|System: PS3, PC, X360, Wii, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Traveller's Tales||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 29, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
LEGO Harry Potter does a great job of refreshing and updating the LEGO series for the Harry Potter universe, but unfortunately, there are several problems that remain. One of the problems that returns from other games is the camera. Though you may not notice it if you are playing co-op and staying close to your partner, if you are playing with an adventurous partner or with a bunch of AI-controlled characters, you'll notice the camera following the wrong character or zooming out to the point of near-unplayability.
Another thing that you must know coming in is that the best way to experience LEGO Harry Potter is with a friend. Playing by yourself can be quite an exercise in frustration, and AI-controlled characters can be painfully difficult to deal with, especially when you need to get them to a certain platform or area so you can proceed. Sure, you can always use your Wingardium Leviosa spell to get them in the correct position, but this can become quite the chore and make the game feel more like Hogwarts' babysitting service than a real adventure.
A final complaint I have with this title is with the game's hub system. While hubs in previous LEGO titles have been expansive with plenty to explore, the Diagon Alley hub feels almost overwhelming. I had to search for several minutes just to find the character-purchase shop, and it felt like a chore going through the different areas, waiting for loading screens, and then tracking down who I needed to get new wardrobe choices, extra spells, or watch cutscenes. Though this may sound like a small gripe, I really relished the overall simplicity of previous games, and the complicated nature of the hub world just took away from the game's overall immersion.
Technically speaking, everything in Harry Potter maintains the status quo, which is a good thing. Cutscenes look polished, and in-game graphics maintain the signature brick-style that has become synonymous with the LEGO series. The only quibble I have with the game's visual styling (and it is a minor one) is that environments can get a little too busy at times and it can be hard to be precise with your targeting when you have dozens of interactive elements on screen. However, this only occurs in a handful of areas, and can usually be remedied by walking up to whatever element you want to interact with and targeting it directly (instead of just heading in the general direction and pressing a button.
LEGO: Harry Potter Years 1-4 is certainly the best of the post-Star Wars LEGO games. The story material is handled wonderfully (though if you've never read the books or watched the movies, prepare to be lost), and the gameplay is a great mix of familiar devices and new elements. Although the inevitable follow-up to this title may take a darker turn, I look forward to experiencing it all the same.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor