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
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

By now, if you don’t know exactly what to expect from a LEGO game, you haven’t been paying very much attention. Since the smashing success of LEGO Star Wars a half-decade ago, Traveller’s Tales has been churning out one LEGO title after another, based on franchises ranging from Batman to Indiana Jones.

LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 screenshot

Therefore, the basic details of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1נ will surprise no one. It’s a cute, child-friendly game that parodies its source material in humorously overacted cutscenes. From a third-person perspective, you control various characters, explore a large 3-D world, solve easy puzzles, navigate basic platforming challenges, break every item you come across, pick up LEGO studs, and put together the occasional LEGO puzzle (by holding down a button). Aside from losing some studs, there’s no consequence for dying.

What is surprising, or at least good news, is that after some mediocre efforts (such as LEGO Indiana Jones 2), Traveller’s Tales put forth a truly solid title here. Sure, the basic gameplay is unchanged, and adults who don’t care about Harry Potter will be bored to tears. But the developers did a good enough job of recreating the Harry Potter setting, and made just enough tweaks to their patented formula, that LEGO Harry Potter is a winner.

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Fans of the Harry Potter franchise will be in heaven here. The goofy cutscenes, which sometimes change the plot for comedic effect, are a source of much amusement. (Years 1נ sprints through the plots of the first four books, starting with the scene of Hagrid dropping off Harry on the Dursleys’ doorstep, and works in imagery from the respective movies as well.) Once you settle into the game world, starting at the Leaky Cauldron (which serves as a hub) and spreading out over the vast Harry Potter universe, you notice that all the characters retain their personalities, from goblins at the bank to Professor Dumbledore at Hogwarts, even though they only talk in the trademark LEGO gibberish of murmurs and grunts.

LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 screenshot

Aside from the aliasing and iffy textures that hurt every game on the Wii, the visuals are top-notch, with colorful scenes that evoke the movies and no technical hiccups that we noticed. Exploring the game world, especially the giant Hogwarts campus, is a delight for the aesthetics alone. As is the LEGO series’ trademark, the soundtrack is made up of well-known songs from the source movies (John Williams orchestral compositions, in this case), and every time you break an item to get the studs out of it, you hear the oddly pleasing sound of LEGO blocks clinking against each other.

The fan service doesn’t end with a LEGO-ified recreation of the visuals and sounds, however. There are more than 100 playable characters (no, that is not a typo), four pieces of a crest to find in each level, hidden red and gold bricks, plenty of spells, and even unlockable bonus levels. In addition to making this title irresistible to the Potter faithful, all these collectibles add drastically to the replay value. Completionists will play this game for days on end. (If you play through without exploring too much, the game is about eight to ten hours long.)

LEGO: Harry Potter: Years 1-4 screenshot

Also, the developers did a terrific job of tweaking the gameplay ever-so-slightly to match the source material. Whereas the past three LEGO franchises (Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones) were based on movies with lots of fighting, Harry Potter tends not to use lightsabers, fists, or whips very often. That being the case, LEGO Harry Potter plays up the puzzle-solving and tones down the beat-’em-up violence. While this comes at the cost of variety (previous LEGO games had weak fighting and weak puzzles, but all we get are weak puzzles here), it’s a nod to the source material that true fans will appreciate. Of course, there are still boss monsters to fight, starting with the nasty monster that breaks into Hogwarts.

Screenshots / Images
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