Because the IFComp is a small competition for independent developers making non-commerical games, it’s an ideal venue for games based off other works. While fanfiction is not a genre I’m particularly interested in, I nevertheless found “Winter Break at Hogwarts” to be an appealing puzzlefest set in the Harry Potter universe.
Gameplay: Gameplay begins by picking the main character’s house among the four available. The choice doesn’t appear to be hugely meaningful, but it’s one of a series of entertaining bits of flavor from the Harry Potter series that appears in the game. Professors from the books appear as NPCs, generally with an object to collect or a puzzle for to solve. Locations in the book also appear in the game, and there is a map to help with navigating the sprawling environment. 7/10.
Mechanics: The puzzles are largely solid, though some are simply standard adventure-style ones rather than anything more evocative. Even given its size, the game environment is not compact, and it’s occasionally difficult to navigate with the map and frustrating without it. The game also contains frustrating timers to remind the player when the main character is hungry or cold. Both problems are easy for the main character to solve (as in, for example, “Savoir-Faire”), but the timers don’t contribute anything to game besides annoying the player. 7/10.
Presentation: While the game does recreate the overall feel of the setting of the Harry Potter books, both the in-game environment and the style of play reminded me of the mid- or late-90s style of open-ended puzzlefests set on a college campus (e.g., “GC: A Thrashing Parity Bit of the Mind”). There are some minor issues with unhelpful descriptions for objects (e.g., a number chart that’s simply described with, “You see nothing special about the number chart”) and guess-the-noun issues (e.g., an overcoat that’s described initially as a spare coat, but isn’t recognized as COAT or even SPARE; only SPARE COAT works). Overall, though, the text is solid and fits the tone of the game. 7/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You’re a fan of the Harry Potter series.