"In dreams, we enter a world that’s entirely our own." ~Dumbledore
In high school, you learn the most basic subjects – Science, History, Math, and English – but what if you could learn how to cast spells and make potions? And also go on epic adventures, where you face a three-headed dog, defeat a mountain troll, and barely escape the fiery breath of a dragon? Well, fortunately, your daydreams can come true with LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Or in a book, I hear this is based on some sort of book.
[image1]As usual, the LEGO franchise continues to indulge players with its simple humor and cutesy LEGO-built characters. This time around, you’re in a world where you take lessons and surpass obstacles to become a powerful wizard. Nothing but great things can come of this combination. Or so I thought.
As soon as you find yourself at Hogwarts Castle, you notice how huge the level is. So huge that the ghost, Nearly Headless Nick, guides you to your next objective in case you get lost, which isn’t a bad thing. You actually want to get lost because there is so much to do at Hogwarts alone that it will keep you occupied for quite some time. And just like what you read in the books and see in the films, there is a lot of detail: paintings with moving characters, floating candles, shrinking furniture, towers made of books, and moving staircases that change direction. You also explore Diagon Alley, the Forbidden Forest, and even visit the Weasley’s home – all places that will have Harry Potter fans fixated.
You explore this magical world as the primary characters Ron, Hermione, and Harry. Other playable characters include Sirius, Lupin, Cedric Diggory, and even Moaning Myrtle, but you only use them in one or two levels, and they are actually not needed to complete the game, unlike in LEGO Batman or LEGO Indiana Jones, where certain characters have unique abilities needed to progress.
Instead, you will need to learn spells to advance. This is the magical mojo I wish I learned in school, even though Chemistry wasn’t my strongest subject. Spells include Wingardium Leviosa, where you levitate objects or build them; Lumos Solem, to scare away plants like the Devil’s Snare; and Expecto Patronum to reject a dementor’s soul-sucking kiss.
[image2]While casting spells is pretty nifty, the controls for doing so are pretty crappy, which was surprising considering how responsive the controls were in previous LEGO games. When casting a spell, you can either aim freely with your wand or use the targeting system to highlight an object specifically. However, the camera doesn’t let you change viewpoints, so trying to select something accurately is nearly impossible. The targeting system only works well if the item you’re highlighting is isolated from other objects, but what’s the use if you can freely aim at the object instead?
If you have played previous LEGO titles, you know how fun it is to pair with a friend and go off on a block-smashing frenzy… though at times you just want to punch your partner in the face whenever he goes in the opposite direction. This time, just like in LEGO Indiana Jones 2, a thin black line appears down the middle of the screen if players move away from each other, allowing both to explore on their own, and then disappears once both players come together.
The small downside, though, is that it limits your view further. The line separating the screen also moves depending on where the players are on the level, so if one player is on top of a ledge while the other is on the bottom, the line automatically and abruptly moves to a horizontal position. You can’t change the camera view, so there are times you won’t be able to see the cliff in front of you or an enemy before you until it’s too late.
When you decide to go solo in the single-player campaign, you’re accompanied by the A.I., which is utterly incompetent: they die, stand still, run into walls, kill you, block you, or get stuck. Furthermore, if the A.I. doesn’t get to you, the game’s bugs will. Nearly halfway through the game, the A.I. started copying me. Whatever I did, the character did too, so it was like having a stalker who was a mime. Fortunately, I restarted the console and did not encounter it again.
[image3]Despite the game’s noticeable flaws, LEGO Harry Potter spoils you with its high replay value. Like previous titles, there are ten bonus levels—that’s right, 10!—and even the option of building your own level. You’re given many hidden pathways for you to explore throughout the campaign, where you collect red and gold bricks, unlock characters, and solve puzzles. The gameplay, replayability, and the vast detail of the levels will keep anyone entertained for hours just as long as the nuisances are ignored.
Even though going to a school like Hogwarts is out of the question realistically, I can at the very least wrap myself up with LEGO Harry Potter and imagine my school to be one hell of a kick-ass playground. But I’ll imagine playing in it without the A.I. and targeting system, thank you very much. Reviewus Endium.