“Puzzles & Spells” Arrives on Android, “Wizards Unite” Goes Old School
by Brienne Green · Published · Updated
August 2020 has barely begun and already seems filled to the brim with stress. Debates over whether or not to reopen schools are raging, and in the working world, job worries and the need for economic aid loom large. But while everyone has to deal with these issues in their own way, we do have one suggestion: Stop thinking about literally everything for a bit and play games!
It may be a temporary solution, wizarding world gamers, but it’s a fun one, and we have all the latest updates for you on Harry Potter: Wizards Unite‘s slate of August events, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery‘s meandering, and the United States beta release of Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells. Phones at the ready!
We've probably all spent some time during the pandemic reflecting on the good old days, and the team at Wizards Unite is continuing to feed our nostalgia with flashbacks to simpler times. This month, the focus will be on our first year at Hogwarts. We remember it like it was... well, technically never, but let's pretend it was yesterday.
For some mysterious reason, the Calamity is surfacing memories of Diagon Alley and new students at Hogwarts, but this must surely be more than a stroll down memory lane. This month, think back to your Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1 and help uncover the significance of these [f]irst[-y]ear flashbacks.
First on the docket is the August Community Day, which will run from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. in your local time zone Saturday, August 8.
This event will be all about the Wizarding Challenges, so start brewing up those Exstimulo and Healing Potions now! Players will be heading into Fortresses of increasing levels of difficulty, meaning those of us who've attained Dark Chamber V cred will once again be forced to battle sadistically strong foes alongside maybe one or two helpful compatriots and two people who just sit there and wait for everyone else to clear the room for them.
On that subject, remember to play to your strengths! Aurors have an easier time taking down Dark wizards and Death Eaters, Magizoologists excel against Erklings and Acromantulas, and Professors are skilled at dispatching werewolves and Cornish pixies. Completed Challenges will award not only increased Challenge XP but spell energy as well, and Wizards Unite Hub reports that using any Runestone in Forest Chamber IV and above will guarantee you Exploration Foundable Fragments.
At 11:00 a.m. PT Tuesday, August 11, Part 1 of the First Year at Hogwarts Brilliant Event will commence, in which we'll be tasked with returning Brilliant Foundables from Diagon Alley, including the Monster Book of Monsters and other items hijacked by goblins. That event will end at 11:00 a.m. PT Tuesday, August 18.
We'll be on the hunt for Wonders of the Wizarding World, such as the Weasleys' Flying Car and the Whomping Willow, during August's Wizarding Weekend, set for August 21--24, and Part 2 of the First Year at Hogwarts Brilliant Event will kick off Tuesday, August 25. We'll fill you in on those events later in the month.
We'll delve into Hogwarts Mystery's ongoing story line in our next game update. For now, please settle for a recap!
While this recap could technically be one sentence long - Magical Milestones and Full Marks Events and side quests, oh my! - we'll elaborate a bit. MuggleNet's cache of Hogwarts Mystery devotees was pleased to see Pride-themed dorm sets and outfits featured in June, and most are of the opinion that recent changes made to the Duelling Club are a good thing. With both duelers now able to have a go at each other in every round, wins are easier to come by, and the risk of getting knocked out before ever even landing a spell - meaning more gold wasted in order to try again - has been greatly lessened.
Two new fantastic beasts have been added to the Magical Creatures Reserve, taking up residence in the Scorched Vale (formerly the Volcanic Pasture), and a new pet option is available as well. You can check out screenshots of the Fire Crab, salamander, and Moke below. And while the salamander is easily the most boring of the animals added to the Reserve thus far, it's sitting on a rock in what looks suspiciously like Mordor, so that jazzes it up a bit.
Elsewhere in the game, you can now further tweak your character's facial structure - which is great news for those of us who've long felt that video game avatars were just not doing our cheekbones justice - and if you're someone who's annoyed by wood accents, you can change the color of the panels on either side of your dorm-room bed. Just don't tell Joanna Gaines.
