Let’s face it, none of the video games based on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books have been very good but can Traveller’s Tales’ latest instalment of its LEGO franchise, “LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4”, finally change this?
As the title suggests, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 tells the story of the first four books (The Philosopher’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire) in the typical LEGO manner of nodding and squeaky noises. The plot may be a little hard to understand at times for those of you who haven’t read the books or seen the films but for those who do know all about the magical world of Harry Potter, this LEGO adaptation will keep you entertained for the 20 hours or so it will take you to complete the story mode. The story is split into 24 chapters with 6 chapters per book. In each chapter you must rescue a Student in Peril, collect the house crest which is split into 4 pieces, gain the True Wizard status by collecting enough LEGO Studs (the currency in LEGO games), and find the 3 hidden playable characters. These tasks will mean replaying all of the chapters several times as you gain new spells throughout the game.
Learning these new spells begins from the very moment you enter Hogwarts as you have to begin attending classes. These classes tend to only take 5-10 minutes and reward you with a nice supply of LEGO Studs and your new spell. These spells are vital to progressing through the story and as the game goes on you will have around 8 different spells at your disposal. There are a variety of different objects placed throughout the world and each require you to cast a certain spell on them to change them by either blowing them up, rebuilding them into something different or making changes to the landscape (a similar concept to the previous LEGO games).
The game consists of mainly puzzles and very few battles. Halfway through and at the end of each book there are usually boss battles but these fights are fairly simple and aren’t exactly taxing on the brain, at least not for a 24 year old but then again these games are aimed towards all ages and the battles would give younger players a suitable challenge. The puzzles, however, would most likely be challenging for any players – at times I found myself pondering over a puzzle for a good 10 minutes or more.
The biggest aspect of the game has to be the collectables and this will keep you playing the game long after you finish the main story. As briefly stated above there are certain objectives that you must complete in each level and for each of these you are rewarded with a Gold Brick. There are 200 of these in the game and they can be collected in a variety of different ways with the main way being through the story chapters. There are also 20 Red Bricks to be collected which unlock extra features in the game. An example of these are the Christmas mode where all characters wear Santa hats, the 10x score multiplier which increases the value of LEGO Studs, and an invincibility mode. You can check the status on how many of these you have collected by pressing the pause button or by visiting Diagon Ally which acts as the hub for the game.
Each time you complete a chapter you are given the option to continue with the story or visit Diagon Alley where you can replay previous chapters or visit a range of shops where you are able to purchase any of the 160 playable characters (providing you have found them in the story), activate the extras from the Red Bricks you have found and much more. Walking to the end of the alley you come to Gringotts Bank which houses the 10 bonus levels in LEGO Harry Potter which become unlocked after collecting Gold Bricks. When you begin playing the first bonus level you will notice the option to play the tutorial for the LEGO Builder (which the bonus levels are constructed from). The tutorial suggests the builder is easy to use but it is actually quite complex and requires a great deal of time to create anything with a decent challenge and just to add salt in the wound, after you have completed building your masterpiece only friends who have access to your game will be able to play it because Traveller’s Tales failed to implement any system to upload your levels to the internet.
In fact, LEGO Harry Potter is completely offline with no online co-op featuring in the game at all. It’s sad that Traveller’s Tales didn’t take this game online as the jump-in co-op feature that exists in the game as it stands works quite well. As long as you have a second controller a friend can jump into the game at any point in the story. I didn’t spend much time playing multiplayer but didn’t come across any bugs while I did. I had heard about issues with screen tearing but again, didn’t come across any problems while playing through the game.
The environments are beautifully laid out and resemble the locations in the films wonderfully with the characteristic LEGO bricks and other pieces featuring throughout. Actually being able to travel around Hogwarts was a real joy for me being a fan of Harry Potter and also being able to explore the places that are only briefly shown in the films such as Hogsmeade was a nice touch.
If you’re a diehard Potter fan then I don’t think you will need any persuading to buy this title but for those of you who dislike the boy wizard I hope you will give this one a chance as Traveller’s Tales really have conjured up something quite magical.
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