Last week, the new mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery released into app stores for a wide audience. Hogwarts Mystery is a collaboration between Jam City and Portkey Games, and takes place, of course, at Hogwarts. It’s a tap game with a plot that you play through to experience all “7 years” at Hogwarts, beginning 8 years before Harry’s first year in 1991.

This quick guide will give you a feel for the mechanics overall and graphics, and a small taste of what the gameplay itself is like. I’ll also tell you what I think so far at the end.

How to Play Hogwarts Mystery: the Basics

Hogwarts Mystery is a pretty straightforward tap game. As with many other tap games, you’ve got a finite amount of energy to spend on different tasks. When you are working on a lesson, or completing another timed task, tapping on the highlighted objects spends 1 energy per tap. The taps add up to stars, and collecting stars earns the rewards of XP and unlocked skills/potions. Earning stars also earns House Cup points, though this is less plot-related than the other things you’ll be earning.

  • Navigate the castle by using the staircase icon. Tapping this brings up a menu of all of the locations you can visit in Hogwarts.
  • The scroll that says “H” lists your current story/game progress. The scroll with the check mark lists your next side quest.
  • Click on your portrait in the upper left corner to see your current level, your house’s rank in the House Cup, and your Courage, Empathy, and Knowledge skills.
  • The gear icon in the lower left corner is where the game settings are, including sound, notifications, and account info.
  • Tap the icon in the lower right corner with the person to see you friendships. The book icon in the same corner tells you what lessons or spells you have learned so far. The icon with the clothes hanger is where you go to customize your character’s appearance at any time.
  • Finally, the upper right corner has your current energy meter, your coins, and your gems.

You can scroll across each scene to find all of the locked and unlocked locations and people you can interact with, as well as some extras to tap for bonus energy. (Find a house elf, Fang the dog, and a couple of moving portraits among others for extra energy.)

Customize Your Character

The very first thing you’ll do is create your character, and the game does give you a wide variety of appearance options. Though you must choose “witch” or “wizard” at the start, the clothing and hair options, at least from the “witch” side, seem flexible. You can customize your name or choose one from a random generator, and you choose your house.

The game proceeds with a tutorial while you collect your supplies for school, and you gain ranks for different tasks in Courage, Empathy, and Knowledge. This is partly where your experience can be slightly customized– for completing tasks, you can often choose which skill you want to increase, or opt for coins or gems that can be used to purchase things like new clothes, etc.

Learn Spells, Potions, and Other Lessons

The levels are split into “years” which are further split into small story sections or plot points for you to follow. In order to complete each task, you will need to learn new spells, potions, or other lessons, and in order to advance to the next “year” you’ll have to complete the whole list of lessons.

These can be a little time consuming. One tip I found is that when you begin each lesson, there is a timer, but the timer running doesn’t have to mean losing the game:

  • If you are working on unlocking a lesson, you need a certain number of stars. This can take as many tries as you need, so if you run out of time, just try again and add more stars next time.
  • You can also set a matching timer on your phone to remind you to go back and play more when your energy is refilled.

Having your timer run out overnight or because you forgot to log back in (or just don’t want to have to log in five times a day) can be a little frustrating at first, but realizing you can slowly earn enough stars is helpful.

The lessons are sprinkled in with a few “skills” you’ll have to do, such as answering a trivia question or tapping a moving circle to hit a target. These are fairly easily accomplished, but don’t have any major consequences for failing.

Hogwarts Mystery Gameplay Overall

This is a little what the gameplay is like. You can see how each task requires a certain number of taps, and that you earn stars in order to advance.

I find Hogwarts Mystery to be an entertaining game, for what it is. You run out of energy quickly, unless you are willing to spend money, but honestly I don’t mind games like this that I can play once or twice a day and feel like I’m enjoying them without spending hours of my life staring at my phone.

I like that you can play the entire game for free (which is a key factor for me with mobile games) and that the animation is pretty. I even enjoy the background music, and haven’t turned it off yet the way I do for most mobile games.

I do want to note that there isn’t really anything new about it. There isn’t new content to learn about or any new facets to the story, or really anything unexpected at all. It’s a pretty straightforward “Hogwarts experience” with cameos from teachers and students we know, and the mystery feels like it only serves the purpose of giving you a reason to keep completing the tasks. It’s pretty much just a retread, but in a mildly interactive way.

Overall, though, if you want a quick little taste of Hogwarts on the go, Hogwarts Mystery isn’t a bad way to spend a few minutes.

Are you playing Hogwarts Mystery? Which House did you choose? Comment below!