Reviews

LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: Traveller’s Tale
Publisher: Warner Bros
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: Yes
Multiplayer: No
PEGI: 7+

Having read the final book, watched the final film and shed your tears, you could be forgiven for believing that the Harry Potter story has finally reached its end, leaving only its rather vast legacy behind and countless heartbroken fans who don’t want to see it go. But the Potter saga isn’t quite done yet, as we still have one chapter left in the story; LEGO Harry Potter 2. Ok, so it isn’t quite a ‘new’ chapter as such, but damn is it funny.

There were always going to be doubts about how Traveller’s Tales, the creators of the various LEGO games, would handle the darker nature of the final few entries in Potter’s story. What with the doom, gloom, death and all, y’know. Instead of attempting to change the light-hearted nature of the LEGO games in an attempt to replicate the films, which this game is based on rather than the books, they’ve gone down the root of simply ignoring or altering certain events to keep the legendary LEGO humour intact. Of course, that’s for the best because mute plastic LEGO characters are hardly skilled at conveying deep emotions or complex plot points, but they are pretty good at getting hit in the face by random objects. . The game does a good job of replicating the films important scenes in LEGO form, but you won’t find Hedwig dying here, or Dumbledore’s agony when drinking the potion to retrieve the locket. No, Dumbledore’s pain is never shown, and even Snape’s rather horrendous demise has a rather unique LEGO twist. LEGO Ron will get smacked in the face by practically everything, Voldemort loves a good cup of tea and even characters deaths are handled with the usual LEGO charm. If you don’t crack a smile at least once during the course of the game, then, quite frankly, you have no sou. Of course, with no voices to use, meaning they rely on sound language, lots of pointing and a bit of grunting, it does mean that should you have failed to ever read the books or watch the films (shame on you) then you’re going to find yourself lost pretty quickly, especially when it reaches the climatic moments of the storyline. But then, practically everyone in the world seems to know the Potter story, so you’re probably safe. And if you don’t know the story, then just enjoy watching the wacky antics and Ron getting hit in the face. Sorry, LEGO Rupert Grint. 

Like the films, the LEGO Harry Potter games feel as though they have  been split into two parts; a fact emphasised by the gameplay which hasn’t really changed since the last time you visited Hogwarts school for mucking about with things best left alone. To progress through the levels you have to take control of a group of LEGO characters, usually Harry, Hermione and Ron, all of whom can be swapped between at will, and solve a series of puzzles to advance to the next area. As with all LEGO games before these puzzles aren’t so much about taxing your intellect or making you think in astonishing new ways, because it is a kids game after all, but rather about exploring the environment and manipulating it to your desires. Theres  a total of eight spells at your command, most of which were in the first game and that you’ll have to re-learn, with each of them having their own specific use within the world. You’ll have to open chests, memorize patterns, levitate objects, use pets to navigate tunnels and much more in a bid to pass through each level, collecting studs, which are the games currency, as you go. Generally speaking many of the games ‘puzzles’ can be solved by simply going ballistic with your magic and blowing everything up, then holding B to magically form the debris into some wacky contraption that unblocks/unlocks the exit. Compared to their paper and film counterparts, the LEGO crew’s solution to problems are far more ingenious, not to mention amusing. It’s hard not to feel that if original Harry and companions had been this capable the whole Voldemort problem would have been sorted out ages ago.

A few new spells and abilities have been thrown into the mix, such as Augmenti for filling things with water and the new Weasley boxes, which can only be opened by, you guessed it, a Weasley. Even Hermione’s endless bag gets turned into a gameplay mechanic, which suits the LEGO universe perfectly as she’s capable of hiding anything in that bloody bag – she even pulls an entire catapult out of it at one point. Ultimately, though, these small additions  don’t really add much new to the gameplay. However, the new wizard duels do, and are by far the most fun and interesting changes in the game, though they do get used a bit too often, especially toward the end of the game. Wizards duels are handled in rather polite fashion, with you and your hapless LEGO opponent squaring off within a circle comprising of two colors. You’ve got your entire arsenal of spells at your fingertips, but to successfully damage your enemy you need to match the color on their side of the ring with the correct spell. Do so and you’ll have to quickly mash a button to win the resulting power-struggle between characters. If you find yourself on the losing side of the battle, then you have a shield which can be activated to block attacks while you regroup, though dodging is also possible. They add some extra variety to the gameplay, are pretty good fun, and serve as great ways to deal with some of the battles Harry has to get through in the story.  Plus, seeing Molly and Bellatrix fighting it out using Augmenti, that’s water to you, muggle, is just plain badassery.

