Last Friday, Chris and I rented the recent title to hit the LEGO video game franchise, LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4. I guess you could say I’m a fan of the LEGO game series. I played through LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for regular Xbox, and then we got LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the 360. Months ago we rented LEGO Batman, but weren’t impressed.
Prior to renting the game, I downloaded the 360 demo and was blown away. Many of the complaints I had about the LEGO series were taken care of, and when we played split-screen, it was perfect. Knowing that, renting the game was a no-brainer. Chris and I played through a bit of the first year together, but the rest of the time I played through by myself, since almost all of the achievements can only be received in single player.
Like the rest of the LEGO games, they throw in the humor, and there were times where I couldn’t help but burst out laughing because some of the stuff was so funny. I will say that there were a rather large amount of semi-naked wizards in this game, so what’s up with that? In the dorm at Hogwarts, you blast the pants off of one, in a shop off of Diagon Alley you open a dressing room to see another pantsless wizard, and I believe I saw a couple more instances. Also, when you get to year 4, and it’s the part where Harry has to swim and save his friends, the way they did the bathing suits was rather odd. Due to the LEGO shape, the bathing suit bottoms look like a cross between a thong and a mawashi, the undergarment sumo wrestlers wear. Awkward nudity, and creepy wizards aside, everything else was great.
In terms of gameplay, LEGO Harry Potter is significantly better than any other game in the series. This time around I was able to aim with my wand, select multiple targets to hit, and there was even an RPG feel with how you obtain new spells. One problem I ran into was this: in LEGO Star Wars, the other characters in your party would still attack. In Harry Potter, you could be in a boss battle, and Hermoine would be just standing there, being completely useless. It was rather frustrating because having some form of assistance would’ve been nice, and could’ve created a much needed diversion.
Content wise, this game is so much longer than any other LEGO game I’ve played. I was surprised with how long each year was, with the exception of year four, and in between the actual ‘levels’ there was a lot to do. Sure sometimes it felt like you were running back and forth a lot, but you have to keep in mind that almost everything occurs in Hogwarts, or around it. There are over 160 unlockable characters, and 250 gold bricks to obtain. By completing each level, and by getting True Wizard in a level, you get a gold brick for each. In addition to the numerous red bricks you have to track down, a new feature is saving students who are in perilous situations, earning gold bricks by doing so, and finding all the pieces to create 24 crests. When I completed the game, I think I had over 80 gold bricks, 5 red bricks in addition to what I started with, a good chunk of the students saved, and over 60 characters unlocked. I was never able to assemble one crest, and that’s because you have to go back once you’ve completed the entire game and replay the levels. Even though I had found all of those items, and performed all of those tasks, I don’t believe I passed 50% completion of the entire game. It’s seriously that long, and contains that much content.
On top of everything you can do at Hogwarts, there are also bonus levels to complete. The few that I played were really fun, and ways to earn a large amount of sprockets (my name for those coins you collect), and gold bricks. You can even go into this game mode known as LEGO Builder and create levels you can later on destroy. It’s seriously a lot of fun, and if you have children, it’s a great way to prolong their interest in the game. Instead of having a ‘Cantina’ or small space to purchase extras, your base is now the Leaky Cauldron. On the main floor you can select which level you want to replay, and upstairs you can watch cinematics again. Out the back you are on Diagon Alley, and have access to the different shops where you purchase your add-ons. By continuing down the road, that’s where you can play the bonus levels and do the LEGO Builder content.
Graphically it’s just about the same as the other LEGO games, but they seemed a little better. I suppose you could say it looked more polished. The controls were simple, although there was a problem I kept having. With your multiple spells, you can either cycle through them using the left/right bumper buttons, or you can use the Y button. Problem with that is that when you press Y, you switch playable characters, so there were times where I meant to switch a spell, but I accidentally tapped the Y button instead of holding it to bring up the radial menu. In terms of audio, the game is practically flawless. The sound effects are great, and the tracks themselves are brilliantly done. It’s the traditional Harry Potter soundtrack, so what more could you ask for?
All in all, LEGO Harry Potter was an incredibly delightful experience. It was a game I didn’t want to put down, a game where I can’t wait for the final years, and a game that I have to own because obtaining that 100% is a must!
It’s easily a 9 out of 10.