The crew over at TT Games bring a touch to the Harry Potter series that previously hasn't been seen on gaming consoles. While Electronic Arts has created a corporate carbon copy of the movie adaptations, it is evident that you have true Potter fans behind-the-scenes of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7. Yes, the LEGO games follow the movie storyline closely, but they also pull things from the books that fans of the series can and will appreciate.
The biggest difference is the playability of almost every character in the series. The game opens in Little Whinging on a rain-soaked playground. You will need to use both Harry and Dudley to navigate the level before coming face-to-face with several Dementors.
A few minutes later you're flying over London and arriving outside No. 12 Grimmauld Place. And it is here you really begin to see what makes the LEGO games different. Instead of being just a series of cut scenes, you're presented with a creative challenge: your entire Advance Guard collide just before arrival. You must use Harry and Kingsley Shacklebolt to rescue the other guard members, including Mad-Eye Moody who has become stuck in a fountain.
After freeing him, you next have to locate his missing staff. And notice the detail: if you leave Mad-Eye idle for long periods of time you'll see he will take a swig out of his hidden hip flask. He also walks with a noticeable limp.
It's easy to summarize every level, but I'd prefer you enjoy the experience for yourself. That, and I'd undoubtedly miss an easter egg here or there that game director Arthur Parsons and his team included for the die-hard fans.
Parsons recently told staffer Eric Scull in a interview, "I know the films, I know the books, I'm a massive Harry Potter fan and so are most of the guys on my team. So we want Harry Potter fans to see all the attention to detail. Ginny Weasley has a pygmy puff, Ron now has Pigwidgeon as a pet. Lucius has a pet peacock. All of the little things that people won't expect. And every time you play a character, it feels like there's an extra surprise in there."
Humor has become a staple of all the LEGO games and this one is no exception: from Mr. Weasley planting one on Harry's cheek just before his trial to Cornelius Fudge pulling his bowler hat down over his head when Dumbledore tells him Voldemort has returned. Ron, who now has Pigwidgeon in place of Scabbers, flies around with a crash helmet.
Fans will enjoy LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 because it not only allows them to roam around places like the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, but gives them the opportunity to participate in the scenes they would want to while reading the books.
Whether you're putting the Black Family tapestry back together with Sirius, taking an Occlumency lesson with Snape and playing in his memories as the Young Marauders, assembling everyone inside the Hog's Head for the first meeting of Dumbledore's Army, dueling inside the Room of Requirement with Fred and George or befriending Grawp in the Forbidden Forest.
If you're concerned about the gameplay, graphics and difficulty of solving puzzles to get from one level to the next, don't be. Though I will admit, I've been stumped from time to time (but isn't that part of the fun)? Nearly-Headless Nick does enough by showing you where to go, he can't tell you what to do as well!
Gamers are still tasked with finding the missing pieces of the House Crest (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slythern) in each level, freeing "Students in Peril," unlocking hidden characters, collecting golden LEGO bricks and pocketing enough coin to become a True Wizard.
Once unlocked, you can buy characters in Madam Malkin's to use in free play mode. So if you ever wanted to play the entire game as Argus Filch, Kreacher or Professor Trelawney, here's your chance! The upstairs area in Madam Malkin's also allows you to create your own character. The Leaky Cauldron remains your home base: you can cycle through any previously completed level for free play mode, as well as check on the status of several items you have collected.
Your spells are very limited... until you decide you've had enough of Dolores Umbridge. Then your arsenal expands to include Wingardium Leviosa, the Invisibility Cloak, Lumos, and Expecto Patronum. You'll have to head over to Charms class with Professor Flitwick to unlock Diffindo, Reducto,and Aguamenti. Additionally, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is your home for buying additional, and in most cases much more humorous spells.
As you may have noticed this review has been mainly limited to Year 5, but suffice it to say there are plenty more surprises, cool tasks and levels to come! Okay, if you really want a sample of what lies ahead...
"Well, Harry, Ron and Hermione can't go to Hogwarts," said Parsons referring to Deathly Hallows - Part 1.
"But everyone else can! So we let you go and play Hogwarts as though you were the rest of the school crew. And at any point you can pop back and just progress the story. So that was quite a challenge to link that up, as well as being able to go back to London, go to the cafe and fight Dolohov, and explore around. We're all very proud of the fact that we were able to tie that in and make it still feel like the rest of the game. But there were a lot of sleepless nights, scratching our heads... and we've managed to get it right, thankfully."
And it's very likely gamers will have a few sleepless nights of their own (in a good way) as they pour through everything that LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 has to offer.
So, with that said, we highly recommend this game for fans of the Harry Potter series. It is a game made for fans by fans and it is abundantly evident the time and dedication that went into its development.
You can read Eric's full interview with game director Arthur Parsons right here.
And you can purchases LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 for all major gaming consoles right here.
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