Ages: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Harry Potter is such a loved franchise, I was not at all surprised to see someone take it on in both the physical world of Lego toys and the popular video game franchise that Lego now incorporates into their product lines. Watching the beloved characters come to life in those little blocky shapes and act out the story line we all know so well with only grunts and gestures is incredibly amusing in its own right, let alone getting to manipulate them through the levels. I appreciated the fact that the player actually has to acquire each new spell and ability by attending classes and going through activities to help you practice the new skill. By interspersing actual game play levels with classroom tutorials the player is able to feel good about the new spells and abilities before having to actually use them where it counts.
As with all of the Lego video games, there is so much built into the game that a player could take months to get through it all. Once you play through the Story Mode and unlock as much as you possibly can (each level has the four sub-goals of collecting a certain number of “coins”, finding the three hidden characters, locating all four parts of the Hogwarts Crest, and freeing the Student in Peril), you can go back and re-play each level as many times and with any different character you like (and have unlocked and bought) to try and achieve all of the possible goals and gain the desired Red and Gold Bricks. The Red Bricks give you extra useful and fun things to do each level (allowing your spells to work faster, giving all of the characters funny disguises to wear or turning all of their wands into carrots), while the Gold Bricks are more of an end-goal. Once all of the achievements for each level have been met, the player will have collected all of the Gold Bricks and is able to put them all together in Diagon Alley (technically in the basement of Gringots) to construct a final surprise. To be completely honest, I’m not sure what it is yet since I haven’t had the time to play through everything enough to achieve all of the goals. I hope to someday find out.
The people who make the Lego video games decided to break the Harry Potter saga into two separate stories. I think this was wise. The only problem I have with it is that they decided to tweak and change certain aspects between the two games, probably as advancements were made with software and in an attempt to make the overall experience better for the player the second time around (the original Xbox version of Years 1-4 had some glitches that made it impossible to advance past a certain part in the game on your first attempt through), but I appreciate consistency when two games are so obviously linked. I wish that the Diagon Alley section had been the same for both games, instead of just different enough to throw me off. I had a really hard time finding where to purchase all of the unlocked characters in Years 5-7.
The available online walk-throughs continue to be a major help for me with this Lego game (as with all of the others). Some people might be ashamed to admit that a game designed for children can sometimes be too complex or confusing for them, but I certainly am not. Not being the most avid of gamers, and not having a lot of free-time available for video games these days, I often go to the walk-throughs to help me get past very specific puzzles or find well-hidden important elements. And I am amazed (but not surprised) when watching gamers much younger than myself walk through these games and puzzles like they are no challenge whatsoever. Another aspect of the Lego games that I enjoy is the inability to die. Sure, your little character can be hit only four times before being blown apart into tiny bricks, but then he just reforms where he was previously standing. Having lost coins, certainly, but they even give you a chance to quickly run around and gather up much of what was lost in the first few seconds after you regenerate. Not being forced to start over every time something bad happens or you fail to complete a task makes this game encouraging and less frustrating for younger players (and older players alike).
Lovers of the Harry Potter franchise who are missing the books, enjoyers of Legos, and those who love puzzle games will all enjoy these two Harry Potter video games. Even if they do get frustrating sometimes, there is enough present in each of these games for players of all levels and varying interests, and help is always available in online communities.