Monday, December 20, 2010

Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4: I'll Have Another Helping Please!

Title: Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4
Platform: Sony PlayStation 3
Release Date: June 29, 2010 (US)
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
My Rating: 9, an instant favorite.

   I always wrote the Lego games off as being solely for children. However, in a quest to earn some easy trophies, I decided I would give Lego Harry Potter a try. Much to my amazement, there is plenty going on in the game to keep kids and their parents coming back long after completing the story.
   I do have a couple of core complaints about functionality though. I will get those out of the way first so I can go on about how great of a game it is after.
   First, developers around the world need to know something about today's consoles. They support more than two players. I have four controllers, and while I can admit that in some places it might be difficult to work four players into the plot, I am fully disappointed that I cannot put all four of those controllers to use while playing the game. Somehow some way, we must learn to implement four player play in all co-op games.
   Second, it is way too easy to erase your game in Lego Harry Potter. True story, my wife decided she was going to play one day out of the blue. She turned on the game, selected New Game, then saved right over my son's save file. Why did they do this? I would think this is a no-brainer. Implement a Delete Game option in the menu screen. Do not let people overwrite games when starting a new game. Take it one step further; let people name their save files so it is obvious what is going on. Not a very hard thing to do; yet, it feels as if video games have taken a step back in menu implementation.
   Complaints aside, let's talk about what Lego Harry Potter did right. First and foremost, they gave the world what they truly wanted: a Harry Potter game where the player is free to explore the world of Harry Potter as they wish. Having a son that is a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I have had to sit through several lackluster Harry Potter games that do a mediocre job; at best, of taking the player through a single book in the Harry Potter series. I felt that this game did a good job of summarizing the story line in the first four books as well as let the player explore as they chose.
   Another thing that I liked about Lego Harry Potter was the "Legolization" of the mythology. Everything about the game reminds you that it is Legos. This is implemented very well, and even though some of the arranging of Legos with the wand can be frustrating, it is just as fun playing in a Lego video game world as it is playing with Legos in real life.
   A common complaint I have heard about the Lego games is the extension of gameplay via mindless collecting. I find the collecting to be very fun though. The people that complain of this mechanic could very well just be unhappy that it is a successful formula. For me, many of the most memorable moments in video games come from side quests. Which people that have ever played Final Fantasy VII will ever forget snowboarding? Not I. Anyway, the collection of character, gold bricks, red bricks, and studs in general is very fun. I will continue playing Lego Harry Potter to completion just for the enjoyment the collecting brings.
   A final high point for those that love Harry Potter is the level editor. It is my understanding that the level editor is fairly new to the Lego games, but it is very fun. Understandably, it may not have fit on a DVD, but playing with the editor for just a few minutes, I have to ask myself why it is not in every Lego game. It is a natural fit to allow players to create their own content with Legos. While the sharing side leaves something to be desired, the editor is very easy to use. My kids and I have quickly and easily built some side games in the game using the editor and it is quite literally like playing with a box of Legos.
   All in all, I feel that if anybody is looking for a great Harry Potter game to get into, Lego Harry Potter is the one to get. Beyond all of the great gameplay, Lego Harry Potter le's players do what they really want to do: explore the world of Harry Potter. Whether this is bought for the kids or you are man enough to admit you do not have any kids, Lego Harry Potter is a game that should be in every collection.

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