Also on: PS3, Wii
Publisher:Warner Bros Interactive
Developer: Traveller's Tales
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 might not be the best name for a video game ever, but it is another fun entry into the long running LEGO series of kid friendly titles. It’s certainly a better experience than what I had with the Pirates of the Caribbean game from earlier this year. However, whereas I found myself really enjoying the original Harry Potter title, this entry is starting to show some age in regards to the typical LEGO formula.
Like other LEGO titles, you’ll take control of a variety of characters from this specific universe and smash your way through a series of levels lifted straight from the films and books. The obvious emphasis here is on the movies though, as most of the scenes and characters are depicted in a way similar to the films and not so much the written adventures of Potter. There are still a number of funny renditions of familiar scenes, and that trademark LEGO humor is still present, despite the dark times that permeate most of the plot.
Also, like the previous LEGO Harry Potter, you’ll have an expansive hub world used with Hogwarts, which serves as a launching stage for most of the levels in the game. Hogwarts as a standalone location begs to be explored, and while the structure is similar to the last game; there are plenty of new areas to check out in Years 5 through 7. Along with Hogwarts there’s also the familiar Diagon Alley location, where most of your shops to buy new characters and cheats are located. Finally, there are a huge number of hidden objects, goals, and characters to uncover. The game begs to be played more when the story is finished, which is where you’ll finally have access to the necessary characters to uncover most of the game’s secret areas.
There’s a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving in Harry Potter, more than there is combat like the Star Wars LEGO titles seem to have. You’ll still fight the occasional bad guy and boss, but in general you’ll spend time smashing objects, building objects, and figuring out small puzzles to advance the plot. The puzzles are certainly kid friendly, nothing here will be too taxing for adults. But I did find a number of sequences that left me wondering what to do, until I realized that out of everything I had smashed in a room I still managed to miss one or two things, and those things were what contained the item I needed to advance. This tends to be a small, annoying problem in a lot of LEGO games. You get extremely used to a certain level of hand holding, and when the game takes that away, you might find yourself a little puzzled and aggravated for a few brief minutes.
And still, this game is best if played with another person backing you up. Like the rest of the games in the series, it’s local only, which I continue to find disappointing. Still, if you have kids, or you have a handful of kids that enjoy games, you’d be hard pressed to find a better time waster than this game for the holidays. It’s super kid friendly, pretty engaging even for adults, and is legitimately fun to play. It also doesn’t cap out at 5 hours or so, as you can easily spend quite a few hours uncovering everything the game has to offer or unlock.
Still, despite how much I find myself enjoying the majority of the LEGO games, I find Harry Potter putting me pretty close to my breaking point. The series is incredibly formulaic at this point, and while I loved the magic and exploration aspects of the first Harry Potter adventure, this just feels like more of the same. There are some new spells, which are welcomed additions, but they do little more than allow you to break up the blocks or rebuild them in new ways. And when you start scratching away at the visual flair and realize that the overall gameplay design is the same no matter how it’s being presented, whether you’re building blocks with Magic or with The Force, the experience starts to wear a little thin. I definitely find myself ready to move on from the series at this point.
So here’s hoping that Traveler’s Tales has something more in store for whatever the next LEGO title might be. I’m not sure that there’s another property ripe for the LEGO treatment at this point, with Star Wars and Pirates being the only two licenses they could hope to continue. And considering we won’t see a lot of new material out of either series for a couple years at the most, maybe that’ll give the developers a little more time to go back to the drawing board. Still, if you’ve ever enjoyed the LEGO games, than I can’t deny that Harry Potter remains one of the best uses of that license. I certainly enjoyed this game, and would highly recommend it to parents or likeminded adults looking for a little whimsical fun from their videogames this year.