A quick peek at Hogwarts Mystery's Twitter account tells us that a new Magical Milestones event has begun (try to contain your enthusiasm), as has a new chapter in the story that will take us up close and personal with everyone's favorite homicidal tree: the Whomping Willow!
It's a new Magical Milestone season: Seer Style. Play everyday to unlock exciting gifts, or get a Rewards Key for bigger rewards 🙂
What are your thoughts on the final outfit prize? pic.twitter.com/QJHfyCkbI4
— Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (@HogwartsMystery) August 5, 2020
The Whomping Willow is quite majestic in its own right. Just don't get too close. pic.twitter.com/cEOicIPAzN
— Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (@HogwartsMystery) July 31, 2020
Android users, it's our turn to feel superior for once. We're finally getting access to something before the iPhone crowd: Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells! The game - which we let you know about in early March - has made its way stateside after a soft launch in the Philippines and is currently available for final beta testing on Android devices.
We've been able to give the Zynga title a solid week of play and can report that it's pretty much what most gamers were expecting: a match-three game with a Harry Potter theme.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a time killer... unless you count the fact that it ultimately wants your money. If you've played other match-three titles by Zynga, you can sing this chorus by heart. You'll start out zipping through levels like a champ, feeling like Viktor Krum taking on the Chudley Cannons reserve team. As you progress, some of those last-minute matches start coming down to the wire, but still - no big deal. Then, before you know what hit you, those primo, power-up-yielding matches don't seem to surface anymore, the obstacles start filling up the majority of the board, and speaking of power-ups, where did all of yours go? You could swear you didn't use them, but... Shh. Don't think on it too hard. Just hit that little button that says $4.99 and a few more power-ups - plus these awesome imaginary glasses for your creepy-looking avatar - can be yours!
In fairness, the same can be said (in varying tones of annoyance) of all the Portkey Games mobile titles, so we'll move on from the money trap issue. Just know that this game contains a $99.99 button. Please don't push it.
As you start the game, you'll be able to enter your name, choose your Hogwarts House, and select a wand before performing some basic customizations on a pretty unremarkable avatar. As you move through the early levels, you'll unlock access to your profile and a selection of daily challenges that will earn you extra power-ups and gold. You'll also begin receiving a daily allowance of free gold that will get you approximately nothing unless you save it up for a week. Think 100 free coins a day when buying five extra moves to complete one puzzle costs 900. A magical creatures feature allows you to collect cards to unlock different animals. They'll give you a few extra power-ups per puzzle and also pop up on the board from time to time to provide a helpful boost. You'll also be able to join a club, where you can interact with other members, collectively qualify for benefits such as faster refills for lives, and - when that's not enough - bum extra lives off one another.
The graphics are cute enough, with scenes progressing chronologically from Privet Drive onward.
Characters make appearances as well, with Rubeus Hagrid introducing you to your magical heritage, Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall turning up to congratulate you on a puzzle well solved, and the golden trio saying hello aboard the Hogwarts Express. Odd little voices deliver occasional in-game messages, but you'll also hear sound bites ripped directly from the films.
As you go, you'll unlock spells that can be cast - after wasting several of your moves to collect the necessary activators, of course - to help you out of binds. Lanterns, Fanged Geraniums, and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans serve as obstacles. Power-ups also follow the theme, including bombs that pop out of what look to be boxes from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and flying keys. Characters will appear on occasion - once you manage to maneuver their tokens off the game board - to help out, such as Hagrid adding column- and row-clearing power-ups with his pink umbrella, Harry Potter doing a broomstick flyby to drop in needed stones, and Hermione Granger casting space-clearing spells.
The moral of the story is that you now have a new Potter game with which you can distract yourself while waiting on your pizza to arrive. Just be mindful of the fact that puzzles will become intentionally harder to complete the higher you go, and that'll leave you with a simple and familiar decision to make: Turn the thing off until your lives refresh or fork over a few bucks for a little extra playing time.