Casual games on mobile devices get a bad rap. Frankly, the poor reputation is earned, but there are exceptions. Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells is one of those exceptions.
As the name suggests, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells is a Harry Potter-themed puzzle game. It came out on mobile devices and Facebook Gaming in December 2020 from Zynga. So it’s a relatively new game.
To my surprise, I’ve been playing daily for about two weeks now. And, no, I am not a fan of the Harry Potter books, films, or any of the previous video games. Take that as you will.
A match-three Harry Potter puzzle game
Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells is a match-three puzzle-adventure game with spells and familiar characters. The game features the music, sounds, voiceovers, and likenesses from the original Harry Potter films. Overall, it feels about as loyal a recreation as you can get from a casual puzzle game.
In terms of story, the puzzles that I have completed so far track closely with Sorcerer’s Stone. You start your journey at the Dursley home and take the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 and 3/4 to the infamous school of magic, Hogwarts. The story is light and basically just amounts to a set-piece, but I think that fans will appreciate the tie-ins nonetheless.
Bejeweled with spells
The concept here is basically the same as Bejeweled. Each puzzle has you clear like-colored gems in horizontal or vertical lines of three. You can also clear gems in lines of four or five, as well as L-shaped lines and squares. This has all been done before, so it’s not particularly interesting.
However, things do get more interesting once you are introduced to items and start to learn spells. In terms of helpful items, there are winged keys, bombs, lightning bolts, and bags that suck in like-colored gems.
The winged keys clear the four closest gems in a cross pattern and then flutter their way to a gem, obstacle, or enemy. Unsurprisingly, bombs are useful for clearing a radius of all surrounding, adjacent tiles. Depending on the direction that they are facing, lightning bolts either clear an entire row or column.
Things get even more interesting when you combine two of these items. Bombs combined with another bomb create a catastrophic bomb that clears over half of the puzzle board. The winged keys deliver the bombs and lightning bolts to strategically important spots on the board. Meanwhile, combining the magic bag with the lightning bolt, bomb, or winged key spawns the latter items all over the board, often creating a cascade.
Characters and spells
Popular Harry Potter characters – including Harry himself – appear in the game as little helpers. Basically, you have to help them reach the bottom of the board, clearing obstacles along the way. Then they reward you with special powers. For instance, Harry changes gems to a specific color. Hermione clears gems from the board. Hagrid gives you items.
In terms of spells, you have to unlock them. Once unlocked, you can cast them after you clear enough translucent orbs on the board. The number that you need varies, but it’s usually somewhere in the ballpark of twelve. The spells have different benefits. For instance, Alohomora unlocks reward chests within puzzles. Herbivicus helps you clear plant obstacles.
The spells are puzzle specific, so you are not able to just cast whatever spell that comes to mind. There are puzzles with a lot of lantern obstacles on the puzzle. In this case, you may have Inflamare as an optional spell. It lights up lanterns and removes them from the board.
Some puzzles have more than one spell that you can cast, so you’ll have to choose which one you want to cast first. Wingardium Leviosa is usually one that you’ll want to cast before anything else since it lifts feathers that obstruct your view of the entire puzzle.
Free-to-play, not pay-to-win
Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells launched as a free-to-play title with optional in-game purchases. With a lot of games, this is more of a pay-to-win model, but that’s not really the case at the moment – although it’s certainly possible that future updates will change this.
Here’s how it works.
You only have a few turns to complete each puzzle. If you fail to complete the puzzle, you lose a life. The game gives you five lives, so you get five possible strikes before the game locks you out. If you run out of lives, you either have to wait for your lives to replenish – which takes time – or you can pay with real money.
However, this was never an issue for me. Each day that you log in, you get a limited amount of time where you have infinite lives. If you log in over consecutive days, the length of time for infinite lives increases. By the seventh day, you have over an hour of guaranteed playtime.
If the game ever gets to the point where it feels like it is cheating me out of lives, I’ll just stop playing. That hasn’t happened to me yet though.
While gamers will have to wait for Hogwarts Legacy on PS5, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells is a surprisingly decent mobile game. I downloaded it rather skeptically but ended up playing it daily.
Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells is available on Android and iOS devices, as well as on Amazon Fire tablets. You can download it for free from Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and Amazon’s App Store. It’s also available on PC, Mac, and Chromebook via Facebook Gaming.