|LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4|
|Platforms||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Windows, PSP|
|Genre||Something bricked this way comes
|MtAMinutes to Action||3|
|Buy from Amazon|
I’ve played every LEGO videogame made so far. Of all my videogames on the Xbox 360, only the LEGO games have the esteemed honor of having all their Achievements unlocked. I played them to completion as fast as possible, almost as if in a fever. If they made LEGO Schindler’s List, I’d probably play it. Same goes for LEGO Requiem for a Dream. The point I’m making here is that I love these games, and I’m twenty-six, and I’m not afraid to admit that they are just my cup of OCD tea.
Conversely, I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan. I’m one of those rare folks that actually read the first three books before the first movie came out and became a worldwide sensation. I had the sixth book spoiled for me on a Lord of the Rings TCG forum. I read the last book in less than 24 hours, locked up in my parents’ basement, only coming up once to eat dinner and not talk to anyone. The movies are hit or miss in my mind, but the world and characters and magic of it all is something I can’t get enough of. Neither can my fiancée. We’re getting married this October and heading to Universal Studios on our honeymoon to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
I’ve been excited about this merging of two great entities since I first read about it. I always expected the next universe to be LEGO-ized to be Spider-Man’s. My expectations are high, and after having played the demo that was recently released I have no fears that the first hour for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 will be anything but spectacular. I'm playing the Xbox 360 version.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - We start off with a little intro scene to show us that the puppet-masters behind LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is Travellers’ Tales. It’s cute; the famous trio--Harry, Ron, and Hermione--are dumping stuff into a cauldron and out pops the company’s logo. The start screen shows students boating their way to Hogwarts in the distance. The music swells, and I’m ready to get magical. I select New Game, choose my save spot, and watch a little LEGO Harry Potter head bob up and down in the corner to indicate auto-saving.
01 - The opening movie basically covers chapters 1 through 5 in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Impressive, but I also kind of wanted to run around and break the Dursleys into a hundred Muggle bricks for treating Harry so poorly. Anyways, we see Hagrid delivering baby Harry, then he grows up in the cupboard under the staircase, and then he’s suddenly receiving magical letters from someplace called Hogwarts. Mr. Dursley can’t take it anymore and tries to hide his family far and away, but Hagrid finds them still, placing Harry under his wing. Off to Diagon Alley then to get ready for the school year. This is all clear to anyone familiar with the books and world, but I have to wonder what others might think about how rushed these scenes are, especially considering they are wordless.
03 - The cutscene ends, and I’m now in control of Harry (Blue Shirt). We’re in the Leaky Cauldron with the level titled “The Magic Begins” at the bottom of the screen. Oh, yes, it does. I can switch between Harry and Hagrid, and considering the latter is my favorite character in the entire series, the choice is easy. Also, since Harry doesn’t have a wand yet, his only way of breaking LEGO pieces to bits is by doing forward rolls into them. That’s...hilarious looking.
05 - Just destroying stuff. LEGO games demand this of you at every second. We have to build a door. Or a door handle. Not sure. Hagrid uses his magic umbrella to get the job done.
06 - I love using magic to lift random LEGO people up in the air. It’s very reminscent of using the Force in LEGO Star Wars. Also, I discovered that moving the mugs around the table gets a sort of Irish jig song to play. Didn’t a table and set of chairs do the same thing in LEGO Star Wars? Right, me thinks I am.
07 - I built two picture frames, revealing a piece of house crest--I think it’s Hufflepuff--but it’s too high up to get. If other LEGO videogames are to be trusted, I probably need a female character to jump high enough to collect it.
08 - Collecting some more studs (the LEGO kind, sheesh) and then move out of the Leaky Cauldron into Diagon Alley proper.
10 - A lot of the in-game items react to you, which is nice. No longer are empty beer bottles and bereft books just pieces of the background/foreground. Now you can bump into them and throw them around with a spell or two.
11 - Diagon Alley is full of stuff to do! And people, too. I just walked by both Malfoy and Professor Quirrell. Hmm...
13 - Hagrid picked up an ingredient. The game tells me to place it in the nearby cauldron. Okay, will do. He puts in two more ingredients--um, one was an ice cream cone--and the cauldron explodes, opening a new path. Let’s just call that magic and move on, yes?
