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Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Review

5 years ago, Eidos Interactive and LucasArts joined forces with Lego to produce a video game of Star Wars Episodes I-III, released just before Episode III – Revenge of the Sith premiered at the cinema. Billed as a kids game, Lego Star Wars: The Video Game went on to top the charts and not only spawned two sequels, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, but also presented a unique way to revisit classic franchises with a fun, original and, most importantly, instantly accessible format.

After Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones were given the Lego treatment, and now we have Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Based on the films of the first four Harry Potter books – Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.), Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire – we see the teenage, thick-rimmed Wizard adventure his way through Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and other well-known locations in order to thwart Voldemort. Famous scenes from the films are lovingly recreated along the way.

As we’ve come to expect from Lego games, you can play as a number of characters – at the beginning you can only play as Harry or Hagrid as you explore the Leaky Cauldron and Gringotts, but as you make your way through the game more characters become available. Your main weapon throughout the game is your wand and the spells you learn from taking classes in Hogwarts – you start with Wingardium Leviosa, the levitation spell, which not only lets you move items in the game, it also lets you build items from Lego bricks – similar to the Force in Star Wars.

The graphics and sound are great – they really emulate the feel of the films, especially when the cinematic soundtrack kicks in. The level design is well-balanced and the difficulty of the gameplay is pitched just right, introducing elements as you play so the early stages don’t feel like a chore. The game is huge as you’d expect – covering four films is no mean feat, plus you have the replay factor of finding every collectable (there are 200 gold bricks to find as well as characters and other hidden gems). Most of the scenery is interactive, and different spells will do different things to different items. Hogwarts becomes and living, breathing place – students, teachers and ghosts react to the storyline which makes visiting even the most well-trodden paths interesting. Another thing that is worth mentioning is the persistance of the scenery – knock something in one level and there’s a good chance it will still be on the floor on subsequent visits, rather than fading and dissappearing as in previous Lego games.

Unfortunately, as good as the game is, the novelty of the Lego world is wearing off ever so slightly. If this is the first time you’ve played a Lego game, or you’re a big Lego or Harry Potter fan, then there’s a good chance that the game will blow you away. However, to seasoned gamers there are only a handful of mechanics to vary the gameplay from the previous Lego incarnations. The echoes of Star Wars can be felt throughout the game, but the underlying memes of Star Wars and Harry Potter are very similar too.

It is highly likely that there will be a sequel to Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 – the clue is in the title. Harry Potter will have his final outing on the big screen next summer, and the game will probably be released then too, or possibly in time for Christmas 2011. With current generation consoles getting long in the tooth they will have to pull something really special out of the bag to make Years 5-7 the better of the two games. They managed to improve Lego Indiana Jones between so it can be done.

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Reviewed by Andy on 01 July 2010

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