Deep inside each and every one of us there is an inclination, for some just a mere wish and for others a stronger desire, for the power of magic; the ability would be just too gratifying and oh so much fun! And think of the possibilities! Silly, juvenile magic has one of the greatest attractions, and Lego Harry Potter years 1-4 has plenty of this; one of my favourite spells is ‘engorgio skullus’ - the ability to enlarge your victim’s head to such a degree that it falls to the floor, leaving your quarry temporarily fixed in a near yogic bend from which they cannot release themselves.
In Lego Harry Potter you take the joy of magical abilities and fit it snugly into a school environment where you can cast spells on your worst enemies, and even your teachers! If only I’d attended Hogwarts. Of course, being professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, your teachers have the ability to reciprocate. Although it can be frustrating to accidentally hit your teacher with a misfired spell half way through a task and be frozen to the spot with the ‘glacius’ spell as your punishment, AND have to start that task again. But hey! Being able to cast the spell in the first place certainly makes up for it!
I guess that’s a large part of the appeal in Harry Potter generally. Can you imagine how much enjoyment you’d have had if, as a teenager, you had the ability to turn your school mate’s new hair cut into a flower arrangement with the ‘herbifors’ spell? Or bind them instantly to the spot they stand in with the ‘incarcerous’ spell? The fun seems endless. Unfortunately, for many people, Harry Potter also comes attached to teenage angst and emotional turmoil; Lego Harry Potter drops this aspect and leaves the brick smashing and mindless, somewhat childish, fun.
Traveller’s Tales do a great job transferring the atmosphere of Harry Potter to the typical Lego format; the scenery is lovely and the game is full of added extras and nice touches to make the hardcore Harry Potter fan smile with satisfaction. Each area you visit looks and feels as you’d expect: the immaculately trimmed lawns of Privet Drive, the vast and exciting Castle and grounds, and the ‘I wish it were my house’ feeling you get from visiting the Weasley family home.
There are no surprises with Lego Harry Potter; the game is very much the same as previous Lego games; it’s a straight forward sideways scrolling puzzler. Additionally, the control system mirrors each previous Lego game allowing gamers to step into the new addition to the series with ease. Predictably, you complete each level with a combination of characters depending on the specific story that it follows, unlocking additional characters as you work through the game.
There are some changes between Lego Harry Potter and previous Lego games though. The ‘build’ button has been replaced with casting ‘Wingardium Leviosa’, the first and most important spell you learn. The spell is used throughout the game and completes all the typical Lego style smashing and rebuilding on your behalf. Joyfully, there is also considerably less fighting than other games in the series which is a relief to those less tolerant of clunky battles.
Lego Harry Potter gets the personalities right – Harry is, as in the books, always keen to be the hero, taking on evil trolls, giant spiders and even the dreaded He Who Must Not be Named, without hesitation. Traveller’s Tales build on this trait by including simple ‘student in peril’ tasks in each of the levels.
Lego Harry Potter sticks closely to the stories with each level’s characters fulfilling the key points in each of the books or film. There is of course some deviation to make the game work, but anyone who has read the books or watched the films will know who each character is and what they are up to, regardless of the fact that none of the in-game characters are named. Unfortunately, for gamers who have enjoyed the previous Lego games, if you aren’t familiar with the tale of Harry Potter and his friends’ adventures you may find a few tasks and in-game movies a tad confusing.
The objectives for each level are simple and predictable; to explore the castle and grounds, casting spells to smash objects and build others, collecting the seemingly inexhaustible studs that fall from each object you tamper with. As with previous Lego games this does become tedious, and if you intend to achieve 100% completion it will be necessary to play each level through with different characters, so that all collectables can be reached (some spells can only be used by certain characters). Again, this can be a grind, but it does mean that the game provides many hours of play time and excellent value for money.
Overall Lego Harry Potter is great fun; it lets the imagination run wild and rekindles the child in each and every one of us. For children this game is perfect – a child’s imagination sees everything around them as magical and this game emphasises the sensation. For adults this game takes you back to a simple time and improves it greatly by the gift of magical abilities.