PS3 Review – LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

July 2, 2010Written by Joseph Peterson

The highly popular LEGO franchise has covered many of the biggest and best intellectual properties in the world, from Batman to Indiana Jones, with each well crafted title holding a place in many gamers hearts. LEGO Star Wars was the first game to base an entire movie within the LEGO universe. Since then there have been several other titles made and announced, the most recent being LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4. The game, which is developed by Traveller’s Tales, places you in the Harry Potter universe as you live through the movies and books during the first 4 years of Harry Potter’s experiences at Hogwarts. Given the popularity of both franchises, it should be a very successful title, question is how does it actually hold up?

The game itself is rich in all manners of characters from the source material, just like any other LEGO title, with each of them having exclusive abilities that are important for your progression throughout the game. For example there will be multiple puzzles that will be encountered that only Ron’s rat can get to. So upon switching to Ron simply release the rat and control him through the maze as you complete various tasks to complete the puzzle. Hermione is another example, seeing as how she is smart most of her puzzles involve some form of thinking or memory. Hagrid is a big guy, so essentially he is stronger than anyone. This makes his abilities deal with strength. The list is endless to the abilities available to the player. To fully complete the level 100 % the player must utilize everyone’s abilities correctly.

The story of the game pretty much follows the Harry Potter books/movies down to every detail. Granted, since there is no talking within the Lego games, it focuses more on the comical side of things, but typically you get the idea of what is going on within the game. Even though it does joke around a lot, you will find yourself looking over every detail to see what is different based upon the hidden jokes the developers put in the title. The game will take you through the first 4 years of the Harry Potter series.

Like all Lego titles the game features full co-op gameplay that can have players jump in and out with a simple button push of your second controller. The game is very easy to pick up at any moment at time, as the co-op is not exclusive to any specific mode within the title, and can be utilized during both Story play and Free Play. The game uses the same split screen mode that was introduced in LEGO Indian Jones 2. When in co-op mode, upon reaching each end of the screen with a character, split screen will automatically implement itself. This is so players can venture beyond the constraints of an individual screen with both players. There were times when playing with two people that it took a while for the mode to implement itself, almost as if the players weren’t far enough apart. This only happened on occasion, but definitely was an annoyance when it did occur. The co-op itself, while it does have it’s flaws, is one of the most entertaining aspects of the title, picking it up with a friend will offer hours on end of entertainment, regardless of your age.

The gameplay element of the game is the same as previous installments of the series. Collecting various Lego studs will allow you to spend them on various unlockables that can be attained by visiting Diagon Alley. There are different colored studs, and each corresponding color is worth different amounts. The colors available range from silver, which are worth 10 studs, to purple, which are worth 10,000 studs. Typically the higher leveled colors are harder to find, so players must keep their eyes open as they progress through levels. By simply breaking things and manipulating them with various spells that are learned as you progress through the game is how you will attain these studs.

The spells, which are the main form of attack, are limited during the beginning of the game, as most of the characters had just arrived at Hogwarts and were still very new to magic. But by the end of the game you will have gotten quite an arsenal of spells at your disposal. The most important spell will be one that was learned in the very beginning, and that would be Wingardium Leviosa. This spell lifts items or even people that you cast it on. This is the spell that manipulates various objects and will earn you many studs as you make your way through the game.

There are multiple ways of targeting within the game. Wingardium Leviosa is a spell that automatically highlights itself over objects with a purple aura, so it is very simple to see which objects it can be used on. Most of the other spells available to your characters must be hovered over with the targeting system, which can be find you targeting multiple things at once. Initially when aiming, the player will see a blue circle. As the circle is moved around, various objects or people that can be targeted will gain a green circle around it/them. While you will eventually target your intended target, you may also find yourself zapping an unsuspecting bystander, which can lead to you getting zapped back. While it’s not gamebreaking by any means, it is still something that shouldn’t occur.

For those that have played Lego titles before they should know how much there is to collect in the games, and  LEGO Harry Potter is no exception. In fact, there is so much it may be overwhelming at times, players must once again remember to constantly keep their eyes open for opportunities to get a new item or help someone. Throughout the game, important objects to look for include house shield pieces, studs, gold bricks, red bricks, and even students in peril. The house shields typically are found through completing certain tasks within a given level, such as activating a certain number of torches with a given spell.

There are four pieces to make a full shield, each one represents each house within Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. While studs have already been explained, within actual story levels once attaining a given number of studs a player will attain “True Wizard” status for that given level, and this will earn him a gold brick. Gold bricks are earned for many things, and not just studs, there are a total of 200 within the game. Red bricks have various bonuses when used within the game, they can be seen when you visit Diagon Alley in the game.

For those that become bored with the characters that are default, they can head down to Diagon Alley and create their own characters to use in Free Play Mode, with the characters entire look being completely customizable. There are many other things that are accessible through Diagon Alley, these range from the level creator to buying unlockables. The unlockables can be various alternate attires for characters, or even all new characters to use within the game. This is only to list a few purchasable things within the game, the list is literally endless, meaning that it will take players a very long to time to 100% this title.

LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 may feature LEGO graphics, but the magic is still there from the Harry Potter series. The visuals and sounds of the game make you feel as if you are actually experiencing Hogwarts, granted from a LEGO perspective, but that perspective is an immersive and a fun title regardless of what age you are. The sheer amount of content available in the game, along with the co-op experience, will keep players coming back for the best Harry Potter title on consoles to date.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Tons of unlockables will keep you coming back for more

Hands down the best Harry Potter experience on a console to date

Though there are a couple nuisances that will be encountered, they are not game breaking

8 out of 10