If you're familiar with the Harry Potter novels, you know that they're geared toward younger readers. Nevertheless, that doesn't prevent teenagers and adults alike from enjoying the whimsical stories contained in the quartet of books. The same is true of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the Game Boy Advance. It's an adventure filled with action and puzzles. The story is based on the plot of the second book, in which a mysterious member of the Slytherin class unleashes a monster that aims to destroy all the students at Hogwarts School who are not of magical parentage. Unfortunately for Harry, he is included in this group.
The progression of the game pretty much follows that of the book. You begin at Harry's home, visit Diagon Alley in order to procure school supplies, and then travel to Hogwarts School, where most of the action occurs. You'll also visit a number of locations that should be familiar if you've read the novels, such as Mulpepper's Apothecary and Hagrid's hut. Most of the events that occur in the book also occur in the game, including minor milestones such as learning spells or Quidditch matches. They're all much more drawn out, however, in that you'll often have to navigate a dungeon full of switches or gather a dozen different items before completing the assigned task.
On the one hand, it's good that you have to explore dungeons filled with puzzles and monsters in order to advance the story. These opportunities let you explore Harry's world, interact with the characters, and play with a half-dozen unique spells. At the same time, there are tons of secrets to uncover and hundreds of special items to collect, such as wizard cards and jelly beans. One of these secrets is a bonus area that you can access only by connecting the Game Boy Advance game to the GameCube game using the connectivity cable.
On the other hand, the number of dungeons is excessive, and the tasks you'll perform in them don't differ all that much. You'll levitate stones, dodge possessed statues, and usually battle a boss ghost at the end. The strategy for all these situations is the same, which tends to dampen your enthusiasm when the reward waiting at the exit is merely another spell, a map, or a few more jelly beans. There are definitely plenty of monsters to battle, and the puzzles certainly are clever enough, but the pace at which you acquire new spells and go through the story is a little too sluggish.
Fans of the Harry Potter books and films probably won't mind the lulls too much, since the gameplay itself does a nice job of capturing the spirit of the character. Harry can cast spells, carry items, climb short ledges, jump, tiptoe, and hide behind curtains. The stealth element is pretty pervasive throughout the game, just as it is in the book, since Harry doesn't want to get caught sneaking around the school at night. At the same time, there are secret switches and panels to discover, portraits that let you teleport throughout the school, and chocolate frogs to collect that will increase Harry's stamina. Along with the story, this kind of variety works wonders to establish a believable setting.
In the same manner, the graphics in Chamber of Secrets really bring Hogwarts to life. The environments are fairly simple and often lack color, but the details are impressive--such as the falling dewdrops and reflective puddles you'll find in the basement or the eyes on the paintings that follow you around as you travel between floors. The characters themselves are large and detailed enough that you'll recognize your favorites right away, and many of the bosses and trolls are larger still.
The audio isn't nearly as good, however. There are a few decent spell effects, and the background music fits the setting, but the overall range of effects is limited and the music is forgettable. You won't be annoyed by anything you hear, but you won't be blown away, either.
In the long run, fans of the Harry Potter books and films will enjoy the video game rendition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It tells a good story, and there's a lot to do within the confines of the Harry Potter universe. If you don't really care for the characters, you'll probably find the gameplay repetitive and dull, but then you'd have no reason to play the game anyway.