Version played: Xbox 360
Also available on: PS3, PC, 3DS, DS, Wii, PSP, Vita, iOS, Mac (Pretty much everything)
Publishers: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment.
Developers: Traveller’s Tales
Time played by reviewer: 30+ hours
As someone who has been a vocal supporter of the LEGO games since first being introduced to the LEGO Star Wars The Complete Saga by Lee about four years ago now, it only seems right that I put myself forward to fill you in on the most recent game in the LEGO franchise, Harry Potter Years 5 to 7.
Carrying on in a very similar style to Years 1 to 4 the game brings you to the conclusion of the Harry Potter books and films. Those of you that have played a LEGO game before will be aware of the wonderful ability that TT has of putting together a cut-scene that moves the story forward with purpose and humour, without any of the characters ever actually speaking. Much like Pixar, this is something they give a good adult / child balance and it’s all the better for it. It obviously helps if you’ve read the books or seen the films but I don’t think it will be too detrimental if you haven’t.
The gameplay that falls around those wonderfully crafted cut-scenes is very simple and makes it a good base for people who don’t really consider themselves gamers to start from. You have your traditional controls and the ability to cast various spells dependant upon which character you choose to play as.
As always you have the story mode which is spread over 6 chapters per year, meaning that you have 4 years to play through overall (they class the 2nd year 7 film as year 8 in this game). When starting a story mode chapter you play through as the characters that relate to that part of the story. Once you complete a chapter on story mode you will then unlock it to play through free play. As you progress through the game you will discover characters with certain abilities that you can buy and that allow you to go back into free play and unlock collectibles that you wouldn’t have been able to on story mode, something that adds a sense of value to the game. In this particular game there are 200 characters that you will discover that you can purchase ranging from Dudley Dursley to Lord Voldemort and pretty much every character in between.
In order to teach Harry the spells he needs to crack on with his destined showdown with Lord Voldemort, inbetween some of the chapters in the first two movies, you visit the classrooms in Hogwarts and carry out certain tasks to learn the required skills. These as you would expect are simple enough, however, using some of these spells, especially Aguamenti, can prove tricky and irritating after a while as you seem to spend more time spraying the surrounding area with water than what you do the object you’re meant too.
There is also a new duelling system in place for this game and whilst it works really well, it feels heavily overused by the time you get to the third or fourth films and certainly made me think about chucking the Xbox through the window when yet another bloody one appeared.
These issues aside, there is plenty to keep you interested in this game. We’ve covered the story mode and free play but there are many other things to keep you digging around the world if thats what you want. There’s the 200 characters to collect, hidden away in the levels and in Hogwarts. Students in peril, one of these in each chapter and many hidden away within Hogwarts. You also have 200 gold bricks to scavenge, these are collected various ways, by getting the student in peril, by getting a certain amount of coins per level, by buying them and by completing certain tasks. It might seem like a lot of collectibles but we haven’t finished there.
The final set of collectibles are probably the most useful, especially as some of them will help you locate the other collectibles, these are the red bricks. These are found throughout the “hub world” areas like Hogwarts, London and The Leaky cauldron. There are 20 of these and you have to buy them to unlock their powers. Some of them will give you a permanent stud multiplier bonus of up to 10x, another will give you a useful arrow on the screen when a gold brick is near, same for characters and same for other red bricks. They are well worth having and definitely worth purchasing as soon as you can. There wasn’t one for the student in peril, but hey, that’s where the internet and google comes in if you can’t find them.
The sounds and visuals have been really well thought out and respect the books and films heritage whilst still creating that uniqueness that the LEGO games bring. Little things like the way the character reacts when he’s become idle for a moment or is made to walk slowly or run. The personality of the characters really comes through in these moments and will bring a knowing smile to your face.
The way the game splits the screen when playing with a second person is both a joy and frustrating in equal measures. It reacts well and logically but there are some areas where it deems it unnecessary to split the screen at all, leading to an argument between the two players if you’re trying to head in different directions.
It’s a LEGO game. If you’ve played one before then you know exactly what you’re getting. There’s nothing revolutionary about this game when compared to its predecessors but then what you’re buying here is a fun, simple to play game that is also great for introducing either your other half or kids to gaming.
It’s a shame that they don’t have a few chapters where you can play as the bad guys in the story mode, similar to the way that you can in the LEGO Batman game. It’s a small criticism though and you can play through with them if you choose to on the free play modes.
If you really enjoy the Harry Potter world then add 1 to the score below.