Overview of the Game
This is the second Lego Harry Potter game, with the first installment covering books one through four. Covering books five through seven, this game offers players the ability to explore Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as well as to search through Grimmauld Place, the Ministry of Magic, and Godric's Hollow. With plenty of collectibles, interesting puzzle play and great humor, this magical romp gives all wannabe-wizards plenty to wave their wands at.
How to Play
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a linear game, where you play through the story highlights from the books in order. The fifth book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and its successor Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince each have six levels of gameplay. The last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has twice as many levels, reflecting the way the movies based on that book were broken into two parts. After you complete any of the 24 game levels, it becomes available for replaying in a freeplay mode.
You enter the game as Harry, hanging out in the park near the Dursley's house on Privet Drive. As you play through this first level, you learn how to cast magic spells, lift objects and recombine them, collect goodies and fight off a dementor (a scary soul-sucking wraith, which as depicted here, isn't all that scary).
In each level, you are provided with playable characters that you can cycle through as needed. Each has his or her own unique skills. As expected, you will play as Harry's best friends Hermione and Ron, but you can also be Dumbledore, Snape, or the Weasley twins. In all, there are over 150 collectible characters in the game. In one flashback level, you'll even get to play as Harry's father James.
As you explore a level, you will be looking for collectibles in the form of Lego studs (the currency of this game), students in peril who need rescuing, character tokens (that unlock playable characters in the freeplay mode), parts of crests, and red and gold bricks (which unlock bonuses like video cutscenes or special abilities). You can use your Lego studs to purchase new spells and playable characters.
As with the first Lego Harry Potter game, this is a game full of environments that need to be navigated. Filled with puzzles, the game encourages you to use magic on every nook and cranny found in Harry Potter's world. For example, when playing as Hagrid, you can shoot apart flowers and reconfigure them to create a fan to blow you into a next area.
Attend Hogwart's Classes
As you attend the 16 lessons in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, your magical prowess will increase. At first, you will see sparkling Lego brick areas that you can't seem to interact with. But as your knowledge grows, so does your ability to manipulate your environment.
Also good is the humor found in the game. Most of the story is told through video cutscenes with Lego characters recreating events. But since they are Lego, they always add a tongue-in-cheek sassiness to situations. The humor serves to lessen some of the intense scenes. For example, when Sirius is blasted into a deathly veil, instead of sadly dying, only part of him is sucked in, so he reappears jauntily demanding his legs.
Fighting the Death Eaters is also simplified because it becomes a duel in which you win by matching the color of your opponent's magic spell. And Lego Voldemort isn't all that intimidating, as he grins at you and preens in front of a mirror.
As good as this game is, it isn't perfect. It has an outdated saving system. Instead of automatically saving when you go from one scene to another, it has limited saves. Most families like to have kids play video games for short bursts of time, say 20-30 minutes. There are levels in this game that can take over 75 minutes before reaching a save point. Great games like Professor Layton and the Last Specter allow you to save at any time, and even recaps where you were in the story every time you return.
Also annoying are some levels where figuring out how to trigger the continuation of the story isn't obvious. Even with unlocking the Red Brick extra called "Advanced Guide," which provides Nearly Headless Nick dropping ghost Lego studs for you to follow, you can still experience long periods of replaying your steps. Plus, the layout of using Diagon Alley as the game's hub can be confusing.
Nonetheless, when you stack these complaints up against the game's brilliant and hilarious gameplay, the result is a great magical romp, one that no Harry Potter fan should miss. With the console versions offering over 25 hours of gameplay and two-player drop-in, drop-out cooperative play, this game is a blast for families to play together.
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