LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Review

I was fully expecting to be unimpressed with LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. As a Harry Potter fan, I’ve been let down by a vast majority of The Boy Who Lived’s videogame adaptations. I’ve also grown jaded and bored with the LEGO series of games. There’s only so much you can do with that formula of "blast everything, collect studs" gameplay before you get tired of it and beg for something different and fresh. And while LEGO Harry Potter features the same core gameplay as the others, Travellers’ Tales has changed and added enough details to create a game that utilizes the Harry Potter license well and is much more fun than their past few LEGO games.

LEGO Harry Potter retells the stories of the first four Harry Potter movies through the LEGO series’ usual pantomime-heavy and humorous cutscenes. If you aren’t familiar with the stories, these versions won’t help your understanding much as no one speaks, and who a character is or what they are conveying will be lost on those not up to speed. It doesn’t mean you won’t have fun, you just won’t know who is who or what the events unfolding in front of you mean.

Baby Potter 

The core gameplay is largely the same as previous entries. You’ll run and jump through stages from the movies, collecting studs as you blast environmental objects and build new structures out of LEGO blocks to move forward. The levels also feature numerous collectibles for you to find, ramping up the replay value for multiple run-throughs with different characters that each have different abilities.

Now this sounds like the exact same game as say, LEGO Star Wars, but what I wasn’t expecting was what Travellers’ Tales did when you’re not in a level. Instead of a drab hub world where you just run to whatever story or level you want, they recreated Hogwarts and its surrounding areas, allowing you to explore and discover all of the secrets and mysteries of the famed magical castle, turning the game into a sort of "Metroid lite" experience. Certain areas of The Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts are closed off unless you have a certain ability or spell that will allow you to progress. How do you get these new spells so you can progress deeper in Hogwarts? By going to classes where you meet the professors and learn the abilities. I just nerded out typing that line.

This lone addition to the formula makes your progression through the game feel more organic and freeform. Instead of progressing to the next level in a linear fashion, linked by a bland hub world, LEGO Harry Potter has you go to class, explore Hogwarts however you like, and and head to the next part of the story whenever you’re ready. Nearly Headless Nick will always lead you to your next area with a trail of ghost studs if you get lost or if you choose to continue, but the game never pushes you in any one direction forcibly.

The game has also been improved technically in a few areas. Spells automatically track to your targets and attacks will fly towards your nearest enemy without the need to lock on. NPCs don’t get in your way anymore, and your companions keep their distance and don’t clog your platforming or spellcasting. The platforming itself is still a little loose and you’ll make a few jumps without knowing your landing spot or the distance of the jump, making plummeting down pits a common occurrence. The game also falls back on a few of the same puzzles repeatedly throughout the game. A cauldron puzzle where you have to combine items to make potions is used a few too many times, to the point that I groaned every time I saw it.

The trio

When you think you’re done exploring the game, though, LEGO Harry Potter proceeds to dump more and more content on you. You can search for Gold Bricks, which unlock bonus levels and story-specific items to build out of LEGOs. There are also tons of characters to buy and play as, build your own custom character, or unlock cheats, which change up the game with humorous results. Walking around with carrot-stick wands wearing silly disguises tickled my funny bone a few times.

You can also build your own levels with the returning Level Builder and play them with your friends. Unfortunately you can only do this locally and there is no online sharing. I was hoping Travellers’ Tales would include the feature in this game, but they still haven’t implemented it. It would be nice to play other players’ custom levels, like a sort of LEGO LittleBigPlanet, but you can only romp around in your own creations.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 takes the famed magical license and uses it to its fullest; the game is much deeper than it seems and presents a universe that feels tailored for the LEGO treatment. A few technical issues aside, LEGO Harry Potter is a game that is truly fun for all ages and above all, a game first and a license second.

4 out of 5


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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