Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Review
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a game that captured me immediately after it was initially announced. The franchise, while not always friendly, did seem to be the perfect target for Lego treatment. It turns out that was the case. This game, without a doubt, is the best game in the Lego franchise so far.
It all begins with the hub which, more or less, is non-existent in this game. Sure there are two places that could be considered the hub of the game, Diagon Alley and Hogwarts itself, but you’re no longer going there in between levels to advance to the next point. Instead, Hogwarts continually expands and new areas of the grounds open up to continue the story. You’re free to do whatever you want in the castle, and that’s part of the brilliance of this game. Traveller’s Tales have hidden things all over this huge castle for you to find. Puzzles will, no pun intended, magically appear with the proper spell pointed at the proper place. A torch on the wall will suddenly reveal that there are more torches to do the same thing to. If you do so, something, usually a hidden character or a gold brick, will appear. You’ll find yourself constantly doing this to everything in the environment. If one spell doesn’t work, maybe another one will.
You begin the game, as Harry did, with no knowledge of magic. You’ll head to Diagon Alley and Gringott’s Bank to begin your adventure. From there you’ll travel to Hogwarts. Attending classes at the appropriate time will teach you a new spell that unlocks another area where you can continue the story. If you just want to explore, feel free; Nearly Headless Nick is always around to point you to the next level. I’ve racked up about 20 hours in the game, but only about 12 of that was dedicated to the actual story of the game. The rest is just finding everything that can be found. I completed the game with only 43% completion. There are around 160 different characters to unlock, with at least three hidden in every story level, and 200 gold bricks to find. Don’t expect things to be as they seem. You have to really think outside the box to find some of the puzzles that will net you these unlockables.
Like the previous games in the series you can bring a friend along. This time it’s less bothersome to do so. In the past the camera was always tied both players and you couldn’t go off to explore different parts of the environment. That’s no longer the case. Now, the screen will split, much like with games like Bionic command Rearmed and will follow both players. So each person is free to go off and do what they want. This makes finding some hidden things easier and less arguments will break out because one person is slowing everything down.
It could have been very easy to make this game silly and utterly fail at telling the story of Harry Potter effectively. One shouldn’t worry, though. The developers have done an excellent job at telling the story of the first four movies. They, of course, throw in the classic Lego humor, but the feeling and emotion of the story is still brought to life. Silly things like Hagrid using a Lego Harry Potter keychain to open the Gringott’s vault, or Fang having a button that will let him play dead are just some of the few things that will have you laughing. Serious moments like Cedric’s death at the end of the Goblet of Fire are still there, but the mood is lightened a little by Dumbledore. It doesn’t diminish from the scene at all, but it makes it feel like a fresh telling of the story. Many of the movies’ most important scenes are here and they’re told in completely new ways while still remaining faithful for die hard fans of the series.
For fans of the recent Lego games there’s a lot here to be reminded of. You’re still going to be solving all kinds of puzzles, and using multiple characters to do so. Most of the time you’re running around with 3 or even four characters. It would have been nice to see co-op that included three or four people so more people could get in on the fun, but it’s a small gripe.
For all the fun to be had, the game isn’t perfect. There are issues with the game recognizing where you’re trying to cast a spell. There were numerous times that I would try to cast Wingardium Leviosa on something only to have a nearby student lifted high in the air. It’s not a huge deal, but can be frustrating when you’re really getting into things. Accidentally shooting a teacher with spells, or targeting the wrong enemy could be devastating early on when you’re trying to collect studs to achieve True Wizard status. The bugs happened often enough that they’re noticeable, but they usually only amounted to a slight annoyance.
There’s nothing more frustrating than rolling through a level and getting pretty far only to be stuck because the answer to a puzzle isn’t easily recognizable. That doesn’t mean it should be a breeze to finish the levels, but there’s no reason that realizing that casting a spell on a toilet will mean that it opens up a new area to get a spell component that will let you pull a chain to open the door to the next room. Too many times it comes down to randomly lobbing spells throughout a room before finally stumbling on the solution. It’s always been a problem in the Lego games and sometimes it seems a bit forced in order to allow gameplay in a section of the movie that might not have needed it.
There are very few things to find wrong with Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4. It brings to life a movie that will certainly define a generation of fans; much like Star Wars did in the 70’s and 80’s. It builds upon established franchises in ways that bring new life to both series’. Whether you’re a fan of Lego, Harry Potter or fun, there’s not much reason to pass this game up. There’s surely something for everyone in a game like this. The only thing that would have made it better? Playable Quidditch.
Final Score: 5/5 Excellent
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 was purchased at Gamestop
Total Play time: 17 hours, completed story mode, found 61 characters, 77 gold bricks.
Review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.