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3 Reviews

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Same bricks, different universe

We're approaching the seventh and final year of Harry's big-screen adventures, yet Potter's block-headed alter-ego is only just graduating to his fourth for his first ever Lego rendition.

Not that you're getting half a game here. Years 1-4 feels as robust as Traveller's Tales' previous titles and, after getting into the groove at Lego-fying three other big-name franchises already, it continues to tap into the beats that made adaptations such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Batman such enjoyable romps. Drop-in/drop-out co-op, multitudes of secrets in each area and a vast array of unlockables all come as standard.

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Veterans of those titles won't be surprised to discover that gameplay is mixed between hoofing it through recognisable locales, learning new spells during lessons (enabling you to unlock different areas of the school) and searching areas for secrets while completing various objectives. It'll be familiar to fans of the first few movies and novels, too. You start off hot-swapping between Harry, Hermione and Ron but, as is Lego tradition, you'll unlock a wealth of characters you can exchange between in the returning Free Play mode.

So plenty to do, but is there plenty new to see? Despite the new setting, after five games it's no wonder the title feels a little jaded. It'll be a problem for anyone coming into the game fresh off the heels of its predecessors, despite the degree of tinkering to fit the pre-existing setup with the new universe.

A change from the light mix of platforming and puzzles would be interesting, but trying anything else would push it out of the hands out of the younger audience that it's been built for.

Work your magic
The template may seem like it's been stretched a bit thin (definitely if you've already played the others on the shelf), but it could be argued that Harry Potter fits the brick-building template best, fantasy and magic mixing well with the developer's inventiveness and humour.

Destroying or building Lego bricks feels more natural when done with wands; the sight of pieces awhirl in mid-air to form something is done with more flourish than a Jedi hand gesture and is more enjoyable. But while manually moving bricks with the levitation spell is a fun addition, lack of a simple lock-on feature results in frustrating adjustments of your character until they are in exactly the right position for the relevant purple reticule to pop up on screen.

Hogwarts itself is brimming with character, thanks to touches like the many possessed paintings that have been dotted through the school's halls and corridors. Part puzzle solutions, part physical comedy, the routines of their residents will make you chuckle every time.

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While the game strays outside the school grounds when story demands it, there's a less of a sense of scale than in Indy and Star Wars as you trot between lessons. However, this does mean the dev has been able to pack much more content and character-specific unlocks into each area, and means repeated exploration is a pleasure, not a chore.

Given this is Years 1-4, we can assume two things. One: barring an unprecedented sales disaster, there'll be a sequel covering the later years. Two: if the series follows the Lego Star Wars template, we'll see a unified version of the two somewhere down the line.

If you're a Lego fan but not the biggest Potter fan, it might be worth taking a break from the franchise until things feel fresh once more. Because it's so similar to the previous games, we can't recommend this as a Must Buy to all - despite all of its cracking quirks it is just that bit too familiar. But if you're a Potter fan and/or looking for a game that both you and your kids can enjoy together, look no further.

The verdict

Smart, accomplished, but a touch too familiar

  • Every area brimming with secrets
  • Great sense of humour
  • Sticks faithfully to the films
  • Lack of levitation lock-on
  • A lot of backtracking
7
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Traveller's Tales
Publisher
Warner Bros.
Genre
Action

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