19th July 2010 - Harry Potter: The boy who lived. Travellers Tale games are at it again, albeit without Lucas Arts backing them up this time. Not that you can tell though, as the first four years of Harry Potter are given the Lego make-over they had coming. Is this a memorable journey or does it fail worse than a muggle trying to do magic? AAG readies our wands to find out...
The point about Lucas Arts is well made, in that an introduction to these Lego games reveals swag of gold including: Lego Star Wars, Lego: Indiana Jones, Lego: Rock band and Lego Batman just to name a few. The Lucas inspired ones though are so popular and the formula so simple that there have been more Indiana Jones and Star Wars versions than anything else. So how does this bode for our now famous Harry Potter? Let’s sum it up and then works backwards.
Star Wars is Star Wars; a multi-million dollar franchise, starting life as a movie, it's ok to see Lego versions of the game pop up after so many year of different merchandise. Same goes for Indiana Jones, which was a cute fun trip down memory lane. Batman, well that was a nice experiment that worked. Harry Potter though is iconic. Apart from the books, it is legend only because of the many and excellent films. Creating a Lego version of the game, seems...logical, but somehow also lessons the experience, dummying the story and gameplay down to base elements and depending how you look at it bastardising the characters and making a mockery of the plot. It puts it in the same simple basket as the other Lego games and in doing so some of George Lucas gets rubbed off on it.
So many studs, so little time
Fanboys aside, the other angle to take this, is that this is the definitive Harry Potter Game, although Lego immortalised in yellow bricks for all time. Travellers Tale have done an excellent job of bringing every single main element of the movies, at least; to the small screen recreated in their various Lego forms. The aim of the game though, is studs.
Harry Potter, Ron Weisley, Dumbeldor...no. Studs are Lego bits, represented in gold, silver and blue and there are literally 100,000 of them throughout the game. In fact the only point of the game, while being dragged through the story by your wand; is to smash the mudblood out of everything everywhere to release more of the little buggers. Puzzles exist solely to get more studs as do replaying the levels and exploring The Leaky Cauldron. What do you do when you have so many coins: buy more coins, 200 red bricks, 200 gold bricks or one of the 100 odd different Lego character costumes that exist purely to unlock more studs? Aside from that there is nary anything else to do, except experience the story which is the most linear and boring of all the Lego games so far.
Pro Tip: Keep a keen eye out for the new “Students in Peril”. If you rescue them all in each level you should be rewarded with a nice bit of Lego Gold
The Philosophers Stone
Over 10 years old now the story of the boy who survived his parents murder at the hands of Darth V...I mean Voldermort only to grow up and become the mightiest Jed. I mean Wizard of all time, is legend. Curiously, Travellers Tale have taken what they learnt from previous games, but then opted for a more 'cinematic' experience. Unlike Indiana Jones, with hub areas that you could pick missions from in any order at any time, Harry Potter is one long game, and we mean long. It is literally four games in one here and the only Hub is Hogwarts. The magic castle, changes and areas unlock over the course of the game, but it is the most linear navigation of just going to one story bit then the next and so on in one direction. Eventually you will unlock enough spells to run around Hogwarts at your leisure breaking everything to release those ever precious studs. There are boss battles, eventually, just like in the movies, and you can play as various characters like Haggrid and Hermione, just like in the movies, and there are so many different areas in Hogwarts from Haggrids' garden to the lake to the girl’s bathroom...just like in the movie.
It is hard to say much more, than the best bit is just how closely they have mirrored, the movies. For those not in the know though, Lego characters don't talk, so this lack of personal interaction and speech actually sullies the game and makes it drag on for too long. Year 1 of 4 can easily take upward of 8 hours. If you not in the mood for story, or just running around Hogwarts, you can always visit The Leaky Cauldron which is the only real area outside of Hogwarts you can visit. The shops allow you to buy useless spells for 'fun', unnecessary character costumes and more Lego bricks for your collection. Harry Potter obviously has an OCD problem with the number of coins you will need to get anywhere near 100% completion. Everything is tallied toward that 100% over all 4 games, so despite the ever repeating grind and linear story there is a lot to do.
More props to Travellers Tale come in the form of spells, spells and more spells. In fact every single spell that may have been mentioned in the movie or books is here front and centre, and all in co-operative glory. It is possible that co-op could make this game a lot more fun, as you jump around generally breaking things and exploring Hogwarts. The much lauded split screen has been fixed so that now it splits when you are apart and seamlessly blends into one screen when you are close to one another. This is perhaps, the biggest innovation of the series.
The language of Harry Potters' world is not too hard to grasp and the spells do what you expect. The problem is this: Indiana Jones packs a whip and a gun, Star Wars is ever so 'violent'. Harry Potter: not so much. Not only is this the most linear, it's the most boring because there is little to no action. Although there is a nice circular menu of spells to choose from, they are mostly for puzzles destroying plants or progressing to the next area. Boss battles at the end of each movie...I mean level are a welcome relief to add some pace and thrill to this slow but fun game.
