LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Review
By Chris Commodore |
The cards were stacked against LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. This is the fourth franchise to get the LEGO treatment and something like the seventh LEGO game if you include the double-dip on the Star Wars adventures. People know the formula of stud collecting, character unlocking and drop-in/drop-out co-op pretty well by now. When I -- a seasoned LEGO vet -- sat down to play Harry Potter, even my eyes began to roll a bit at the thought of the "blast everything" quest I was about to set out on.
Then, LEGO Harry Potter won me over with gorgeous environments, clever use of the famed spells, legitimate humor and adorable references that show how dialed in Traveller's Tales is to this franchise. After a few hit or miss LEGO outings, this is the game fans have been waiting for.
Watch our video review here.
If you've played one of the past LEGO games -- Star Wars, Batman or Indiana Jones -- the setup to LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 should be pretty easy to wrap your head around. Here, you're going to play through the defining moments of the first four movies/books and you're going to do it as little plastic LEGO pieces in a little plastic LEGO world. Harry and company will blast blocks apart with their spells and tricks, and this will cause colored studs to spew out. You collect the studs so that you can buy new characters and powers before exploring the levels to find secret blocks, characters and students in peril. If the visuals didn't tell you, the whole thing is kid friendly: if you are defeated you simply lose some studs and respawn, and a second player can drop-in and drop-out with the push of a button or a simple keystroke.
So if the formula's the same, what's so great about LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4? A bunch of stuff. For starters, the spell system is a fresh idea. LEGO Batman had different suits for the main characters and LEGO Indy had the whip and a few other items, but LEGO Harry Potter equips the kids with a number of magical spells that each have their own specific purpose. Wingardium Leviosa is the most basic and the most useful. You'll use this to lift items so that your partner can reach high studs, assemble items, and break apart other objects for the studs they're made of. Lumos scares away attacking plants, Riddikulus knocks back your worst fear, and so on. These are each color-coded and can be switched on the fly.
I had a great time using these incantations. Levitating books back onto the shelf and rearranging LEGO blocks to make stairs was fun, but it was the wonderment of what I'd learn next that really kept me going. See, because these spells are so particular in what they do in the LEGO Harry Potter world, the game's teasing you with what's coming later. You'll walk down the hill to Hagrid's and pass Cornish Pixies holding items just out of your reach and treasure chests with locks that appear to be unbreakable. You know that you're going to learn how to best these challenges, but you don't know when.
What's awesome about Hogwarts is that it's a living, breathing place. I dig that the game remembers what benches I've already shaken down for studs years later. This is your playground, and it feels like it.
Get them studs.This is all part of another thing I love about LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4: the hub world is back and it's better than ever. Four years of levels could get confusing, but the game does an excellent job of keeping you on track while letting you explore at will. You always start in the Leaky Cauldron and can replay a level with the characters you've unlocked or abscond to Diagon Alley to enter cheat codes and spend your studs on new characters. If you want to jump back into the story you can head into Hogwarts and start following Nearly Headless Nick to the next mission.