|LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7|
|Platforms||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS, 3DS, PSP, PSVita, Windows|
|MtAMinutes to Action||0|
|Buy from Amazon|
I love the LEGO videogames. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably keep on saying it, especially if the folks over at Traveller’s Tales use their magical powers to read my mind and make LEGO Lord of the Rings or LEGO Men in Black next. My favorite of the bunch so far has been LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which managed to follow both the films and books while also giving fans a ton of love with their attention to details. It seemed perfect for LEGO-izing, with magic and a wide cast of characters, but I was disappointed that it only covered half of Harry’s legacy; the developers padded out the experience by giving players Hogwarts, a huge hub to explore that revealed more and more in a Metroidvania style after certain spells and classmates were acquired.
J.K. Rowling finished up all the books way back in 2007, and the money-making films now dead and done until some fool tries to remake them all in like ten years. I’ve never played any of the movie tie-in videogames—though I did have fun flying on brooms and catching Golden Snitches with Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup for the PlayStation 2—but from what I can gather, many of them are not great. Especially the Kinect ones, which tries to turn Harry into a new recruit for Gears of War. LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 could very well be the last greatest game for the franchise, simply because there’s probably not much else coming out for it afterwards.
My favorite thing about the LEGO videogames are that they are perfect for playing co-op. There’s a challenge, sure, but exploring the levels and piecing everything together is more fun with a partner. Like my wife, Tara Abbamondi. Comments from her are in red!
Okay, let’s see if the first hour of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is just as magical as the previous game’s.
00 - Starting the game, and the first change I notice is that instead of a bobbing Harry head as the “saving progress” icon we now have Voldemort’s head. This series really has become darker. We begin with a short scene from the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Dudley Dursely and his goons are teasing The Boy Who Lived at the local playground. They stop when Harry pulls out his wand and the sky turns a threatening shade of gloom. And then...we’re in control within under a minute; I’m Harry, and Tara’s Dudley.
01 - Immediately, we spot a see-saw in the playground. “Can we play on the see-saw? WE TOTALLY CAN!” We see-saw for a bit. Very exciting stuff.
02 - After that surprising slip into childhood nostalgia, we hop on the swings and push the analog sticks back and forth to gain momentum. Not much happens at first, but then I said this: “Studs are coming out of Harry’s butt!” Collecting different colored LEGO studs fills up a meter at the top of the screen, which, when filled, gives us the True Wizard status and a warm sense of completion. It’s rather addicting.
03 - Scattered throughout the level are items with orange handles, which only Dudley can do. That’s fine as I’m in control of doing all things magical.
05 - A wall near the playground has been defaced by hoodlums, most likely Dudley’s gang. “Look, LEGO brick confetti!” “You mean...graffiti?”
09 - In a tunnel now, fighting off Dementors. It’s an endless wave of ‘em, and eventually they win, kicking off a small cutscene. One is eating Dudley’s face, and Harry casts a magical stag at them to save his life. Potterheads know that at this moment Mrs. Arabella Figg shows up, but not in LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7. Boo, hiss. A cutscene jumps around very quickly, with the Order of the Phoenix arriving at night to rescue Harry. A short level of flying across London plays out, but everyone falls out of the sky, and Harry and Kingsley have to rescue the other members of the Order before we can move forward.
11 - Naturally, while looking for ways to rescue our friends, we unearth some mini challenges. Just turned on three out of five sprinklers. Gotta find the rest or else I’ll go insane.
12 - Okay, freed Tonks by building...something. Wasn’t very clear.
13 - This puzzle is pretty tricky. Again, it’s not very clear what we’re supposed to be doing other than rescuing our friends. Tara and I are destroying everything in hopes that something will happen.
15 - Found the final sprinkler, which rewards us with a gold brick. Tara eats a piece of old Halloween candy every time I pause the game to scribble down some notes for this review.
16 - Okay, freed the final member of the Order who then helps move the statues into the correct place and pop out Mad-Eye Moody from the water fountain. He needs his staff, which is right around the corner. The lazy bum can’t get it himself, I guess.
17 - Moody makes the apartment buildings expand, revealing Grimmauld Place. “I love magic!”
18 - Another quick cutscene. The Minister of Magic is not happy with Harry for using magic in front of Muggles. He’s been summoned to the Ministry for a trial. The first level continues—as indicated by our unfinished True Wizard meter—and I’m Harry again, with Tara taking control of Mr. Weasley. We’re inside the Ministry, trying to make our way below for the trial.
23 - This section is bloated with Ministry employees, which makes it both hard to see and hard to target specific items with spells. We’re at an impasse for a bit until we discovered a broken fireplace, which Mr. Weasley can fix. After that, we’re able to teleport around several obstacles by using the Floo Powder system.
