I have to admit, I was a little excited a few days ago when I spotted the “Your Pottermore account is ready! Step this way…” email in my inbox. I had all sorts of questions, all kinds of things I was curious about. What kind of content did J. K. Rowling include in Pottermore? What’s excluded? How do you navigate the chapters? What will Olivanders be like? Does the Sorting Hat actually sing? I could go on and on. I was eager to get started.
I opened up Pottermore and ended up on a landing page, of sorts. Across the top are different menu options like Gringotts, Diagon Alley, Spells, Potions, and Trunk. (None of it worked at first, but after playing on the site for a bit, I’ve unlocked all but one menu option.) In the middle of the page are symbols representing the six books for you to explore.
What better place to start than at the beginning? I go for book one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The website breaks down each chapter into two to four chunks. You navigate within a page by pressing the up or down button to explore each level of the photo. Inside the image, you’ll find things to collect, hidden insights from Rowling, and little snippets from the book.
All in all, it’s not as exciting as I expected. For the most part, the images are stationary, with an element or two glowing or slightly moving. There are vague sound effects in the background like a cat purring when you drag your mouse over it, the low rumble of Hagrid’s motorcycle, and various nature sounds. There’s no animation, really. It’s just a slightly moving picture.
I also don’t understand most of the items I’m to collect. Galleons, potion items, and books make sense to collect. Harry and his friends would’ve used those. Slimy seaweed? An old, chipped cup? I don’t get it. Did Harry collect seaweed or an old, chipped cup in his trunk? I don’t recall that detail, but maybe a more avid Potter fan might. I almost feel like a thief, too, nabbing coins from students’ desks or books from their backpacks. I’ve even “collected” Neville’s Remembrall.
Pottermore gets a little more fun once you’re actually into the wizarding world. You can cast spells, mix potions, choose your wand (or rather have your wand choose you), spend your galleons, and be sorted by the Sorting Hat into your house (I don’t think it sang, though). I’m in Ravenclaw and have a unicorn wand that’s “surprisingly swishy,” according to my profile page.
I won’t give away any of the specific details as to what you’ll find where. The pictures are lovely, though I don’t know if you’re supposed to collect something in each one or what’s supposed to happen. The background noises are annoying, so I muted my computer. There’s not really a whole lot to do or see in between the major moments like Olivanders or casting a spell.
The handling is a bit awkward in places. For instance, when trying to brew a potion, I had to fight to get the ingredients to go where my mouse was sending them. The counter also seems off. You add x amounts of one ingredient, but if you add the right amount too quickly, your potion won’t come out right because you didn’t have enough of the ingredient. Also, right now, all you can explore is book one. None of the other books are accessible yet.
I guess I expected more from the experience. The press release made it sound like Pottermore would be really interactive and bring the world of Harry Potter to life. Maybe I was looking for a video game experience, where there’s more animation and more interaction than what I found. In all, it’s not a bad website and does have interesting tidbits here and there. Maybe book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, will hold more fun. We’ll just have to wait and see.