| on July 12, 2010, 08:01:00 PM
Lego: Harry Potter years one to four review.
Platforms: PS3, 360, Wii, PSP, DS and PC
Another year, another Lego game.
Having covered the Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones franchises (whilst also dipping into the fad for interactive music games with Lego: Rock Band) the brand has gone to the well of arguably the biggest no-brainer of all time, the Harry Potter series.
Now obviously one’s enjoyment of the game may well depend on how fond you are of this particular world, although given that the Lego games are usually a fun diversion whichever series they are covering, it is more than possible that enjoyment can be found even if you are not a fan of “the boy who lived”.
Personally I have no problem with this series I enjoyed the Harry Potter series for what they were and although thus far the Lego Batman game is by far my favourite I looked forwards to this a great deal more than the aforementioned Star Wars and Indiana Jones installments.
Now before I start with the review proper I will assume that everyone who is interested has read (or watched the movie adaptations) of books one through four. As this game covers the timeline between The Philosopher’s stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone for any American’s reading) and the Goblet of Fire there are no spoilers for the upcoming Half-Blood Prince for those waiting to see the resolution of the story in movie form.
With that out of the way let’s begin with part one, The Philosopher’s Stone. As always with the Lego games production values are high with an opening cutscene depicting the events of Harry’s acceptance into Hogwart’s Wizarding school. As the Lego games are famed for using no dialogue, the characters facial expressions and mannerisms must do the job of telling the tale. These games have always been exceedingly good at expressing the gist of the story via animation and this game is no exception with both Harry, Hagrid and the Dursley’s distilling the essence of the characters from the book. I particularly liked the focus on Dudley Dursley licking his plate clean during the dinner scene, making it quite clear the sort of person he is. Indeed throughout the game its small touches like this that remind you of why the games have been so popular throughout their various incarnations.
After the initial cut-scene we find ourselves in Diagon Alley where if you have played any of the other Lego games the mechanics will come quite naturally. The normal object of collecting Lego “studs” is in practice although instead of using guns or Batarangs, this being Harry Potter you must use spells to break objects and build blocks into platforms and the like. At this stage in the proceedings there will still be many items and studs unavailable to you but these can be collected via the now traditional “Free-play” mode, but more on that later. Again with the high production values, the music is excellent and very much like the soundtrack to the movies and Diagon Alley itself is a wonderfully “Legofied” version of the famous street from the books.
After completing this introductory level the player is taken to the hub of the game, which of course is Hogwarts School for Witching and Wizardry. Here is where you find yourself between story levels and it can be said that this is where a great deal of the fun can be found. Harry of course has few spells available to use at the beginning of the game being a year one student, and it is at Hogwarts where you will learn them, as well as discovering new characters and taking on various side quests which will allow you to progress through the game. The school itself is a brilliant rendition of the faculty from the books and it is easy to mess about finding new things to do before you even attempt a story mission. All of the places you would expect form the books are rendered here from the main hall and library to sundry classrooms, owlerys, bathrooms, dormitories and even Hagrid’s hut and the encompassing grounds. There are also levels set in Gringott’s goblin bank, and the home of the Weasely’s.
Of course this being an adaptation of years one through four all the events from the books that stand out are playable. Highlights include the fight with the troll, Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, the second book’s Quidditch game, the trek through the Forbidden Forest (and yes they included the flying Ford Anglia) and fighting off the Dementor’s in an attempt to discover the secret of “The Prisoner of Azkaban”. Plus there’s the small matter of “He who will not be Named” err that’s Lord Voldemort by the way for those not au fait with the books . All the characters you would expect to appear from various teachers and family members down to Sirius Black and Viktor Krum are also present. Each book is broken up into six levels which van be revisited via bulletin board at any time to collect more studs/characters/gold bricks.
Of course anyone who has played a Lego game before will know that the real fun of the game comes during “Free-play” mode. During the course of your adventures extra characters not available to use during the story missions will become available each with differing abilities. These characters can then be selected during free-play mode to go back and find extra bonuses in the levels which can then be used to find yet more bonuses and so on. This has always been an excellent feature in the Lego games and helps to lengthen the generally short main game significantly. There is a great deal crammed in to find in this game too, apart from the extra characters, there are four school crests to be found in each level, students in need of rescuing from sticky situations as well as special red bricks which once bought, with the studs collected throughout the game will bestow extra abilities which again come in handy to find more bonuses and are also needed to earn achievements/trophies depending on your platform of choice.
One thing I did appreciate is that after the slightly confusing hub of the last Lego game effort has been made to make it clear as to where to go to find the next mission. As you run around Hogwart’s (which by it’s nature is hugely sprawling) Nearly Headless Nick (a ghost natch) will float along beside the player and show you where to go next. Should you somehow lose him giant ghostly arrows will also point you in the right direction (although you are of course free to explore at your own pace).
Another excellent feature of this game is the two player co-op mode in which another player controls usually either Ron or Hermione, although this is not a feature I have made use of it no doubt helps when there are siblings fighting over the control pad, I could also see mum’s and dad’s making use of this feature to spend time with their kids.
Considering this is a kid’s game the difficulty is pretty fair and although it suffers from the usual depth perception problems found in Lego games, making some of the platforming sections a bugger they are certainly not a game killing issue by any means. One problem though which harkens back to the first Lego Star Wars game are the A.I companions. Although these non-player characters are designed to follow you, they seem pre-disposed to becoming stuck in scenery or worse getting in your way during tricky platforming segments. Another inherited problem is that the targeting is extremely off at times, it can be very frustrating when you are trying to build a platform or blast an enemy but the targeting is determined to focus on a non-essential lamp or wandering student. This has unfortunately always been a problem with the Lego games and one that I hope developer’s Traveller’s Tales will fix with the next inevitable instalment.
Unfortunately there is one huge problem (at the present time) with this game. In a certain section of Hogwart’s it is possible to become trapped with no way of leaving the room. Although reports are that a patch is on the way this totally kills any chance of completing the game one hundred percent and requires a restart from year one to continue. Although I’m sure that the developer’s will have this sorted soon it really does spoil enjoyment of the game and could be a huge letdown to those who do not have Internet access to download the patch. As this is a kid’s game there could be some very unhappy children in a household where this happens.
All in all though this is a worthy installment in the Lego game franchise and for me was far more enjoyable than the last muddled effort Lego: Indiana Jones.
Once the upcoming Lego: Star Wars 3 is released roll on years five to seven….
Talk About it Here!