Bricks and Wizardry. Has there ever been a better combination? Other than bricks and Star Wars of course.
I have a problem with the LEGO games. The thing is, I like LEGO and I like video games. I also like Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones and even Harry Potter. So, in theory, I should have the time of my life with any of the recent LEGO video games, right? Well, wrong. Why? Because everyone else in my house also likes all of the above. Do you think I get the chance to play more than the occasional level of a LEGO game? Sure, I get called in for a bit of co-op action whenever the game gets tricky. But then I am left not wanting to play the game myself simply because I have already seen it all and the mystery has gone.
And that is why the LEGO games are so successful, universal appeal. There really is something for everyone. The developers have taken one of the most successful toys in history and combined it with a collection of equally successful franchises. Each new game that has been released has tried to build on the formula whilst keeping the core gameplay the same.
So we come to the latest entry in the LEGO franchise. LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 covers the events from the first four years of Harry attending the Hogwarts school of wizardry and thus the first four movies. This means that there will in all likelihood be a second game released at some point covering the final years and final movies. It would be no surprise to also see a complete saga released in the not too distant future, containing all of the games in one.
Anyone who has played any of the previous LEGO games will already know what to expect. Bright and colourful environments lovingly replicated from the movies, all of the major characters recreated with a LEGO style and bricks by the bucket load. There is also the now obligatory humour, poking fun at the movies and the major events that happen within them.
So, the Leaky Cauldron is the main hub of the game, from which the player can gain access to the story mode and to the delights of Diagon Alley. It is within the alley that all manner of goodies can be found, such as the stores offering new characters, new spells, funny little ways to tweak the game and an abundance of bonus levels. As with all of the LEGO games, the main objective is the collection of studs that act as the in game currency and allow the player to buy the goodies found in the stores. Almost as important is the collection of gold bricks which unlock the bonus levels. There is plenty to keep collectors happy then.
It is in the story that you find one of the games major changes. This time around there is far less emphasis on combat. No more running around shooting anything that moves and laughing hysterically as they burst into a pile of bricks. It is all about the magic now.
As the player progresses through the game, they will unlock a variety of different spells. These spells can be selected quickly using a wheel selector, allowing the player to change spells on the fly depending what they need to accomplish. Some of the characters also have there own special abilities, similar to other LEGO games, such as Ron using his rat, Scabbers, to reach places that the characters cannot, or Harry and his invisibility cloak allowing him to sneak past Filch the caretaker unseen.
With less emphasis on combat, the game relies more on the completion of puzzles in order to progress. Lego Harry Potter is by far the most complex of the LEGO games in this respect, with what seems like a lot more wandering around and thinking. I cannot say that this is a bad thing. But more often than not I found that solving the puzzles came down to just dumb luck, rather than any kind of epiphany on my part.
It is not all rainbows and unicorns in the world of LEGO Harry Potter though. There are a fair number of glitches in the game that, whilst not game breaking, can be a touch annoying. Also I found that the navigation of the game was not as fluid as the previous LEGO games, leaving me often getting lost in the halls of Hogwarts and only being able to continue thanks again to my dumb luck.
Mind you, it is not like there was not plenty to see whilst I was wandering aimlessly. The game is filled to the brim with life. Everywhere you look there is something going on, usually inducing a slight chuckle from me. I think it is safe to say that this is the most lively of the LEGO games, if not one of the most lively games ever.
Even with the glitches and confusion, I can’t help but love LEGO Harry Potter. It really offers so much to see and do that the chances of getting bored, even if you do get lost, are very slim. For fans of the movie franchise, it really is a no brainer. But even amongst the non Harry Potter fans, they would need to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with this game. Or a heart of LEGO perhaps?