Lego Hary Potter: Years 1-4 Review

   05/12/2010 at 22:41       Sillothian       8 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - Lego Harry Potter, Lego, Harry Potter, Traveller's Tales, Warner Bros. Interactive

After the slightly lacklustre Lego Indiana Jones 2, it looked the Lego games had run their course. But Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a brilliant return to form. Covering events from the first four books and movies, you guide Harry into the world of magic and help him take his first steps towards the inevitable confrontation with Lord Voldemort. I must confess one thing right now, I’ve never read any of the Potter books or seen the movies. It didn’t cause me any problems while playing the game, though, as non of the puzzles require any knowledge of the Potter universe to be solved. However, the context of most of the cutscenes was unfortunately lost on me. The trademark slapstick humour is still used to full effect so there is still plenty to enjoy for those of us who wouldn’t know a Muggle from a Golden Snitch!

Lego Harry Potter is a massive game with absolutely loads to do before you will have reached 100% completion. For the collector in you there are 200 gold bricks, 24 red bricks, 50 students in peril, 96 house crests and 167 character tokens to find. As with all previous Lego titles you start in a central hub where you can launch new story levels, use Lego studs to buy upgrades and characters, or just cause havoc with a bit of magic. You’ve got the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley and Gringott’s Wizarding Bank to explore before you even touch the story levels. The final bit of extra content is the 11 bonus levels that are purchased using any gold bricks you obtain. These are small, puzzle-focussed affairs that give a good indication of what can be done with the level editor. Oh didn’t I mention there was a level editor included too?

The main story consists of 24 levels, 6 per year to cover the major events from each of the first four books and movies. For those of you not familiar with the Lego games the basic task on each level is to get from A to B, all the while solving a few puzzles and negotiating some platforms. Most of the scenery can either be interacted with or destroyed to produce Lego studs (the game’s currency). Unlike the last three games in the series (Indy 1, Batman and Indy 2) combat is not much of factor in this game and to be honest it is not really a miss. While there is the odd bad guy to be blasted with your wand the focus here is purely on exploration and the gameplay benefits from it immensely. There is a boss battle at the end of each year’s story, but beating these is just the simple task of learning the attack patterns. Think ‘Zelda lite’ and you won’t be far wrong.

Obviously you could blast through the story levels in a couple of nights and think that was the job done. Finishing the story is only the tip of the iceberg as the bulk of the game is to be found in the hunt for hidden content. Like all previous Lego games your initial characters don’t have the ability to solve all the puzzles on each level. In the Star Wars and Indiana Jones titles you unlocked new characters and used their abilities. In Lego Batman you found suits that gave the dynamic duo special powers. You would then return to previously completed levels armed with these new abilities and be able to solve a greater range of puzzles.

In Lego Harry Potter the upgrade system is the most complex yet. As well as unlocking characters with new skills, Harry and chums will also learn a range of spells from the various professors at Hogwarts. These range from zapping ghosts, manipulating and moving objects, destroying deadly plants and much more. There are also numerous cauldrons dotted about which, when filled with the correct ingredients, are used to create potions that grant the player temporary powers like strength and invisibility. Only by taking advantage of all three facets of the new upgrade system can you return to the game and unlock all of the hidden content.

If you are a veteran of the Lego games you’ll probably be thinking so far this is all par for the course and you’d be right. That is until you factor in Lego Harry Potter’s crowning glory, the whole of Hogwarts Castle and more as a huge secondary hub world. Unlike the main hub, which is just a glorified menu system, Hogwarts Castle packs in as much content as at least a full year of the main story. The castle and it grounds can be freely explored throughout the 4 years of the main story. There are puzzles to solve and hidden content to be found. There are classrooms that you have to visit to learn new spells and exploration of the castle is required to push the story forward. If you ever get lost a friendly ghost will leave a trail of Lego studs to guide you in the right direction, but you can always choose to ignore him! The more skills you obtain the more of the Hogwarts you can explore and your cache of hidden treasure will just keep on expanding. You even get to fly on a broomstick in a couple of areas, use a pumpkin as a space hopper and launch giant carrots into the air like fireworks!

To top off the fun you can also play through the whole game in local co-op. Like Lego Indy 2 the co-op is now a split screen affair, where each player can wander freely around the level. Unfortunately online co-op is nowhere to be seen and is a major omission for such a popular franchise. The lack of online support also renders the level editor mostly pointless as you have no way of sharing any of your creations with friends. Those of you who liked the vehicle levels in previous Lego games will also be disappointed as there is only one short car sequence. One gameplay addition that doesn’t quite work is the sections where you have to directly manipulate Lego bricks. Rather than the game automatically building an object for you, it is up to you to place the pieces into the correct positions. It is usually a simple matter of building a staircase or a bridge, but the controls are just a bit too fiddly and it adds nothing to the game. I’ve also had the game lock up on me a couple of times, but this seems to happen with every Lego game I’ve played whether it is has been on 360 or PS3.

Overall this is a top class game which has been designed purely with fun in mind. It is an ideal game for kids (the worst that happens when you die is that you could lose a few studs) and adults alike. The game world is huge and there is enough content to keep you playing for a few months. If you are a fan of the Harry Potter franchise, or the previous Lego games, this is a must buy.

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