Traveler's Tales has made quite the franchise out of the LEGO series of games, letting you play as tiny little toy versions of Batman, Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker. But how does the recently-released LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 measure up to the others? Well, that's what I'm here to find out.
Okay, technically I've already found out because I've already played the game. So really, I'm here to let you know!
LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 adapts the last four movies in the series, but naturally, because it's a sequel, you've forgotten everything you've learned in Years 1-4. Must have been a heck of a summer! Yeah, you've gotta start from scratch, learning the spells that you need to progress through the story and defeat Voldemort. It's annoying, but par for the course with a sequel.
I've always found the Harry Potter series to be slightly more complicated than the others, what with the spells and all. Switching between them continues to be awkward, no matter which control option you choose. And especially during spellcasting duels where time is of the essence. I also prefer the more defined hub/level design of the other games as opposed to Harry Potter's looser pseudo-open world areas. But that's just my bias. Your opinion might differ.
If you've never played a LEGO game before, the general concept is this: A popular story is told via adorable little LEGO versions of the characters who mime their way through the tale (more fun with something I'm more familiar with, like Star Wars, though). You work your way through level after level smashing everything in sight. Breaking things down into LEGO pieces releases LEGO studs that you collect to earn points, and also creates the solutions to the puzzles you need to solve to reach the end of the level. And along the way you also uncover unlockable characters as well as other various collectibles that increase your score. Because you play as two or three characters at a time, a second player can drop in or drop out at any time during a level to help you out and play at your side. (Which I recommend during the later levels because your AI companions don't actually fight back at the swarms of enemies attacking you while you're struggling to solve puzzles!)
There's really nothing more to say about the story because everyone already knows it (although some things are naturally made adorable, like Voldemort killing someone because they ate the last tea cake), and obviously the graphics and sounds are perfectly fine. It's a LEGO game. They're all terrific fun. Nothing really changed for this game. (Although I should make mention of the precious hand-drawn loading screens) The only complaint I have with LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 is that sometimes it's a little vague about what you have to do next. A couple times after I found the solution, I realized that a true Harry Potter fan would've immediately known which character to select and what to do with them. But occasionally, I got a little stymied myself.
Obviously, the LEGO games are super fun. They're great for kids because you don't die, you just burst into a bunch of LEGO pieces and then reform immediately where you left off to continue on your way. As someone who hates backtracking, I've always appreciated that particular design choice. And even after playing through the story mode, there's still plenty to do, because it's impossible to collect everything on your first run since Story Mode doesn't give you the right characters to do so. (Different characters have different abilities and different spells, all of which are necessary to unlock every single little thing) So there's a lot of replayability for the OCD collectors out there. In fact, after completing story mode, I was only 38.1% complete!
If you already enjoy the LEGO series, then LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 is another terrifically fun game to add to your shelf. Unless you're not a Harry Potter fan, in which case you'll probably give it a miss. Although I wouldn't classify myself as a fan, either, and I still enjoyed this game. Even if you can't always understand the story points they're miming, it doesn't matter once the cutscene ends and you start smashing everything around you with reckless abandon!
A copy of LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 for Xbox 360 was provided for the purposes of this review and Story Mode was played to completion.