Spoiler alert: This article includes important clues to the solution of a music puzzle in the Hogwarts Legacy game.
Hogwarts Legacy is the latest installment in the Harry Potter franchise, released February 2023 on Playstation 5. It's been generally well received, with the public praising its graphics and gorgeous otherworldly atmosphere.
The game takes players through numerous side quests and mini puzzles. One of them stood out to me, as a musician. It's called Solved By the Bell and it centers around a bell tower with a musical riddle.
In this article, I'll walk you through the musical map in Hogwarts Legacy and show how this bell puzzle fits into a greater cosmology of bell puzzles and piano puzzles in fantasy and horror video games over the past thirty years.
The Musical Map that leads to a Magic Bell puzzle
Set in the late 1800s, Hogwarts Legacy takes place in the Wizarding World universe. Players control a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learning magical abilities and uncovering ancient secrets. It appears that in this universe, music is among those forbidden crafts.
Study the musical map closely and you'll see that below the island, sheet music spells out an eight-note melody. There's a diagram of nine bells and nine tones that fills the right side of the page. What does it all mean?
The game includes a world map you can use to teleport to other locations. Your musical map shows that "X" marks the spot on an island called Glagmar Coast. You'll travel to that location to find the musical bell puzzle.
When you arrive, you'll need to aim up and strike each bell in the correct order. There are no instructions, but the game does offer you some clues on the melody that you're supposed to play.
Return to the musical map to solve this bell puzzle. Guess what the melody at the bottom of the page means. What song could it be referring to?
Hogwarts Legacy vs. Remnant: From the Ashes
The iconic bell-piano used during the intro of Hedwig's Theme could account for bell puzzle in Hogwarts Legacy. But this isn't the first time we've seen a game use bells and sorcery as part of a puzzle system.
In fact, it was just 2019 when Remnant: From the Ashes came out. The game features a collection of bell puzzles. Players flip through the pages of arcane books and read strange sheet music. Shooting the bells will cause them to play a tone. Do it in the right order and retrieve magical items!
Piano pieces featured in Hogwarts Legacy
Bells aren't the only musical instrument we find in Hogwarts Legacy. Players will find an assortment of random items sprinkled throughout throughout the game's well-furnished rooms.
Walk up to the piano and interact to play a song. A popular thread on the game's subreddit identified ten classical pieces total that could be played. Here are five examples of pieces that appear in the game:
1st Prélude from Bach's 1st WTC book
Chopin's Nocturne Opus 9 Number 2
Pachelbel's Canon in D
The self-playing piano keys don't move and some Redditors have compared this to the much better animations of a fiddler in Red Dawn Redemption 2.
Piano Puzzles in Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Undertale
Hogwarts Legacy may have drawn inspiration from Resident Evil and Silent Hill's piano puzzles. It would explain why pianos ornament the rooms without much explanation or purpose.
Resident Evil 8 asks the player play a sequence of piano keys in a specific key signature to unlock a draw holding a key for a door.
The wordplay seems like a wink to the audience and may explain why melodies played on musical keyboards often open doors in other games and films.
In Resident Evil 1 players pick up a book of sheet music titled Musical Score (Moonlight Sonata). When you eventually play the piece on piano, it unlocks a door and you can proceed with the game.
We've seen a similar device in Batman, when Bruce Wayne presses keys on a piano to access the batcave. Or in the Goonies, when the kids play a skeleton organ to open a passage. There are countless examples of this. Open sesame!
The piano puzzle in Silent Hill might be the most difficult of all the piano puzzles. You have to decipher a long riddle about white and black birds. The birds represent white and black keys on the piano.
Once you crack the code, a silver medallion falls from the wall. You place it into a clock tower, later in the game, and open a portal to the Otherworld.
Horror games aren't the only ones that make use of piano puzzles. Undertale is a cult favorite that includes a piano puzzle. Here's a clip of that minigame being solved.
We tend to see piano puzzles in games that put extra care into their music. For example, Undertale was beloved for its use of leitmotifs. The composer used these musical themes to symbolize characters and locations within the game's plot.
John Williams used the same technique for Harry Potter, connecting melodies to narrative events. I would encourage anyone to read about the Harry Potter letimotifs and get acquainted with the technique. Williams famously wrote the Star Wars soundtrack, known for its similar use of leitmotifs throughout the series.
Hogwarts Legacy - Making the Music
To wrap everything up here, I wanted to share this behind the scenes look at the making of the OST for Hogwarts Legacy. It's cool to see the team working behind the scenes to create sound effects, adaptive game audio, and a flexible soundtrack that can respond to player activity.
I hope you enjoyed this overview. Be sure to check out our article on musical cryptograms form a more complete summary of the places these musical puzzles show up in movies and games.