The legend continues! While there will be no more Harry Potter books, the series lives on in movies and more important, in games you control.
|LEGO HARRY POTTER: YEARS 1-4
WBIE for PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PSP, PC. Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
Replay Value: 8.5
Overall Score: 8.5
Official Web Site
Pros: It’s LEGO! Lots of characters to play; really captures the feel of Potter movies and books.
Cons: No online multiplayer; can’t bring in your avatar to play as a character.
So what’s the deal with LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4? If you’ve played LEGO Star Wars, Batman or Indiana Jones, you’ll have a good idea of what’s in store for you.
And it’s all good. Traveller’s Tales, the guys who make the LEGO games based on movies and books, have refined their formula over the years. That means you’re in for another game full of the magic, humor and feeling, this time with Harry Potter and a ton of studs to collect.
Once you get the controller in your hands, you’re ready for wizardry from moment one. While you don’t have wizard’s power until toward the end of the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley level, Hagrid does, and he’ll help you change blocks into springboards and pull heavy chains to open doors. You’ll find strange devices that are only there because they’re cool to ride around on as a diversion, like a street-sweeping thing on stilts with two brooms.
There’s a ton of collecting studs along the way, which help to unlock new characters. In fact, there are about 170 characters, all of whom are playable—when you need them. Early on, you can choose to play as Harry, Hermione or Ron.
If you get enough studs, you’ll become a True Wizard before the end of a level. This rewards you with a gold brick. And gold bricks are cool because they unlock bonus content.
MOVING THROUGH THE LEVELS
I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed Harry’s world even though I already know it pretty well. In the first level, I wanted to stay in that world until I uncovered everything.
While the game doesn’t break much new ground, the way the environments are presented is really alluring. Candlelit rooms, slightly creepy characters such as goblins, nooks and crannies to explore—all these abound. And the level design seems flawless. The camera angles never mess up.
While there’s beauty in the detailed backgrounds everywhere, I like the sometimes creepy outdoor levels the best. If you do somehow get lost, a ghost trail of studs will appear to lead you back to familiar territory.
Of course, in a LEGO videogame, even when you finish the level, there’s more gameplay in Free Play mode. Here, you can use any character you’ve unlocked to find secret areas.
As you move through the levels, you’ll collect pieces of Hogwarts crests many times along the way. Each completed crest will give you a Super Kit piece. Collect all 24 for a special Super Kit achievement.
QUESTS, SPELLS AND MUCH MORE
There’s a lot more here because the game covers the first four J.K. Rowling books. Check out the Student in Peril missions. These quests require you to save an unfortunate pupil. If you do, you’ll get a gold brick.
You also have the opportunity to create spells when you see Nearly Headless Nick. Take the spell lesson and collect the token to use the new spell, perhaps in the mountain-troll battle in the girls’ restroom. Plus, you can mix potions, which will help if you’re turned into some strange animal. But be careful. If you put the wrong ingredients together, something weird and unexpected might happen.
Some characters have Dig Ability, which lets you look underground for all sorts of stuff. And the Cloak of Invisibility helps you in the direst of situations. Watch out for fire-breathing dragons (who just might burn Harry in the butt)!
Play and fight underwater, compete in the TriWizard Tournament and lock horns with Lord Voldemort in a tombstone-filled graveyard. Slide through giant tunnels and battle massive spiders. Rediscover the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets. And you can use the characters’ pets to play during certain times, like Ron’s rat, Scabbers.
There are thrills every minute. It’s kind of like a jack-in-the-box popping out to delight you constantly.
The one thing I don’t care about is Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. Here, you can customize your character. I’d rather be able to use my Xbox Live avatar instead because it looks a little like me.
Also, there’s no online multiplayer access, which is something that gamemakers should have been doing for years now. There’s no excuse for not adding it. [EDITOR’S NOTE: According to the LEGO Harry Potter folks, online multiplayer for Xbox 360 and PS3 is expected to be available as a patch in the coming months.]
But overall, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a fine game. It’s a great way to relive the movies and books and get ready for The Deathly Hallows movie this fall. With all of its bells and whistles, it’s a small treasure. And you know what J.K. Rowling wrote about treasure, right? She wrote, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”