25 - Okay, we’re near the magical building’s elevators. Still never understood why the Ministry implemented them when Apparating is a whole lot faster. Anyways, can’t do much else until we find a wizard his lost frog.
27 - Took awhile to find it. Again, we forgot that blue items can be repaired by Mr. Weasley. Kind of wish they glowed or sparkled so that it was clearer. An arrow points us to the next spot to advance the story, but we’re so close to getting True Wizard that we’re still searching for things to hit and gain some studs. Alas, there’s nothing left. Hopefully that’s not the last part of the level...
28 - Yup. Level’s over. Cutscene time, and we get to see Dumbledore and Umbridge in action. Harry survives his trial, and an Achievement called “Albus Percival Wulfric Brian” is unlocked. Woo!
30 - End-of-level stats screen. We missed True Wizard by 5%. “We were so close! Argh!”
32 - Tossed back out into Diagon Alley. We wander around for a bit before entering The Three Broomsticks (I think?), which acts as a mini hub if we wanted to go back and do Free Play on completed levels. No, not yet. It sounds like someone is vomiting inside. I can’t seem to locate the noise-maker.
34 - We collect as many studs as possible. We go to many lengths for those things. One blue stud was high up, requiring timing and good eyesight to get it, which neither of us seemed to have.
35 - Tara—as Hermione—destroys a bunch of items on a long table. I’m taking notes at this point, but then she exclaims this: “Can I bowl? I can bowl! YES!” Looking up, I see that a bunch of goblets are now lined up like pins at the end of the table, and she’s able to roll a ball down at them. This game is silly.
37 - Outside now, on the non-magical side of London. Using magic on a guitar behind a storefront window gets it to play a rockin’ guitar riff, and anyone nearby starts to immediately groove. One dude even begins to breakdance. I love it. “I’m a little confused and scared.”
40 - Can’t get on the Hogwarts Express without a ticket. Looking around for it while Tara chants “Studs, studs, studs” next to me.
42 - The Hogwarts Express makes a beeline for the school. Chugga-chugga...
43 - I’m still Harry, and Tara is now the lovable Luna. But before we can do anything, her wireless Xbox 360 controller dies, and we have to take batteries out of the bereaved Wii Fit balance board to keep playing. Crisis averted!
47 - Found a carriage to take us up to the school grounds, but we first need to find the right parts to fix it. Mushrooms are popping out of the ground and attacking us. Unlike the LEGO Star Wars titles, these ones are more about puzzles and less about combat. After fixing it, the carriage carried us literally two feet to the stage’s exit, and that was it for us and the carriage. “We could’ve walked there!”
48 - Not yet inside Hogwarts. Still running around, making stuff explode into bitty bits. Feels like padding, really. Tara is scouring the land for clues. “There’s something moving over there. I think it’s a bird eating shit.”
54 - Okay, made it inside Hogwarts. The last six minutes have been spent exploring the castle, destroying everything in our path, and trying to murder Umbridge.
56 - Third student in peril rescued! Only 57 more. Plus, y’know, 200 gold bricks and a ton of other collectibles. It has begun...again.
58 - Umbridge wanders back into the scene, and we try to cast some nasty spells at her. Unlike other characters, they merely bounce off. “Wow, what a bitch!”
60 - Another gold brick earned, and we’re still not technically on the next level. Just wandering the halls, blasting stuff apart, putting it back together, and blasting it apart again. The majority of the rooms inside Hogwarts are exactly the same from the previous game. Kinda worried about that as I already spent way too much time revealing every hidden secret last year. Hope I don’t have to do it again, but that’s it for the first hour of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7.
Minutes to Action: 00
What I liked: The game looks great, and there’s still a lot of funny things happening all the time, from a magical guitar rockin’ out to tossing all cares aside and playing on a playground. Fanservice is still a priority here, too.
What I didn't like: Traversing the same locations, doing the same things from the previous game. Granted, all LEGO videogames feature the same gameplay, but there was way too much déjà vu happening here. I mean, I totally bounced on those dorm-room beds before to get those blue studs, right? I swear I did...
Story: Again, the cutscenes follow the films, but condensed and without words. If you’re not a fan or vaguely familiar with the plot, these can make no sense. However, I know what’s what, and enjoying seeing how Traveller’s Tales makes them humorous.
Gameplay: Run around a level, destroy everything, collect studs, stumble into a puzzle’s solution, and repeat for as long as possible. Might not sound like much, but it’s dang addicting.
Challenge: There’s still a lot of guesswork when it comes to the game’s puzzles.
Would I keep playing? Yes, but only because my wife and I have a blast figuring these out together. If I was going at this alone, I might actually be worried that I had bought the first game for a second time. From what I’ve seen so far, all of Hogwarts has been copy/pasted over into the new game, and we still have to hang out in it for Year 5 and Year 6. Looking forward to the events of Year 7 as we’ll at least be forced to explore new territory.