14 - Gringotts! Shiny, shiny gold. And lots of goblins at work. Some of the bank-teller’s desk lights are out, and so I start fixing them with the Wingardium Leviosa spell. After turning 8 out of 8 back on, nothing happens. Phooey.
15 - Collecting studs. The OCD has started. Every stud must be collected...or else.
18 - Waved at the bank-teller goblin sitting at the tallest desk. It’s Griphook! He’s not really busy working actually. And now that I have control of him as well, I can get past certain locked sections to the bank’s vaults.
20 - With Hagrid’s and Griphook’s help--gee, Harry, stop being such a bum or it’s back to the cupboard for you--we build a painting that, when waved at, opens a passageway to a mine cart. Down deeper into the vault we go! Thankfully we don’t have to actually ride it like in LEGO Indiana Jones.
21 - Hagrid scares off the guardian robot dragon. Slipping past a locked vault, we get a sneak peek at what the goblins do late in the afternoon for fun (spoiler: it’s disturbing), and then Hagrid picks up a tiny package. I know what it is. So do you. Invincibility! Er, no. I mean...invisibility. Almost the same thing. Anyways, on to the next task...getting Harry a wand!
22 - The level ends with a cutscene of Harry’s wand choosing him. A list of stats then. 81% True Wizard, which hurts on the inside. I also missed a lot of other items and things to collect. Oh well. There’s always Free Play.
23 - Another little movie that whizzes through parts of the story. There’s the events at Platform 9 and 3/4s, riding the Hogwarts Express, getting into the castle, and lastly, being sorted into houses by the Sorting Hat. Goes by too fast.
26 - Back in control. It’s Harry and Ron in one of Gryffindor’s bedrooms. Destryoing the tops of four beds nabs me a golden brick. Not sure what that does, but I got it nonetheless. Then we use our wands to bust apart the cobwebs keeping us locked in this tiny room. I’m surprised Ron is capable of doing this considering his, uh, fear of spiders.
27 - Gryffindor common room now. Hitting the chess boards gets a game of magic chess going. Yes, I am just standing here watching chess pieces play against themselves. What you’re doing is even worse. You’re reading about me watching chess pieces play against themselves. So there.
29 - Okay. Something weird just happened. A dresser came to life, ate up some strewn LEGO body parts, and is now dancing in front of a doorway. Do i dare press on?
30 - Ah, I lured it away with more LEGO body parts to eat. Pretty bizarre.
31 - The fat lady, from within her portrait, is singing. So much fanservice. Don’t know if my heart can hold any more love. I follow a ghost--Nearly Headless Nick?--out into another hallway and, by using Ron’s pet rat Scabbers, stumble upon the door that is currently hiding Fluffy. Was this supposed to happen so soon?
33 - Still following that ghost around. Collecting ghostly studs. Where is he taking me to?
34 - Answer: a classroom. It’s time Harry learned his lesson! I mean...a lesson. This is the Wingardium Leviosa part of the recently released demo. i know it very well.
35 - Since I do know it, I kind of rush through things.
39 - Basically, you need to rescue three students stuck up in the rafters. This involves a little puzzle solving and just fooling around with a bunch of items in the classroom. Not too hard, especially since I had a lot of practice in the demo, and nothing has changed since then. After leaving the classroom, the game informs me that Harry (and other Hogwarts students) can now use the Wingardium Leviosa spell throughout the castle. What’s the first thing i do? Draw a mustache on a some dude’s face in a painting. PWNED!
40 - I follow that ghost again, but he goes where I can’t. Behind a set of gates. Not sure what to do next.
42 - I somehow manage to open up a secret passageway that takes me outside to the school’s courtyard. Isn’t there a normal door to get there, too? Some kids are picking on a student so i switch to Ron and toss some magic at their heads. They run off, and the student dances with joy at our heroics. See, Ron? You don’t have to wait until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to show your stuff off. We mosey on back into the castle, but still can’t seem to figure out where to go next. This is almost too open from the get-go. Need more direction.
44 - Okay, I guess I really have to go where that ghost wants me to. Through the locked gates. There is a puzzle blocking the door. I have to use magic to lift colored blocks and place them in the right order according to a nearby picture. How did I miss that before? Don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical. Hey, what did I just say?!
