Developer: Traveller’s Tales / Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Played On: PlayStation 3 / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief)
The magical world of Harry Potter meets the magic that is Lego in LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7. A continuation of Years 1-4, Years 5-7 wraps up the last three books and four movies of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures to stop He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from causing certain doom for wizards and muggles alike. Following the same family friendly formula as past LEGO titles, LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 sits nicely as a rare game that combines fun gameplay with a challenge that’s accessible to all ages.
Years 5-7 tells the story of the last three books (Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows) which were made into four movies (with Deathly Hallows being split into two parts). The game definitely follows the movies more closely, oftentimes skipping out entirely on aspects of the books that were also absent in the films. Each movie/book is broken up into six chapters that tell the main storyline of each: Harry finding the prophecy in Order, discovering the origin of horcruxes in Half-Blood, and destroying the horcruxes and defeating Voldemort in Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t seen the movies or read any of the books, however, you won’t understand what the hell is going on. LEGO characters do not speak, and only communicate via a system of grunts and gestures, so trying to understand why Umbridge is bad, or why Lavender Brown is infatuated with Ron is near impossible. But for those who have an understanding of the source material, Years 5-7 is a very accurate representation of the Harry Potter world.
Years 5-7 is a direct continuation of Years 1-4, so the gameplay is relatively unchanged. The core LEGO experience is there: everything is made of LEGO, you collect studs from doing just about everything, and completing simple puzzles advance you through the story. Objectsthroughout the world like braziers, griffin statues, and suits of armor can be destroyed or built, like castle walls or the wheels to a carriage. Whenever something can be interacted with a, a purple aura circles around the objects making you aware of them. A ghost lays out bricks for you to follow to get to your next destination, so it is not difficult to know where you need to go. Most rooms require you to solve a puzzle to move forward. These puzzles are on the easy side and range from having you find a certain item lying around for another character, or using a specific spell to destroy a wall or spider web blocking your path. A seasoned gamer will not feel challenged at all by these puzzles, but a younger audience will likely find them just right.
A new addition to the series is dueling. In order to win you must select the correct spell (which is given away by the color of the circle you’re dueling in) and repeatedly tap the on-screen button. It works well and it breaks up the action found in normal gameplay nicely. Other new additions, aside from hundreds of characters to play as (I unlocked about 120 and there are plenty more open spaces to unlock more), are the Weasley boxes, which can only be used by members of the Weasley family. These boxes are filled with an array of items, like suction cup shoes and fireworks, and are fun to play around with. If you saw it in one of the movies, it is probably in this game.
Blasting objects and putting them back together is fun at first, but can get old quickly. You’ll do a lot of backtracking through previously explored areas as well, which can be boring as well. Areas of the game cannot be accessed until a certain spell or character is available, so if you want 100% completion of the game you’ll have to play each stage at least twice. I was also frustrated by an incredible amount of invisible walls, which isn’t really a gameplay problem, but is annoying to me as a gamer that like exploration nonetheless. Overall, if you enjoyed the first game in the series, or any LEGO game for that matter, you’ll certainly enjoy Years 5-7.
The best way to play Harry Potter Years 5-7 is with a friend. Similar to the other games in the series, players can drop-in and drop-out of play at will. An option to play online is also available, allowing for players to join your game via the PlayStation Network. Certain puzzles or boss battles are made much easier with the aid of another player. My best times playing the game were with a friend: she would run around blowing everything up and collecting the studs while I ran ahead and grabbed all the items we needed to advance. Both players aren’t locked into a single screen either. If each player separates, the screen will be split in half, allowing both players to continue normally on their way. The camera gets very funky when this happens though, getting stuck behind objects and hiding you from view. Camera issues aside, the chaos that ensues when two wizards are running around is equally hilarious and effective.
I’ve played a few other LEGO games like this one, and the visuals aren’t too different from those. Traveller’s Tales has once again done a fantastic job crafting a world that looks nearly identical to the one seen on the big screen, albeit made mostly of the tiny bricks. I was impressed by the amount of detail that went into the character designs, too. Harry is always wearing the clothing he would be wearing during that scene in the movie, and the same attention to detail goes for everyone else. That’s a very nice touch that makes the game feel like plenty of care and attention was put into it. Though much of the latter half of the game is in dark forests and a destroyed Hogwarts, backgrounds and characters are still vivid and stand out well in contrast.
LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the movie franchise and juxtaposing it with all things LEGO. The light difficulty might be off-putting for seasoned gamers, but it is perfect for family gaming and younger players. If you’ve played another game in the LEGO series you’ll feel right at home with this one, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Harry Potter and LEGO fans alike will have a magical time exploring Hogwarts and becoming a true wizard in LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7.