Monday, November 28, 2011

Review - LEGO Harry Potter:Years 5-7

Before you even put the disc in the tray, anyone who has ever played one of the many LEGO games of recent years will know exactly what to expect. With LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7, TT Games and Warner Bros have sprinkled a little Hogwarts magic and once again replicated the winning formula that has seen those little yellow block-headed characters slip seamlessly into the recognizable environments of our most-loved movie moments.

As the title suggests, Harry and his pals return in the follow-up to LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, replacing the likes of Jack Sparrow, Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker from all those other LEGO movie tie-ins. On this occasion the bespectacled one must negotiate many of the scenes and settings from the last four Harry Potter films and the three final books of the series, with loads of exploration, puzzles and the usual comedic cut scenes these titles are so good at.

From Privet Drive and Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and new locales such as the Ministry of Magic and Godric’s Hollow, it’s up to you to rid the world of Harry’s old foe Lord Voldemort.

Numbers-wise, it’s all fairly impressive: 24 story events, 16 lessons to attend and 200 characters including Fenrir Greyback, Bellatrix Lestrange and Professor Slughorn await the eager gamer. Suffice to say, you’ll need perseverance to discover everything as there’s so much to see.

Solo player is fun enough but it’s the co-operative mode that really shines. The drop in/out mechanic once again works perfectly, the screen splitting when players stray too far from one another. Some puzzles or paths can only be accessed with certain characters and teamwork so it really is enjoyable with a partner.

This game is all about the puzzles, the building of LEGO contraptions and collecting those multi-coloured studs. Of course, you’ll also have to get to grips with your wand and become the ultimate wizard, flinging magic about like there’s no tomorrow and manipulating objects to continue along your path. Spells, potions, charms and wand waving become second nature in no time as you explore the vast gaming world and unlock loads of characters from the films. Attaining that 100% completion status remains an achievement for the committed. Although some accolades are a fair old slog, others are suitably silly (“Stand still with no controller input for 5 minutes” is an easy 20G, for example).

With each and every LEGO movie rendition, the graphics and effects seem to get better and better. Some of the locations are absolutely lovely to look at – crisp and colourful and crammed full of detail, while retaining the cartoony charm of the franchise. The camera also works really well, shifting about the play area so your view is never really obscured whether you’re playing the side scrolling sections or running towards the screen.

The sound effects and background music are also great, subtly matching the situation without being distracting – it’s really cinematic, with the tunes either calming when your characters are safe or increasing in tempo and urgency as the drama unfolds.

Although this game is almost identical to what we’ve seen before, there are some new additions, notably the changes to the combat with the new dueling skills that sees you draw your trusty wand and have a spell-casting fight with your opponent. Each showdown sees you face off against a baddie surrounded by a coloured ring. It’s up to you to cast the appropriately coloured spell and emerge victorious.

Of course, the simple gameplay is clearly aimed at a younger audience, but it still proves fun no matter what your age. There is absolutely loads to explore and interact with, and therefore plenty of reasons to replay even when the main game is completed and all those characters are unlocked. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 is a worthy conclusion to the Potter phenomenon and worth buying if you enjoyed the others.

It looks and plays well, and is a great opportunity to share some time with family members or friends. The only real downside is that it really plays just the same as all the other LEGO games out there. There aren’t many surprises or innovations, it’s by no means taxing and even verges on being slightly repetitive. Still, the kids will love it – and they’re the prime audience afterall. Despite this slight criticism, we’d suggest you go ahead and pick up a copy as a rental would be pointless given the sheer size of the game and all the things to unlock. It's a magical game and great entertainment.

*Reviewed on Xbox 360