45 - We follow the ghost upstairs. Dumbledore is there, just chilling, being old and powerful and stuff. Again, the ghost goes through a set of doors I can’t pass through without solving a puzzle first. But what to do?
49 - Finally, I solved it. One problem I have always had with a lot of the LEGO games is that a good number of puzzles are just trial and error. You have to break every item apart until you find the right object that lets you move on. Logic, sometimes, is not needed. Anyways, we enter the Great Hall and it’s...Halloween dinner?! Didn’t we just arrive?! That means a troll is nearby. Professor Quirrell demonstrates what a troll looks like for everyone not in the know; it’s pretty funny.
50 - This level is called Out of the Dungeon. It stars Harry and Ron as they make their way into the ladies’ bathroom to find Hermione and warn her about the troll. Said troll smashes away a part of the castle’s wall, revealing inner tubes. These are perfect for Scabbers to run through and stop the broken plumbing that is obscuring our way forward.
52 - Stuck. Can’t figure out how to get past a fallen hunk of rock.
53 - Oh, right. I had to make a trident for the mermaid to whack the rock out of the way like a golf ball. Naturally.
55 - A painting turns me into a girl so we can open the lavatory's door. Hey, how did the troll get in then? Is it a girl troll? I’d ponder this really important question more but...it’s boss battle time!
58 - Wow, that was easier than i thought. To defeat the troll, you have to take out its three hearts, representing its health. The first involves hitting it with some bits of broken wall. The second involves tossing a tossed item back at the troll. And the third is as easy as lifting its club over its head and letting go. A shame, really, as it could have been a lot more exciting. A lot more interactive. The boss battles in LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, while silly and extremely not canon--are great examples of a fun and challenging time. The level ends here, and I got 36% True Wizard. Boo to that, too.
60 - After a little cutscene that features only three seconds of Snape, my two options are Continue Story or go to the Leaky Cauldron. There’s not much time left in the first hour of gameplay so this is probably a good moment to pause and go shopping. Spend some hard-earned dollar bills. I mean some Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. No, wait. Studs. Yeah, time to spend some studs. Some things never change.
Minutes to Action: 3
What I liked: The amount of fanservice is so high its mostly like getting a nosebleed. Small details and little things help round out the levels, with key characters popping up without making a scene. I really liked exploring the castle grounds, even if it felt like there was too much to see and do at once. In the first hour, I only got to use three or four characters, but the magic feels great, and it’s a lot of fun to find something highlighted in light purple and see what a spell will do to it. Keeps you exploring, keeps you wondering, keeps you smiling.
What I didn't like: The cutscenes, while funny and quirky and brandishing that traditional LEGO light humor, just covered too much in too little of a space. Why couldn’t we have a little mini level of Harry at the zoo, speaking Parseltongue for the first time? Or getting a little more interaction with Malfoy and Hermione? Those two just kind of appear in scenes with Harry, and while fans will know how they met and became friends/enemies, the game just brushes past this.
Story: I think I touched a bit on this in the above section. But let’s talk a bit about what LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is trying to do. It’s trying to be a bit of two mediums: the books, the movies. Key scenes are draw from both sources, but a lot of the finer details are taken off pages. So far, the story is following the movie more than anything, but the funny part is that the first movie is the most faithful of the Harry Potter flicks, following the book nearly word by word. So, yeah, the story is there, just watered down to a few voiceless, funny scenes that keep things moving.
Gameplay: It’s not much different from previous LEGO games. You destroy in-game items, you collect studs, you solve puzzles, and you move to and fro until you figure out what happens next. Have not gotten to try co-op yet, but LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues seemed to nail the camera system for two players, and they’re using that same camera here.
Challenge: Some of the puzzles require a little planning, but otherwise, nothing to worry about. Now that I think about it, there were no “enemies” during the first hour except for the troll battle. Nothing attacked you, and the only challenge at this point was the puzzles and knowing where to go next.
Fun factor: Off the charts! How could it not be? You’re tossing Malfoy halfway across the screen with magic. And you can do it over and over and over again. Lucius is nowhere to be seen to save his little boy now. Muhahaha!
Would I keep playing? Yes. There’s an estimated 1,049,507 more things to collect.