Forget complex plots, convoluted plots and deep character exposition - the Lego version of Harry Potter has slapstick comedy. That's really the only option left for a game where none of the characters can talk, but luckily it works just as well here as it did in previous Lego games. Indeed, fans of blocky adventure titles will take Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 as Hermione to task, reveling in the game's humor, family-friendly gameplay, and variety of challenges. What sets this game apart from its Lego cousins is its renewed focus on exploration and collecting: the game invites you to explore its richly detailed environments with promises of more rewards and secrets than you can point at with your wand. The gameplay also drives the narrative more purposefully than previous Lego games, meaning you get a real sense of progression as you learn different enchantments and pick up new abilities. There are some minor flaws, like scattered bugs and disproportionate combat difficulty, but that's not enough to spoil the magic.
If it's green, you can touch it; if it's red, you should see it.(Credit: Warner Bros.)
As the title suggests, Lego Harry Potter is four adventures in one. You'll start with Harry's introduction to Hogwarts in Year 1, move into Year 2 Secret-Riddle-d, jump into Sirius' Lupus in Year 3, before getting to face the magical challenges of Year 4. The game is modeled on the Harry Potter movies in place of the original text, but you'll hardly notice the difference: the narrative has been shortened considerably, and numerous liberties have been taken for the sake of comedy. The results are often funny. There's a subtle shine to the game's environments, too, which are colourful, well-detailed, and full of contextual accuracy, from the Dursleys' house in Little Whinging to the airy halls of Hogwarts and everything in between.
The action takes place on the bottom screen of the DS, where you can move your character with the stylus and touch objects or people to interact with them. A 2D map of your current surroundings sits on the top screen of the DS, with your current objective marked with a blue star. The Room of Requirement is your in-game hub, where you can collect pins, practice spells, upgrade your unlocked characters with some basic customization options, and replay unlocked chapters. You have the option to play in two modes: Story mode and Free Play mode. While the content of both modes is the same, Free Play allows you to select any of the unlocked characters and progress through those levels with a completely different collection of spells. Besides being fun, it's certainly more worth doing things that way because you get to explore more areas and collect more loot.
Each spell has its unique outline: to cast it, you must trace the outline with the DS Pen.(Credit: Warner Bros.)
One of the first things you notice in Story mode is that there are some objects that you can't interact with right away (objects with a green outline are available; objects with a red outline mean you have to wait). This is because you have to learn the spells as you go, they don't come all at once. This structure creates a clear and coherent relationship between the story and the game, giving you a sense of progress and achievement. Can't you light that torch or knock that platform off the roof? Don't worry, you will learn these spells below! It constantly gives you something new to look forward to and adds anticipation. The game is guided by a series of short, fast-paced missions that drive the story forward: you must fight bad guys, solve puzzles, find lost items, or learn a new spell, but never in the same order and never just one at a time. time. once, which means things always get interesting. The spells start off easy and become more complex as needed (for example, Harry doesn't learn to cast a Patronus Charm until third year, when he has to fight Dementors). Redoubt is used as the main attack, while other spells like wingardium leviosa, lumos, accio, revelio, repair, and stupefy also appear.
Casting spells is a lot of fun on the DS: each spell has its own distinctive outline, which you have to trace with your stylus on the bottom screen while imitating the on-screen prompt. For example, to cast redoubt, all you have to do is quickly move the stylus in the direction of the person or object you want to aim at, while casting lumos will require you to trace the shape of a flame with the stylus. This is a creative way to play the game, and since each spell has its own outline, it doesn't age. The game doesn't freeze while you're casting, which means you're still under attack during combat. This is actually more enjoyable because of the challenge it poses; that means you have to prepare to get the sketch right the first time.
While combat still plays a large role in Lego Harry Potter, the emphasis on exploring and collecting means you're encouraged to destroy as much of your Lego environment as possible, in a way that's hugely rewarding and joyful with the feel of it. of destruction. Doing so will reveal an impressive amount of treasure, from nails and secret chests to wizard hats and red bricks (which unlock special spells in Free Play mode). Of course, this wouldn't be a Lego game without some light platforming and puzzle solving. In addition to the environmental puzzles that you have to solve to progress through the game, you will only find two other types of puzzles: a quick and easy Lego puzzle, and another in which you have to match three pairs of objects in the order you see them. . As for the platform, the game notifies you every time you need to jump, revealing four small blue arrows on each platform you need to reach. While none of the elements are particularly challenging, they're just as fun and since there's so much going on at all times, that aspect isn't annoying.
Harry learns the Patronus Charm from Professor Lupin; Watch out for that dementor!(Credit: Warner Bros.)
What bothers is the game's uneven combat difficulty. By far the toughest battle in the game takes place between Harry and Draco Malfoy in the middle of Year 2, where Harry must defeat Draco in a series of short fights that test the repertoire of spells you've learned up to that point. On the other hand, one of the easiest battles in the game is the final one, where Harry must defeat Lord Voldemort (or Voldy, if you prefer) at the end of Year 4. The fact that this battle is so unchallenging and ends so quickly is disappointing and deeply unsatisfying. This is not the only instance of this; more often than not, Harry gets into his toughest fights at the most random times, with no real explanation as to why, which makes things feel a bit disjointed at times. The game can also lag a bit behind the action - sometimes it can take up to five or six seconds for the game to catch up and update the map with your next task after completing an objective. However, this does not happen often and is not enough to take you out of the experience when it does.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 for DS is an exciting adventure with plenty of variety and replay value. There are rich environments to explore, countless pieces to collect, and a wide variety of spells to learn and practice. If you're willing to forgive the minor flaws and focus on the carefully constructed narrative and diverse gameplay with all its distinctive Lego idiosyncrasies, you're in for a wizard of an era.