LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Review
Written : Thursday, November 24, 2011
By: Lee Abrahams
As the Harry Potter franchise finally winds its way towards a fitting denouement we are graced with what could, possibly, be the last game tied to the series. Though obviously we will never rule out some kind of inevitable money grabbing spin off in the future, but for all intents and purposes this could be your last virtual Potter adventure for some time. Has LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 brewed up a winning formula? Will it go out with a bang? Can it cast a spell on us? Has the magic returned? Yes, all of these puns and more await you and, trust us, they can only get worse.
As we are, by now, series veterans then you will probably know what to expect from a LEGO title. For the less well initiated, you control the titular character and any number of his regular cohorts in a bid to topple Lord Whatshisname through a series of levels that require you to beat up some LEGO objects, build some LEGO objects and collect some….well you get the general idea. Events follow those of the books/films fairly closely, though with a unique brand of humour that helps to give things a novel twist.
"Put your wand away, Harry. Dirty bugger."
The series has certainly never looked better, with beautiful locations to wander around and little LEGO folk that are more full of life than most government employees. Wandering around Hogwarts is exactly how you would imagine it to be, with varied classrooms and eerie nooks and crannies to explore. However, the problem is that, despite the authentic look and feel of the game, the general gameplay never seems to get into gear. Clearly some kind of negative hoodoo is at work here.
The first section of the game pretty much sets a benchmark in terrible introductions, as you plod through generic sections of a playground, the Ministry of Magic, Daigon Alley and the train station before you even get to Hogwarts. In theory it should be a jaunt through some iconic sections of the story but instead it feels like a bit of a slog, as you constantly switch characters and have to solve puzzles that feel like a bad tutorial. Once you are into the game proper then things pick up, as you can once again explore Hogwarts to your hearts content and root out all of the hidden surprises along the way. The fact you have to regain some of your spells before you can truly run free feels a touch contrived but is probably a necessary gameplay evil.
"Laughing at Ron's gingerness? We thought Harry Potter was PC."
Unfortunately the levels themselves are the real weak point, as they're often far too short and maddeningly simple. There are only so many times that you have to find an item for a character before it gets old, not to mention the fact that most of said items are literally within line of sight of where the lazy bugger is standing. How about they move two feet and pick up their own wand? HUH? No instead you have to fetch and carry things, blast apart LEGO items and generally build your way to success. While that formula was kept interesting and varied in games gone by, it seems to be less impressive this time around. Maybe that is due to the fact most locations are familiar ground but even when you step into an entirely new location there are no great surprises. Sure you can take part in confined duels or use spells to cut shapes into red walls (for reasons that are never really clear) but it's all just more of the same packaged in a slightly different way.
The best way to play the game is still in co-op and the camera system feels a lot more intuitive and reliable this time around, especially after the horror show of the Clone Wars. Having a friend around makes things that much more entertaining as you blast apart your foes, and each other, though it can mean you miss out on fun areas and puzzles as one person runs off to solve everything in sight while you are still blasting apart shrubs. Though that is more the fault of your selfish friends then the game itself (you heard). It does help matters to have a fairly competent AI pal though, so solo players can still expect to be given assistance as and when it's required.
While the story sections feel dull and repetitive, at least you can have some fun exploring Hogwarts as most of the best areas are found within its walls. Sadly you will have seen most of it before, assuming you played the last game, but at least this area still feels like the nice mix of secrets, fun and silliness that the series is famed for. It is strange really to play a LEGO game that feels more like a chore than fun, and at times it is really just a case of going through the motions than looking forward to the next big discovery of interesting twist.
"Lord Voldemort. Possibly scarier when plastic."
Even the achievement list can't help raise the game from the doldrums as it is as generic as ever. Earlier games at least showed a bit of invention, but with this title you are pretty much tied down to completing every level and then running through to find all of the characters and items to get 100%. As per usual there are a few points tucked away for beating up certain characters with - you guessed it - certain other characters, but that is starting to get a little less fun if truth be told. Considering the fact that LEGO games provide a unique slant on a specific series or world, is it too much to ask that the achievements are similarly handled? We think not.
It’s really hard to say this but perhaps the LEGO games could use a slight hiatus. The fun aspect that has always pervaded the series is rapidly slipping away and the opening segments of LEGO Harry Potter: years 5-7 are fairly torturous to get through, so much so that new players may wonder what all of the fuss is about. The older games had enough charm to cover over the cracks in the paper thin gameplay, but this latest instalment seems to make the puzzles even easier and the levels even shorter leaving you bored and dispirited. There is still plenty of exploring to do and secrets to find, which is always the best bit, but the meat and drink of this package should be the story segments and they are woefully under par. That's not great on the golf course, and nor is it here, leaving a Potter game devoid of shazam and feeling like a disappointing end to the series.
The Potter theme is present and correct, but everything else is decidedly understated and barely worth a mention.
The series gets better with each instalment, with vivid characters, improved animations and interesting backdrops. These bricks certainly have character.
Easy to pick up and play, plus running around smashing stuff never seems to get old. If only the levels and puzzles had a bit more variety to them.
Short and uninspired levels, with bland puzzles and barely any new ideas. It’s the first LEGO game that actually gets boring after a remarkably short period of time.
The same list that you will have seen a fair few times by now, with little in the way of imagination. Completing all of the levels will see you most of the way there, and then it comes down to the usual 100% completion tasks to get the rest done.
A series, and a game, that seems to have lost a remarkable amount of lustre and just doesn’t feel as interesting to play through as some of it’s peers. The story is drab and drawn out, plus the tasks that litter the game are overly simplistic even for a kids title. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is still better than any number of kids titles and movie tie ins, but otherwise this is a major disappointment for fans of LEGO games and Potter alike, and just doesn’t have that spark of magic that you would expect.