As you progress through the game and all-out wizarding war erupts around you, there are moments when you’ll have to battle death-eaters of other bosses in the game. While some of the boss battles are handled by duels, a considerable number of them are handled by simply catching objects in the air and tossing them at the enemy. It’s disappointing to find that Traveller’s Tales rely on this quite a bit during the game, and it can quickly become tiresome to defeat a boss by simply throwing things at their face. Still, there are some enjoyable fights in here.

Perhaps the biggest talent of Traveller’s Tales is their ability to derive levels from almost every event in the film. Even Harry’s retrieval of the Sword of Gryffindor is turned into a sprawling under-water level, where Harry is seemingly capable of holding his breath for an insane amount of time. Even collecting Snape’s tears is turned into a quest to find a container, which then results in a brilliant cutscene.

The levels themselves are as well designed and created as you would imagine. Some tweaks have been made to the engine powering all of this LEGO goodness and the result is the best looking LEGO game to date. Due to the source material much of your time is spent in Hogwarts, so naturally the amazement of having it so well recreated in the first game isn’t present here, but it’s still nice to see the iconic castle brought to life and packed with some many secrets to discover. It’s when you move away from Hogwarts that things get a little more interesting. Each location is beautifully created and detailed, mixing realistic looking environments with LEGO characters and magical hocus pocus to create a fantastic looking game. The most notable improvement is upgrade lighting effects which really help bring the levels to life, as does surprisingly informative facial animations. Seriously, how do they do that?

Backing up the recreation of Harry’s wizarding world is a soundtrack ripped straight from the films. The result is, predictably, stunning. The haunting, soaring and often exhilarating music of the films is hard to criticise in any real way, and as such the same applies to the game. The only real negative that could levelled at the games use of the music is the darker music score doesn’t always suit the more bonkers nature of the LEGO games, but it’s a small criticism in an otherwise superb soundtrack. Likewise the sound effects are hard to fault; they do their job and they do it well.

And then there’s plenty of reason to go back and fully explore each level to try to obtain that sweet ‘True Wizard’ rank. As you play through the game you’ll unlock various characters whose abilities can be used in previously played levels to unlock new areas, and thereby unlock even more Gold Bricks. There’s an absolute cart-load of collectibles to be found within the levels, each counting toward fully completing the game. While simply going through the main story missions will last you around eight to ten hours, trying to get that 100% completion will easily double, if not triple, that time, although the concept of replaying levels to pick up collectibles may not appeal to everyone.

As with every game in the LEGO series, co-op is an integral part of LEGO Harry Potter 2, but you might be a little disappointed to learn that traveller’s Tales are still determined to keep it local only, so you and a mate can’t join up online and get your magic on. And yes, I will argue that the lack of online co-op does hurt the game, because as much as old-school couch co-op gaming rocks, the option to go online as well would have easily increased the overall score of this game. But hey, the co-op that is here is damn good fun. Getting a friend round and exploring Hogwarts, randomly jinxing each other and giggling at LEGO Ron getting hit, again, is a great way to spend an evening or five. Having a real life person next to you is advisable anyway, because while you rarely require your AI partners to do much, they will fail you later in the game when the Death Eaters arrive by failing to actually attack the enemy at all, leaving you open to a pummeling as you try to levitate a piece of scenery. Seriously, Ron, Hermione, just wave your wands at those guys over there, just once.

LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 doesn’t reinvent the LEGO series, nor is particularly different from LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4. A sense familiarity is present throughout much of the game, yet the inherent charm of the LEGO games and the few new gameplay tweaks are enough to keep you smiling throughout this plastic recreation of Harry’s story.

The Good:
+ Ah Ron, you get so much punishment.
+ It’s incredibly charming!
+ Snape’s comic demise.

The Bad:
– The gameplay is very familiar.
– Too much chucking objects in boss fights.
–  Damn it AI, shoot the enemy.

The Score:

Graphics: 9
The various environments are beautifully crafted and full of detail, and the character animations, despite being plastic, are great.

Sound: 9
With music taken straight from the films this is one damn fine sounding game, and the sound effects are almost always spot-on.

Story: 5
If you’ve not read the books or watched the films then this is going to be a confusing mess, but a funny one.

Gameplay: 8.5
The classic LEGO formula hasn’t really changed much, but it’s charming, relaxing and fun.

Lifespan: 8.5
Around ten hours to see the story to the end, but you can almost triple that if you’re aiming for 100% game completion.

The Verdict: 8.5
Harry and his minions ( I mean friends) haven’t learned many new tricks since their last outing, but this is still a charming and relaxing adventure filled with humour.

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