There have been 42 LEGO-based video games over the years, with 15 of those released or upcoming based outside the universe of LEGO, such as Batman or Pirates of the Caribbean. Whoever thought up the idea to combine the iconic children’s building blocks with equally iconic franchises such as these was a stroke of pure genius, as the games have largely been successful. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 was released on current consoles last November, before the Vita was officially available in the states, and it has now made its way to the launch window of the veritable handheld. Is this a port worth your time, or should Harry and friends await a better game? We have the verdict in our review.
The charm of any LEGO game is, of course, seeing your favorite characters brought to playable life in the form of LEGO figures, and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 feels right at home. Shoot at nearly anything with your wand, and it spits out some small LEGO pieces known as studs. These can be redeemed to unlock costumes and such – expect to collect multiple tons of these throughout your adventures. Some costumes cost 250,000 of the little pieces! There is a lot to unlock in this game, something completionists will probably like.
Graphically, this is one of the Vita’s less-impressive titles, not that LEGO games have been known for their graphical prowess anyway. It doesn’t look too far removed from the graphical load of its bigger console versions, either, and the Vita has no trouble keeping the framerate high even during high-action sequences (see: any battle against Voldemort). However, the cutscenes are exceptionally disappointing. Not because they lack color – this is LEGO we’re talking about here. Not because they aren’t charming – again, this is LEGO we’re talking about here. No, the main issue with these cutscenes is the incredibly blurry resolution of them. Everything is simply out of focus, and you miss out on a lot of details. I’m not sure if the videos were overly compressed, or ripped from the 3DS or Wii versions of the game, but the videos are a mess. The sound in these cutscenes seems to be just fine, which only adds to the confusion. The Vita has a beautiful OLED screen, which feels wasted when you see these cutscenes in action. Thankfully, some cutscenes take place in-game, which is a welcome sight.
The iconic theme song of Harry Potter is ever-present in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7, as well as a soundtrack that conjures up the magic of the films. Other than sound effects, the audio is pretty minimal. Being a LEGO game, all characters only make the occasional noise, such as a laugh, grunt, whine, or yell, but no one actually speaks (other than a rare “hey!”). It keeps in like with other LEGO games, and maintains a charm that only this franchise can. However, this ensures that unless you’ve read the books and/or seen the movies, you will probably have no idea what is going on. But since only fans will likely buy this game, it’s not a deal-breaker. This game sounds particularly impressive with headphones on, featuring booming bass and other pleasant sounds firing at you in full stereo.
Don’t expect a whole lot of depth in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 though. While you have a multitude of characters to play as and switch between freely with the triangle button, you have access to four or so spells at any given time. Any spell will work against most enemies, and other than losing some LEGO studs, there is no real penalty for failure. Losing one of the game’s mini-boss battles, called duels, simply results in you getting back up and trying again until you are finally victorious. Those duels are essentially a different take on ping pong, as you and an opponent toss spells back and forth until one person runs out of health. You can use the console’s buttons, but the duels are more intuitive on the Vita’s touchscreen. It’s incredibly simple, but later bosses require some pretty quick timing to come out on top. Other than these battles, you are basically guaranteed to finish the rather long game if you can solve its simplistic puzzles. The game is very kid-friendly, with comic, unrealistic violence and clean fun. It’s an experience you’d expect from the LEGO series.
Another core experience that has become synonymous with the LEGO franchise of video games is multiplayer. Unfortunately, there are no multiplayer options present in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7. This feels like a result of rushing the game out to get onto the newest platform, in this case the PlayStation Vita. Without the ability to play through Harry’s adventures with a pal, it feels pretty lonely. Part of the charm of these games is laughing along as your friend just can’t seem to make a certain jump, constantly doomed to see their player break into pieces. It just doesn’t feel the same. Given that this game goes through the storyline of the final three books and four films in the Harry Potter franchise, there is a lot of gameplay to be had by your lonesome self. It’ll keep your kid busy for a long time, at least. Perfect for those long family trips.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 won’t surprise you. It won’t wow you with amazing graphics, or incredible sound, or a gripping storyline. It will, however, entertain and charm you if you are a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. Expect a couple of laughs here and there, an occasional challenge, and competent platforming. Completionists will have a field day, as there is much to explore and tons of goodies to collect. When all is said and done, this is a game strictly for fans of the series who just can’t get enough Potter. Without multiplayer, however, even some fans may be put off – I’d recommend the home console version in that case. But for your portable Harry Potter fix, this is your best bet.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+/- Platforming is adequate, combat is really simple.
– No multiplayer in a LEGO game??