraits”: all floors are accessible from one central location, no need to climb seven or so flights of stairs to get to the Gryffindor Common Room anymore. Good reason to be lazy of course, but it is convenient, and I like it. Can anyone tell me the purpose of the dungeons in this game? I mean honestly, EA is taking away so much and just replacing it with all this meaningless filler. No Potions classroom at least? I mean, I’m as glad as anyone to not have to deal at Snape at all during this game, but you could have at least left the room there! More secret areas and locked portraits. More random. Hogwarts Courtyard and surrounding grounds? Changed immensely, but it earns my two very enthusiastic thumbs up! That’s the way it should be! Except, where are the greenhouses? Why have they been taken away like so many other things around Hogwarts?
Pause Menu: The greatest improvement of the game in my opinion. Amazingly organized and useful to check out from time to time. Great job on that. And awesome pause game music as well Jeremy! Keep up the good work!
The Music: Speaking of Jeremy Soule, he made some more improvements on this game as far as the music goes, especially with the main theme, which I regard as absolutely amazing! But quite a lot of the basic themes from the previous games also remain in this one, which is also good because I loved much of the main themes from those games too. Awesome.
The Entire Gaming Experience: Oh dear, after bashing the randomness of the new layouts of Hogwarts as much as I did, how can I get by saying that I enjoyed this game more than the others? Well put it this way, I probably wasn’t as irritated with the layout as what I wrote here made you believe, and besides that, you’re not in the main parts of Hogwarts throughout most of the game anyway. You’re going through challenges, various tasks, as well as time spent outside, and during those times I felt very at home with this game. I loved it. Much, much shorter than the previous two, and much was “taken out” that was there in the second game, but as annoying as I truly think it is, I guess I can live with it! Good job overall!