Reviewed: November 28, 2011
Released: November 11, 2011
Travellers Tales’ LEGO franchise has had a terrific run since the first release LEGO Star Wars in 2005. In those short six years, Travellers Tales has released seven fantastic LEGO titles covering classic film franchises like Star Wars (old and new), Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean. It was only natural then that Travellers Tales would embrace J.K. Rowling’s epic novels with LEGO Harry Potter.|
The first of Travellers Tales LEGO Harry Potter games was released during the summer of 2010 covering Harry’s first four years at Hogwarts. Just over a year later we have the second release, LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 – 7 covering Harry’s years 5 – 7. While this may sound like games are getting cheated out of a year, the games follow the film series in which year seven is comprised of two feature-length films – so there are four films in each.
Veterans of the original Years 1 – 4 release will feel right at home with Years 5 – 7, as other than the obvious story progression the gameplay remains largely unchanged. In fact, given that a great deal of the storyline takes place inside the limited settings in and around Hogwarts, gamers would be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu at times. But that sense of familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing, especially with the finely honed gameplay that Travellers Tales has been consistently delivering with the LEGO titles. Everything from the smile-inducing fan-service to the fantastic drop-in drop-out cooperative play has been tuned to perfection with each subsequent LEGO release, and LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 – 7 stands as the best LEGO title yet.
Given the breadth of material covered by these final four episodes of the Potter saga, it would be impossible to cover the storyline in any degree other than to say that it follows the events of the films with surprising detail. To give a point of reference, the game includes the events of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2. Gamers will get to experience the epic return of Voldemort, the lockdown of Hogwarts, the forming of Dumbledore’s Army, the fall of Dumbledore, and the ultimate final battle – and everything in between.
As mentioned earlier, much of the story takes place in and around Hogwarts – but there are plenty of scenes that take gamers out of the castle. From magical staples like Hogsmeade, Gringotts, and Diagon Alley, to the muggle-bound lands of Harry’s hometown of Little Whinging and London’s Thames River (a highlight of the game) – there is plenty of exploration to be found. The story is told in the typical whimsical LEGO fashion; like a silent movie overdubbed only with expressive sounds, the story is expressed through facial expressions and slapstick gags that are as entertaining as they are informative. I have always been a fan of Travellers Tales’ LEGO cutscenes, and those included in Years 5 – 7’s rank among the best in their lineage.
At first glance, LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 – 7 looks much like any of the other LEGO games – but once the spells start flying, it all changes. Glowing with beautiful neon colors, and colliding with their targets in fantastic splashes and explosions, the spells definitely stand out against the dark, detailed background scenery. The characters look absolutely fantastic, expertly balancing the LEGO mini-figure appearance with realistically human movement and emotion.
Casting spells is the name of the game, and Years 5 – 7 introduces a whole new realm of gameplay in spell-casting duels. These duels are largely turn-based affairs in which gamers select the correct spells based upon the colors that show below the opponent. Once cast, the gamer is then thrust into an old school button mashing war with the opponent – the winner driving pushing his spell onto the opponent. Dueling is an awesome addition to the game, especially early on, but it does get a bit tiresome as the duels become more and more frequent towards the end of the game.
Start to finish, LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 – 7 can be completed in about 6 hours – although the first run through will typically find gamers far from complete with respect to the game’s rankings, allowing gamers to go back through in free play and discover all of the unlockable and hidden items scattered throughout the levels to reach the coveted 100%. Achievements are distributed consistently throughout the story, including a surprise 20pts for “idling,” or having no controller input for 5 minutes – typical of the sense of humor Travellers Tales delivers.
LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 – 7 is a terrific culmination of the Harry Potter storyline, and a perfect addition to the LEGO franchise. Entertaining for the young and old alike, it is a game the whole family will enjoy. Fans of the books and films will love the fan service Travellers Tales doles out, and veteran gamers will enjoy the finely tuned gameplay.