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Xbox 360 Game Review

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4


Format: Xbox 360
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
RRP: £44.99
5 051892 011525
Age Restrictions: 7+
Available 25 June 2010

There is an old adage that if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it and this appears to be the main thought behind the new LEGO Harry Potter game for the Xbox 360. Although not impressively different from the previous games, the pick up and play parody style of the franchise has found favour with kids of all ages, with the advantage that in two player mode age becomes immaterial, as it's all about cooperation, rather than competition.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is based on the first four adventures (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Presumably, if successful, we’ll be seeing the remaining books/films similarly transposed into cute Lego bricks.

For the very few of you that either haven’t played a LEGO game or heard of Harry Potter, then the game follows a young wizard through his adventures, all constructed of LEGO bricks. The games have always been slick affairs with a great infusion of wit. Having covered Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones, the obvious choice was to move on to one of the most successful franchises of the last twenty years. There can be only a few gamers who will not recognise the hub of Hogwarts, which makes up a massive area which you will return to more than once during the game, much more than just a jumping off point for the four years it’s the biggest single area created for a Lego game, large enough to be an exploration in its own right.

For the seasoned player there is much here that will feel familiar, we still have the studs to collect and the gold bricks. The game has also retained the need to switch between characters as each has either special moves which only they can do, or in the case of the current game specialist spells. For the obsessive the game reproduces all the magic spells from the films and adds a few of its own to the brew.

So what is different about this new incarnation? For a start the game is massive with more than a hundred and seventy characters to find and play with. Responding to the criticism regarding the level of the puzzles, Harry pushes the difficulty level up a bit, but still not so much that younger gamers won’t have a chance at discovering the solution. Not all abilities are on offer straight away, but the game makes sure that when a particular ability is required for a puzzle it is on hand, though this will often mean attending lessons. There’s a nice little improvement with brick building, whereas before, you just zapped a pile of bricks which would transform themselves into objects, now you can manipulate individual bricks, which makes it feel like the old Lego bricks.

The first few levels give the gamers the chance to get to grips with the controls, though in truth, these are very intuitive. Meeting young Harry, we see him invited to join Hogwarts school, there are a few of Lego's signature amusing cut scenes, before we are working our way through the first level with Harry and Hagrid. Hagrid is on hand as Harry has yet to learn any useful magic, but once he has his wand we are off to Hogwarts and the main storyline.

Okay, so there have been improvements, but these are improvements on an already successful formula. If you have never played a LEGO game then this one is positively the best so far, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’re going to buy it anyway, but if you are a seasoned gamer who has played the previous games the similarities may outweigh any new gameplay improvements.


Charles Packer

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