LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii | PSP | DS
LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 box art
System: PS3, PC, X360, Wii, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Traveller's Tales 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 29, 2010
2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
Review by Andrew Groen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Stupified
by Andrew Groen

It's hard not to be amazed by what Traveller's Tales has done with their LEGO video game franchise. Before LEGO Star Wars hit retail store shelves a few years ago, few would have believed that a compelling experience could be crafted out of the very loose framework provided by a series of LEGO toys. However, LEGO Star Wars proved right off the bat that this was a compelling formula that could also be fun for every member of the family.

LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 screenshot

What is most surprising is that the LEGO brand actually puts more restrictions on a game than it creates. Not only are the developer's beholden to the series' canonical material, but they also have to make everything family-friendly, made out of LEGOs, and non-verbal. It's odd then that these restrictions actually make the game far more effective than other non-LEGO games based on the series.

Unfortunately, despite all possible advantages, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 seems to be a port of the Nintendo DS version, and as such feels at times inadequate as a PSP game. It's not without its strengths, but buyers should be aware that this is not even close to the console version that has been getting rave reviews.

Quite possibly the greatest strength of LEGO Harry Potter stems directly from one of those restrictions: the characters in the game aren't allowed to speak at all. Normally this would be something that terrifies a developer, even more so when the game in question is intended for younger audiences like LEGO Harry Potter.

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However, Traveller's Tales takes it in stride, and as a result it has become perhaps the single most endearing part of LEGO Harry Potter. They don't concern themselves with re-telling the Harry Potter story that they can safely assume every child playing their game will know by heart. Rather, they give a brief rundown via cutscenes that are adorable and, at times, hilarious to watch. Seeing the story all over again would normally be boring in a “why don't I just go watch the movie” kind of way, but instead they give you brief memory bumps and retell the story in small, simple ways. It's like seeing a classic movie reenacted with mimes.

LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 screenshot

Younger audiences will really get a kick out of the chance to play as a huge number of different characters in the Harry Potter universe, many of which even have abilities unique to their character. Hagrid, for instance, is enormous compared to other characters and can move large objects out of the way. The list of characters contains all the well-known and expected characters like Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and of course, Mr. Potter himself.

Unlike to many of the other games in the LEGO series of video games, LEGO Harry Potter, like the movies, is not all that much about fighting. Whereas the main allure of the LEGO Stars Wars games is blasting things apart with lightsabers and blasters, LEGO Harry Potter keeps the focus squarely on questing and exploring the wonderous Hogwarts Castle. It's more about using your wand to cast spells and solve puzzles than blasting bad guys, though that certainly happens on occasion.

LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 screenshot

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