Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 [Review]
Fans of the magical Harry Potter series don’t need a game to tell them what happens to “The Boy Who Lived” at the end of the seven book, 8 movie, and now two video game series (counting Lego games only, of course). Players were first introduced to a Lego version of the Harry Potter series in 2001 with the actual Lego sets being released at that time. A decade later, we received our first video game based on that toy set, Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4.
The first game in the series was fantastic. I personally put an obscene amount of hours into it, getting my completion rate up to 100%. There are a number of things to do in Lego games, with things to collect being the highlight of the games. The second game in the series is just as addicting as the first one was, but there are a few changes to note.
Graphics have vastly improved from the first game, with regular gameplay being akin to a cut scene. Lighting effects are clearly what was focused on, though, because everything hit by the light of magic or fire has a realistic glow to it. Reflective surfaces (such as a shiny floor or the glass of some of the paintings at Hogwarts) look really great.
Characters in the game all look appropriately older than in the last game, well, as much older as a Lego game will allow a person to look. Main characters, such as Harry, Hermoine, Ron, and some of the teachers look different with regards to hair and dress (some teachers now have more wrinkles). Other, less important characters like Crabb and Goyle (Malfoy’s grunts) look exactly the same as they did in the previous game.
All of these visual “oohs and ahhs” do not to come without a price, though. Some of the performed spells are glitchy, requiring a couple tries before actually getting them right. Wingardium Leviosa, the main spell (purple), is particularly guilty of this as sometimes going through the whole spell will simply not work. Casting spells seems to take longer than it did before; in the case of the main spell you have to wait until a red ring centered on the object gets smaller until it disappears in order for the spell to be complete. In the first game, there was a red brick that you could collect that would speed up the spell process. Hopefully this is an attainable skill in this game, as spell casting simply takes way too long.
The other reason why casting spells takes so long now is that they have improved animations for moving in the game along with the actual graphics. Harry (and other wizards) actually flicks his wand in dramatic fashion to cast a spell. It looks great, but Voldemort is going to kick your ass if you take that long to cast a spell in real life.
As with any Lego game, adult situations in the story (which are frequent in the last few Harry Potter movies) are cartooned up to not offend younger audiences. Adults will enjoy the break from the normally dramatic story with a comic relief style, and of course kids will love it. Besides filtering the last few Harry Potter movies through rose-colored glasses, the story is completely accurate.
Collecting in this game is as fun as it was in the last game. Red bricks can be collected throughout the game in order to enhance game play through multipliers, or brick detectors that help you find collectibles in the game. Gold bricks are also found around the levels, but they don’t actually do anything. The last thing that can be collected are character disks which give players move characters to play as in the free play versions of all the levels, and are necessary to complete the game to 100%. Also available for purchase are dark magic spells that ruin the NPC’s world by giving them silly hair, making their heads smaller than their bodies, or just turning them into an animal. They don’t do anything useful for the story, and they actually make casting regular spells more difficult if they are accidentally selected on the spell menu.
Selecting spells and characters is pretty easy, and is done with the bumper and trigger buttons. Unfortunately, for a good part of the game you will not have access to most of the spells that protect against dark magic as the story requires. Any other spells learned in the first game are available, which is good because from a story point of view it wouldn’t make sense to make players re-learn them. Throughout the course of the game, other required spells are reacquired. There are some new spells though, so portions of the game where players focus in the same area as the last game (like at Hogwarts) don’t feel stale.
Overall, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a great sequel to an already fantastic game. Although the graphical improvements slow down game play a little bit, fans of the first game will find that this title is simply a must play.
[Images via Telltale Games]