Mar 2, 2011

[Games] LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (PS3)

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (PS3)I'm a big fan of the LEGO series of console games (and LEGO in general for that matter). Starting with LEGO Star Wars, I've been pretty hooked on the series and have looked forward to subsequent releases.

The blending of the LEGO creative building process with different franchises has resulted in some pretty awesome crossovers. Another great example was the LEGO Batman video game, which was a pretty fun translation of the classic comic book hero.

To be fair, the games have already established a generally consistent formula. You need to collect as many LEGO bits as possible in order to purchase new characters, power ups and other bonuses. You use a variety of characters and their individual abilities in order to solve different puzzles and unlock new areas. And the whole time you get to re-live classic movies and creative franchises through the eyes of your little minifig avatars.

And this franchise was a heck of a lot more fun than I expected it to be.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is one of the more recent LEGO franchise games as developed by Traveller's Tales but naturally published by Warner Bros. As the title implies, the game covers the events of the first four books of the Harry Potter series.

The game starts off just as the books did - with an infant Harry Potter being left to the Durselys after the death of his parents. But in classic LEGO fashion, the cut scenes are without actual dialog and instead we get a series of expressive grunts and other non-verbals that remind everyone a lot of Simlish. Thus as before, we re-live the already familiar franchise as told in the humorous LEGO style.

As mentioned before, the game remains consistent with other LEGO games in terms of the stress of exploration, collection and puzzle solving. The game has a lot less combat compared to previous titles, but that makes sense given the source material involved here.

However, don't mistake this for simply a kid's game in that regard. The developers fully maximized the potential of the franchise by adapting a pretty robust spell system into the gameplay, making the spells the primary focus for your puzzle-solving challenges. And the spells are generally consistent with their use in the books, making it even more fun for die-hard fans of the series.

Hogsmeade village in the game.Image via WikipediaAbove all else, the game features a highly realistic depiction of the Harry Potter world as popularized by the movies. Thus for the fan, it also presents a unique opportunity to explore the grounds of Hogwarts for yourself as you learn new spells, locate new characters and ultimately work through the story. As always, you're free to stick to the story path alone or you can spend time re-exploring levels as you try to unlock more secrets, wander around locations like Hogwarts and Diagon Alley for as long as you want and eventually play a series of bonus levels tied to learning more about the level building of the game.

Like past LEGO games, this one has an insane amount of unlockables. There are over 200 characters to find which include the lead characters in their various costumes over the years and pretty much every single named character who has ever appeared in the four book. Even the milk man has a LEGO character to represent him, which is part of the strange and quirky humor of the series. Then you add in all the House Crests, Gold Bricks, Red Bricks and "Students in Peril", and you have yourself a very exhaustive gaming experience before you.

I found it difficult to stop playing as I continued to explore the game levels. In less than a week I managed to finish the story mode despite my work and blogging obligations in the real world and now I'm still playing through to find all the secrets. It's another great game that works for both fans of the LEGO games and the Harry Potter series.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a great addition to the growing library of LEGO themed games. It deserves a full 5 animal familiars in LEGO form out of a possible 5. The game is widely available online or at your favorite console retailer.

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