Review: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7

LegoHarryPotter5to7.jpg

Last June, Traveller’s Tales and Warner Bros. Interactive released a magical LEGO interpretation of one of the world’s best selling book and movie series, Harry Potter.  That release only included the first four years of Harry Potter’s exploits learning how to become a wizard and his battle against He Who Must Not Be Named. In the time between June of last year and November of this year, Traveller’s Tales was busy with two additional LEGO titles, Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. Can Traveller’s Tales keep the magical flame alive with their third title this year in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7?

At first glance, Years 5-7 simply picks up from a narrative perspective where the first game ends. Hogwarts is the main location for telling the final three years of the lightning scarred boy, however Traveller’s Tales has taken an already great game and added subtle changes to enhance a winning formula.  A formula that is made up of pantomime recreations from some of the most important and poignant scenes from the books and movies, all the while allowing players to destroy various set pieces into showers of LEGO stud coins.  With the Harry Potter titles, magic adds a level of credibility to some of the crazy objects that can be built or moved around in the game to solve puzzles.  It just makes sense that objects such as puppet show theater boxes or cars could be made out of random LEGO pieces that were laying about in a level after being broken apart from statues or tables or other normal looking set pieces.

At the end of HP Years 1-4, all of the magic spells were unlocked and available to use in Free Play runs on all of the levels.  Years 5-7 sort of cripples players initially by slowly re-introducing all of the spells previously learned over a span of several mini class room levels between the full story missions. Initially I was a bit perturbed by the idea that all of the spells I had learned in Years 1-4 were gone, but it dawned on me that not everyone playing Years 5-7 has played Years 1-4.  Traveller’s Tales doles out the spells throughout years 5 and 6 so that players new to the game won’t feel completely overwhelmed.  In addition to the spells from the past game, Years 5-7 adds a few new options and spells that add a bit more diversity to gameplay.  A water spell shoots water directly out of Harry’s wand, allowing plants to grow or containers to be filled, which adds a simple physics-based puzzle element to the game.  Dueling is another addition that adds a bit of a different feel to the game.  Duels are handled by encircling Harry and his opponent with colored rings, or tells, which indicate the particular spell the opponent is going to attack Harry with.  By selecting the correct spell and casting it first, a simple button mash tug of war occurs, allowing Harry to duel and best his opponent.

Aside from the spells and dueling, what makes Years 5-7 different from the first game?  As I mentioned above, it is the subtle things.  First off, for any and all OCD players who “gotta catch ’em all,” one of the problems in pretty much every TT game is there is always a handful of characters or colored bricks that need to be found that are just pretty much impossible to do so without reading a guide or referring to a walkthrough of some sort.  With Years 5-7, after the story has been completed and Free Play has been applied to the Hogwarts hub world, any rooms that have something hidden can be identified as being found or still hidden via one of the numerous ghosts that inhabit the game world.  This is a nice touch.

Another subtle difference is the more liberal use of art styles that aren’t just CG animated LEGO characters acting out scenes.  Like Pirates of the Caribbean, Years 5-7 employs a storytelling method that blends the full 3D LEGO characters with a hand painted 2D flat but almost cardboard/theatrical art style that is gorgeous to watch. What impressed me the most was the use of this art style in a specific level late in the game, used to recount the story of the three brothers and how the Deathly Hallows were made famous.  A faint sepia tone overlays the level and the entire story is told as a side-scrolling platformer.  The three brothers are obviously 3D LEGO characters, but most of the world and enemies are displayed almost as 2D cut-out props like those seen in old theatrical productions (or what I’m reminded of specifically, moments from the Terry Gilliam film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen).  As each year progresses, a new animated loading screen in the art style is displayed as well.

Unfortunately the loading screen seems to show up more often during Years 5-7 than I remember seeing while playing through Years 1-4.  While that’s not completely a bad thing, I would have to say that load times felt longer than any of the previous LEGO titles.  That being said, once a level has loaded the missions can take a long time to play through as there are many rich plot points that are explored either through puzzles, actual gameplay, or CG cutscenes.

Returning to the game is the same humor found with all of the previous LEGO titles.  Even though the subject matter in the last three years of Harry Potter’s adventures are fairly grim and dark, Traveller’s Tales deftly treats scenes of death with a level of whimsy that kids and grown ups will likely find charming.  Also returning is local co-op and one of the greatest features of co-op, the tearing screen when two players move far enough apart that the game is no longer able to animate each player in the same section of the level.  Of course, no LEGO game would be complete without Red Bricks, Gold Bricks, millions of bouncing stud coins, and a slew of characters to find and unlock.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a fantastic family game that completes the story of the young man who defeats He Who Must Not Be Named with the help of friends and loved ones.  Action and humor are polished finely, making this a game that should be played by LEGO game and Harry Potter fans alike.  In a season of shooters, assassins, and dragons, LEGO Harry Potter is a light, refreshing change of pace that should not be overlooked.

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Fun family action
+ Lots of collectibles add to the replay value
+ Fantastic art style

Cons:
– Long load times
– Repetitive gameplay for collection minded perfectionists

Affiliate Links:
Buy from Amazon or eStarland

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3; also available for PC, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, DS and PSP
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Release Date: 11/11/2011
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2
Source: Game rented by reviewer

[nggallery id=2107]

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.