LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4
|a game by||Travellers Tales (UK) Ltd|
|Platforms:||PC, Playstation 3|
|User Rating:||6.3/10 - 6 votes|
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|See also:||Lego Games, Magic Games|
Let's Get This out of the way, again, LEGO Harry Potter doesn't support mouse and keyboard. Unless you've got a gamepad, you'll have your fingers scrunched together on the keyboard, and you'll feel like a fussy insect grooming itself. It does makes sense, in a way, but it's also a deeply unfriendly decision.
And that's about it, as far as my criticisms go. Stunningly, Travellers Tales' adventures in Hogwarts are the fullest, most charming, and deepest LEGO experience yet.
Hogwarts' rooms are so dense with destructible objects, secret bonuses, interactive moments, and concealed comedy that you can spent a happy few minutes simply casting Hagrid's levitate spell at everything in the opening room. The results will be a rewarding animation, LEGO studs, or one of the often ultra-hidden collectibles. It's the first LEGO games where the madness of what's going on around you makes sense. In Rowling's world, this stuff is normal.
Harry, Ron and Hermione (and the host of other characters you'll control) attend lessons to learn new skills and, apart from eight spells, you're constantly unlocking a huge number of other abilities. Lumens scares off plant life, hopping into a cupboard will give you a set of earmuffs allowing you to pick up the screaming Mandragora plants. These not only smash glass doors, but those stud jars you've been seeing around.
The self-contained nature of each room lets the developers get away with some obscure, initially irrational stuff, to the point where even LEGO the game broke its own, unspoken "self-contained" rule. I was looking for a spider, and the garishly-coloured spider's web in the next room was an obvious clue, in retrospect, but the dodgy collision detection led me to waste 20 minutes in that hospital room. To the game's credit, I kept finding new things to interact with in the room, even if it wasn't the damned spider.
As you progress through the first four of Rowling's books, you'd worry that the school might get repetitive. But it doesn't, the place gets re-decorated, new things pop up in response to your new spells, and students react to the calendar and events of the book in charming ways. Some of the boss battles are annoying, the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets is a poorly-flagged fight, but still satisfying to complete.
When you enter Gringott's bonus vault, you begin to realise the scope of the game. All the sandbox stuff that's completely unnecessary, but possibly part of LEGO'S contract to remind kids that they can still build real stuff with bricks. Travellers Tales understand how much kids love games, and why they love them, because there's so much fantastic and varied stuff to do.
Young At Heart
I feel like I shouldn't enjoy this game. I'm three times the age of its target market. I feel like I'm expected to have a cynical take on the LEGO formula, and "people who read Harry Potter on the Tube". But screw that, I'm a defiant reader of the kid's cover versions, and I'll enjoy this game in the same way I enjoyed the books, as an imperfect romp that manages to covers its flaws with charm and relentless action.
Dealing with a subject matter that's not revered by adults has really let Travellers Tales make a kid's game that' nothing short of excellent.