In this new series, I will gush about my love for the licensed LEGO games. I will cover all of the games that I have played, ranging from really good to not as good.
I don’t need to go on about how much I love the Harry Potter series and LEGO games, as both topics I have talked about extensively. I grew up with both of them and they have all played a big role into making me who I am today, so when LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 was released, I went bananas. I begged for my parents to get it on day 1, and I played the living daylights out of the Wii version. I tried to 100% the game and unlock every character by sniffing out every corner of Hogwarts. I later got the 5-7 game and I was doing the same thing. Hogwarts was crawling with secrets and I wanted all of them, but in both games I eventually got relatively bored with them and forgot that I owned them. When I got my own PS3 I picked up the games again and still enjoyed them, but those games are definitely not without issues.
Before I dive into the negatives, there are an abundance of positives that must be discussed. Aside from the characters (which is obvious), every level is identical to the movie counterparts. Diagon Alley looks and feels like Diagon Alley. Hogwarts has every detail that the movies had. However, places might look like their counterparts but not feel like an immersive experience. What sets LEGO Harry Potter apart from every other game is the placement of the music. Diagon Alley feels like Diagon Alley because the developers knew that the light-hearted Diagon Alley music from the movies goes with the easy going level. Harry fighting the dementors in the Prisoner of Azkaban has the same music that happens in the movie. It would be very easy for the main theme to be playing throughout the whole game, but that would be grating to listen to for the player and very forgettable. The fact that the developers paid attention to creating a movie-like experience is very admirable.
The amount of characters in both games is ridiculous, but in the best way. Some characters have more abilities than others, and trying to get them all might seem redundant considering Christmas Harry is no different than Triwizard Tournament Harry, but the fact that players can make Voldemort fight Voldemort is a childhood dream come true. The most popular characters that aren’t already playable are under a high price, but saving up for that super awesome character is worth it. Buying minor characters is also a blast, as it adds to your arsenal and diversifies the squad the player can take into a free play level. You can go into a level consisting of Dudley Dursley, Dumbledore, Luna Lovegood and a Death Eater if you so desire and use those characters to find every collectible you can.
Speaking of collectibles, they are different from previous entries but nonetheless satisfying. Instead of normal mini-kits, players collect the four pieces of the Hogwarts crest, making things a lot easier to get through. The downside to this is that there is no reward to getting the four pieces. In the LEGO Star Wars games, the ten mini-kits in each level build a starship that was featured in that level. The Hogwarts crest gets the Hogwarts crest, nothing more nothing less. The rest is standard affair: studs act like currency and can buy characters in Diagon Alley.
Something that LEGO games sometimes fail to do is make a fun overworld hub. Thankfully, Diagon Alley might be the best overworld from any of the games. It is big and has all sorts of cool features that make the player want to go all over the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley. Many of the stores in Diagon Alley have a feature that can enhance the game, and they also have plenty of charm. Gringotts does have a build your own level feature, but it is incredibly difficult to make things you want to do, and the things you can do are very limited.
All of that is great, but that really doesn’t get into the core game play. Well, the game does follow every movie and splits each movie into six levels, although some movies are more well suited to have six levels than others. For example, the Deathly Hallows Part 2 levels are all good and are engaging with a lot to come back to and contains a lot of action and adventuring. On the other hand, the Order of the Phoenix levels take many liberties as to what really constitutes a level, with many talking based scenes from the movie be drawn out into boring and monotonous levels. Each level has all of the collectibles, but some levels are so short that the collectibles are very easy to find and are not hidden all that well. Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite set of levels in the game, but the developers did their best to make it as interesting as possible.
The biggest flaw in the games have is the game play itself. The levels follow normal LEGO Game format, but the gimmick thrown into this game is the ability to cast spells. The way that the game teaches and implements the spells is great, as you learn the spells as if you were a student at Hogwarts, but once all of the spells are unlocked, they feel way more like a hassle than an actual benefit. Doing some of the things that you already did in your first play through is way more of a hassle the second time around, especially since the spells are slow acting. On the Wii, players have to hold the C button and cycle through the spells to get something you want. This disrupts game play and makes it feel as if the flow of the game is coming to a screeching halt, all so the player can do the things they were supposed to do. On the PS3, spells can be toggled with through L2 and R2, allowing the player to walk to the next area without worrying about all these things. The spells are mostly useless in 1-4, save for Wingardium Leviosa and the pixie freezing spell. The rest are really unnecessary and only come up in very specific situations. 5-7 has a better spell lineup, but not by much. The more and more someone plays, the less and less they like the spells, which are essential to getting through certain obstacles and tasks.
LEGO Harry Potter has a near perfect presentation, but the game itself has a lot more to be desired. Though a player will be surrounded by the sights and wonders of the Wizarding World, getting around it and doing objectives feels more like a chore than pure fun.