With Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells, Zynga has managed to do something rather magical. I’m not the biggest fan of Match-3 mobile games, but I am a massive Harry Potter nerd (along with most of the world). I’m also two years into Jam City’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, so I honestly doubted I’d be playing this new game for long. Could another mobile title built on a game style I don’t particularly like be enough to hold my attention?
In a word: Yep. I’m addicted. The allure of the Wizarding World mythology paired with the feel-good matchy-matchy mechanics makes for a heckuva compelling game that’s incredibly easy to pick up and nearly impossible to put back down. Zynga makes it easy to keep playing, even as the levels climb higher and higher and the challenges get tougher and tougher. New game mechanics — both those that impede your progress in clearing puzzles and those that help you do so — are introduced quite regularly, to the point that I’m already past level 80 and am still constantly learning new (and sometimes frustrating) things about the game and how it works. That’s a great way to keep players playing!
But Zynga also makes it very easy to drop real-world money on this game, and we’re not talking Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. You can basically buy your way to infinite gameplay should you choose to do so. However, this optional buy-in isn’t much of a paywall; you can still play the free game without ever spending a dime, you might just have to exercise a bit of patience and restraint while waiting for your “Lives” — which let you play new puzzles — to regenerate.
Beyond those very basic limitations, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells has a wealth of Wizarding World lore and mythology for players to enjoy along the way. You’re tasked with matching differently colored gems to clear the board, but, subtly so, those gems are stand-ins for each of the four Hogwarts houses. Scattered elsewhere on the board are “bubbles” (which also resemble Remembralls) that power up your spell meter, winged keys that fly off and knock out a hard-to-reach gem or clear an obstruction, and various lightning bolts and bombs which clear huge swaths of the board at a time, while also charging up your special pet meter (yup, pets!).
Complicating things are gobstones which block your path, feathers which obscure the board and must be cleared, chocolate frogs (the bane of my existence), heaps upon heaps of Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Beans that clutter things up, and the ever-frustrating blocks of ice that take a few hits to be cleared. Occasionally, allies like Hagrid, Hermione, or Harry himself will step in (or fly in) to help sort things out, but you’ll want to rely on matching gems, creating special combos, and paying attention to the dwindling turns as they count down if you want to save your precious hearts.
However, there’s no new story here; unlike Hogwarts Mystery, Puzzles & Spells basically walks players back through the history of the Harry Potter books and movies that we all know and love. Each iconic moment in those stories is captured in a number of puzzles that play out in “scenes” that must be completed before progressing. These puzzles include likenesses of the movies’ characters as well as voice work and lines of dialogue from the actors themselves. It’s a nice touch, but thankfully the game’s mechanics and inclusions of lore drops in meaningful ways are robust, elevating it beyond a simple tie-in.
Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells has proven unexpectedly addicting for yours truly, though it remains to be seen how long that will last. I’m around level 80 and have just now gotten to the moving staircases in Hogwarts for the first time in the story. There’s a lot left to explore here. Zynga could keep this one going for a long, long time. And with new chapters introducing new characters, pets, mechanics, and plot points, there’s a bright future ahead for the clever minds behind Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells and the gamers who just can’t put it down.
Disclaimer: The author of this article, Dave Trumbore (That’s me, hi!), currently holds (exactly two) shares of Zynga stock.