If Harry Potter is not what enchants you, then are plenty of equally big and fun Lego Games out there. Hours are wasted as you progress through your classes, learning spells and collecting coins.
For games about Lego Characters, Travellers Tale have always managed to mirror the realistic sets and less than real Lego together very well, with a strict design philosophy that, if it can be Lego, it is, which means in some way you can interact with it. Hogwarts and the surrounds are highly interactive and usually one mans Lego piece is another mans answer to solving puzzles, so pieces have usually more than one purpose. All the environments are well mirrored to the movies with a suitable, old fashioned English look and muted colours. Lighting is alright, although compared to Lego Indiana Jones 2, it seems lacking. At the end of last year, when AAG reviewed LIJ2, we made a point of just how realistic the supporting levels and props were. Perhaps with more to make and larger hubs, Travellers Tales were stretched.
Pro Tip: Double tap that wand Wizard! If you think you've tapped all the coins out of an object, do it again and then again for good measure. Objects can be moved, moved again and then broken to release the maximum number of studs.
Graphically what is most noticeably missing is any passage of time. For a whole year in 6 odd hours, would it have really hurt to mix it up a bit; that is add some other weather effects and styles other than ‘brown’? Christmas will come in the game, but it will not snow. That's not to say there is not a 'snow level' (Hogmeads Village) but surely it is not that difficult to have some changing weather at Hogwarts, like rain, snow or sun. The sense that you are even playing 'Year 1' and so forth is completely lost and each one blurs into the next.
When you do get to leave Hogwarts for the story and venture around the towns or forest, you will discover something else, load times. Loading in the game seems longer than necessary and it will occur all the time, even entering rooms will present with a black screen. You would have though Travellers Tales would be onto fixing this by now, but alas, with a bigger game comes bigger requirements for loading.
To their credit, there are 167 different character faces to collect and you can actually tell the difference, between Ron and his twin brothers, Snape and Voldermort. Lego has been stretched to its creative maximum here, without breaking any rules about what can and can't work. By no means an ugly game, the graphics add a frame to store those Harry Potter memories.
Another reason Harry Potter apparently works so very well as Lego, is the final piece of the puzzle: music. Rivalling both Indiana Jones and Star Wars itself, the classical over tones of the movie come flooding back in glorious gentle detail. In fact so powerful is the music in a game like this, that without it wouldn't be much of a game at all.
As previously stated, our Lego heroes do not speak with any discernible dialogue, rather squeaks, mumbles and screams. No comment on the American voice actors vs. the need for British voices the dubbing is stock standard.
Other than that, you will not find many more sounds in Harry Potter. Spells have underwhelming effects and are not over the top. Like a number of puzzle games the most memorable sound outside the music is the sounds of coins, many coins and you smash your way to victory.
It's a matter of opinion if you prefer the classic Star Wars theme or Harry Potter but in this regard Harry Potter is a breath of fresh air. Unlike Star Wars though, the music is slow and gentle adding ever further to a long and 'slow' game.
Outside of the usual additions to Lego Games, you would think by now that they could make some platform specific upgrades. Avatar awards are almost standard now, and might have given some real world incentive to collecting so many Lego blocks and coins. Co op is good and works well, but is about the only online you will find here. Even the new Lego Creator, create your own level system is hidden away in the back end of the game as an after thought.
Can you argue with 4 games in 1 though? Travellers Tale have stepped up, even though they didn't have to and provided a long and reasonably fun game too boot. This could have easily been just Year 1 of Harry Potter, in longer form but as it is, there is a lot to like.
Quiddich though, the broomstick flying field sport seems like an obvious choice as an add-on or some sort of Quiddich racing mini game or level. Perhaps, this is where Travellers tale have played it safe as you can never interact with the Quiddich games in this story nor really experience the thrill from flying the broom, preferring more of the same platforming and puzzles.
Rent the game, don't finish it, it's all the same anyway. Or buy it for the kids, your family or simple to sit next to the Harry Potter box set we know you have.
Love him or hate him, Harry Potter- not to mention- Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, are here to stay. Short of the recent Twilight for tweens phenomenon, Harry Potter has to be up there with Lord of the Rings for this generation of young people, successfully marrying book and film. The Lego games are inevitably for a younger audience, the original readers of the books now 10 years older. Also, now thanks to Twilight, Harry Potter looks even younger and 'immature' yet stands tall as the classier and more family friendly option.
Speaking of which, where is my Lego: Twilight game....
AAG SCORE: 8/10
+ Everything you could want in a Harry Potter Game
+ The game is long with 4 games in one
+ Co-op and fun coin smashing antics
- Not a lot of action, grinding coins can get old
- Graphics are good but underwhelming
- Long load times
Reviewed and Written By Ian Crane