LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Review
If you’re looking for a family-friendly adventure that nets you plenty of bang for your buck, you can always turn to a LEGO title. Traveller’s Tales has delivered plenty of great adventures for all ages; the developer has tackled everything from “Star Wars” to “Indiana Jones” to “Batman,” and the latest is the immensely popular (and seemingly endless) “Harry Potter” series. And while Years 5-7 isn’t really anything new, it still provides exactly what it promises.
We still get those attractive pre-rendered backgrounds with tons of pretty color and impressive detail. The animations remain highly fluid, and the satisfying mini-explosion of LEGO pieces when you attack a destructible piece of the environment will still put a smile on your face. The set pieces offer fans fresh, imaginative looks at favorite locations, and the characters still have those comical facial expressions. Traveller’s has always paid faithful homage to the franchise in question.
The sound relies on a solid soundtrack and crisp effects, as voice acting has never been a factor in these cute productions. The music selections won’t come as any surprise to long-time fans of the boy wizard, and the tracks and effects often blend well together. I sometimes think more could be done with effects in regards to ambient audio, just for the sake of added immersion, but I’m not really complaining. That’s more of a suggestion. Overall, Years 5-7 is technically proficient without being progressive.
If you played Years 1-4, you probably think this latest entry is more of the same; i.e., more like a continuation and completion of the first iteration rather than a full-fledged sequel. And in a way, you’re right. But you had to expect some serious milking. We’re talking about “Harry Potter;” they split up the last two movies for a damn good reason, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with story and length requirements. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the new LEGO game feels a little like the same ol’, same ol’.
However, we have to give credit where credit’s due. There are new abilities and skills, the hub is bigger, there’s more to explore and find than ever before, and oh yes, there are over 200 characters to unlock and purchase. There are even new cheats that make the game even more humorous, and that co-op feature remains a definite bonus. There are six co-op stages that let fans sample the most memorable moments from the last four movies, and you can always wander around Hogwarts, too.
As before, the gameplay is a pleasant mix of combat, exploration, platforming, and minor puzzle solving. None of the puzzles will really tax you (remember the targeted demographic), and exploring will often get you more LEGO pieces (the game’s form of money). The control and camera are still potential issues, though, as basic control is too light and falls shy of being 100% precise. The camera can be a problem in tight areas but again, LEGO followers will be familiar with this drawback.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the LEGO Harry Potter titles and past LEGO entries is the use of the magic spell system. Rather than just relying on various weapons and items, you routinely have to learn new spells in order to advance in the story. You will cycle through your available arsenal when facing a particular obstacle, and this comprises the majority of the gameplay. It’s a nice twist on the standard LEGO formula and works very well. Potter fans should really enjoy it.
There’s always plenty to do. Unfortunately, you do spend a good deal of time relearning the spells you had in Years 1-4 but you know, it’s just as fun as it always was. The world is bigger, too, because now we can explore places like “muggle world,” and the entire experience seems that much more robust. Lastly, we shouldn’t forget the all-new dueling system: during scripted boss encounters, you will enter into one-on-one combat, and you must select the correct spell to override your foe’s attack. It’s easy to grasp and entertaining, even if we do it way too much.
And really, the amount of content these games have is really fantastic. You’ll find many parts of Hogwarts that are optional, for instance, and it’ll take a chunk of time to get 100% on some of the later levels. Revisiting levels has always been part of the LEGO adventuring experience, because you often open up new paths and stumble upon hidden secrets. This encourages vigilance on the part of the player, and I think that’s an important lesson for the younger crowd.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is yet another competent and fulfilling entry in the Telltale’s successful LEGO series. It feels a little too similar to Years 1-4 and the control and camera can still be problematic, but the rest will be quite appealing to fans of J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster franchise. There’s a ton of content, the focus on spells is cool, that patented LEGO charm and charisma is here in spades, and if you wish to do everything, you’ll be occupied for a great many hours.
If you’re looking for a Christmas present for a big Potter fan, especially one who has already played Years 1-4, this will do nicely.
The Good: Charming, attractive presentation. Great music. Bigger world crammed with a ton of content. Accessible, entertaining gameplay. New duel system is an appreciated addition. Co-op is silly fun.
The Bad: Control is still a little loose, and camera isn’t always reliable. Feels too much like the last title. Duels are overused.
The Ugly: “It’s LEGO. Nothing ugly ever entered such an innocent world.”
11/21/2011 Ben Dutka